How to Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage

How To Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage #staymarried

Petersons take risks.

This precedent was set up early in our marriage. When, after being married for just a year, a friend asked us to quit our jobs and move with him from Seattle to southeast Wisconsin to help him start a church, we said yes. Now, it wasn’t as easy to do as that sentence was for me to type. There was a lot to consider and plenty of logistics and timing to work out. But, in the end, we basically said, “What do we have to lose? Even if it flops, we still have each other. Let’s do it!” So, we did. And, it didn’t flop. By all accounts most people would say we succeeded. In fact, that church still exists today, ten years after we said yes.

Then, after three years of hard work, a depleted savings account, and an 18-month-old, we moved back home again to Seattle to start new jobs at a different church.

I’ll spare you the sordid details, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t a good fit. Now we had two babies and we took another risk; we quit! I would have stayed, but my dear Tony put it very simply to me when he said, “I cannot take a paycheck from a church when I am not on board with the vision of the leader. Can’t do it,” and that was that. He began hustling some freelance graphic design work, I carted my newborn and toddler with me to do some book-keeping for a friend’s construction company (these friends were very generous to employ me because I was not at all good at that job) and we kept believing in each other and putting one foot in front of the other.

We take risks. We believe in each other.

So, last year, after six years of living in our favorite place in the Pacific Northwest and finding ourselves in a church community we really loved and felt we could be ourselves in, and Tony working at Microsoft on projects that energized him, and me finding my voice as a writer with #staymarried and fulfilling a dream of publishing my first book, we took a risk again. That old friend from Wisconsin asked us if we would come back to work at the church we helped start all those years ago. This time the stakes were much higher. The first time we moved to the midwest we were newly married with no kids. This time we were celebrating our tenth anniversary, raising three incredible daughters, Tony was in a career he loved, and I was loving being a stay-at-home-mom-writer-dreamer. This time it was not so easy to say yes.

Still, after nearly a year of negotiating and putting all the puzzle pieces together, we said yes again. For a couple of people who never feel like we fit in at church, we sure say yes to the local church a lot. Tony would be the Executive Pastor of Music and Creative and I would be the Executive Pastor of Communication and Leadership Development. We were energized and full of vision and we moved and believed we could help and do good work here. We believed it was worth the risk. 

How to Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage #staymarried

But, sometimes, the risk doesn’t reap a reward.

Just a year later, because of “reprioritizing a tightening budget” I’ve been laid off. I’ve been assured it has nothing to do with my job performance, it’s not personal, but SHEESH! This is a tough one.

Tony and I found out I would lose my job the day before our eleventh anniversary in June. Because ministry life is effing complicated, we couldn’t share the news with anyone but each other. I hadn’t received a formal notice, and wouldn’t for more than a month after I was told. It was just a conversation, it hardly seemed real. Did I really just lose my job? How exactly, was this decision made?

That night, we sat on our blue couch, the couch we’ve interviewed countless couples from for The #staymarried Podcast about their own struggles and triumphs, and we played out the worst case scenarios we could think of.

Will we have to move again? We haven’t saved enough. We weren’t prepared for this. Will we stay in Wisconsin? What choice do we have? What will we tell our nanny? WHEN will we tell our nanny? Man, I wanted to get bikes for the kids this summer. That’s out. I was thinking of a trip home for my birthday. That’s out. We already cut Tony’s salary because church work simply doesn’t pay as much as Microsoft graphic design work, but adding my salary with his brought us almost back up to his salary alone from his last job. We are about to lose nearly half our income. We didn’t see this coming. This is not cool…

And I cried, and Tony had tears in his eyes, and he hugged me and we agreed; we have each other. Even if we have nothing else, we have each other and we will be okay…

Have you ever been there? Have you ever faced the hard thing, turned toward each other, and been able to believe wholeheartedly that even without any external guarantees, having each other would be enough?

It’s in the vows, right? “For richer, for poorer…” we say, as we gaze into each other’s eyes before we’ve ever actually sat across from a kitchen table and paid bills together. 

A few years ago Tony and I watched our friends Jim and Annie put their own spin on those classic words when they their exchanged vows.

“In poverty, I promise to make our love rich. In wealth, I promise not to let our love grow poor.”

This picture of intentionality has always stuck with me. And here we are, facing the reality of losing half our income for an unknown amount of time. Can we still make our love rich? We determined we would.

How To Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage #staymarried Modern Wedding Vows

We determined that we wouldn’t let ourselves fall into panic or despair. We grieved, we still grieve, and we did our best to ask questions and make sense of how this could happen, but then we’d pivot and try to spend more energy on what could possibly be next instead of what was no longer.

We decided to focus on 3 questions:

  1. What is good?
  2. What is true?
  3. What can I do?

It was easy to come up with answers to the first question, and once we began naming good things to each other, we were reminded of even more goodness in our lives. We have great kids, we love the school they go to, we are thankful for our home, we have good good friends. We can name what is good.

How to Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage #staymarried Peterson Family 2018

What was true was that I did my best in my job. Nothing about it was easy, but I worked hard and with transparency and integrity. It was also true that I didn’t cause the loss of my own job, so spending my time tracing back every possible turn I might have accidentally taken in the wrong direction over this last year was a futile exercise in finding the lie. What is good? What is true? Now, what can I do?

For a couple of clumsy months I began sending out my newly refreshed resume to local companies and non-profit organizations. I wasn’t totally clear on what I wanted to do, just aware that I needed to get back to work. I also began dreaming again about #staymarried and all of the new ideas I want to explore to help support couples.

Another thing I could actively do was choose to navigate my own grief and confusion. I’m great at stuffing things down and marching on, but that wasn’t going to work this time.

Most nights Tony and I head outside for a minimum of 15 minutes, we call it our “Nightly Debrief.” So, nightly, we processed how we were feeling, what I was working on to try to find work, what I was thinking of for #staymarried, and absolutely everything else. We focused our conversations always around those three questions…

  1. What is good?
  2. What is true?
  3. What can I do?

Our Nightly Debriefs helped me focus on what was ahead. I knew I didn’t need to be too worried because, well, at least Tony still had his job. And, despite watching me lose my role on staff, he was still determined to do his best to course correct and build up the creative and music team at church into something really wonderful. I’m here to cheer him on. I don’t know anybody who works harder than my husband.

Then, on a Monday morning just eight weeks after finding out I would lose my job, Tony sent me a text from a meeting telling me, “I just lost my job. [Our friend] believes I’m taking the music team in a direction he doesn’t want it to go and he said my time here is done.” Just like that we went from Sleepless in Seattle to Jobless in Wisconsin. Now what?

How to Lose Your Job and Keep Your Marriage #staymarried

In her article Job Loss Tests Marriages: 5 Tips to Detour a Marital Meltdown, Laurie Puhn writes, “Even happy couples admit that the sudden economic downturn is testing their ‘I do’ commitment.” Even happy couples, guys. This stuff is seriously stressful. So, before we turn on each other and panic, Tony and I are back to asking those same three questions…

  1. What is good?
  2. What is true?
  3. What can we do?

Petersons take risks. We believe in each other. We are in this thing together. We take risks and sometimes those risks don’t reap a reward, and that’s okay. We’re excited to see how this path will unfold and since our calendar is suddenly pretty clear, we’re choosing to head full throttle into the work we love to do together and that’s right here on #staymarried!

The #staymarried Podcast is back!

We’re excited to announce that on Wednesday, September 19th, we will launch Season 4 of The #staymarried Podcast. A LOT has happened this past year and we can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to, what we’ve learned, how working together in tense environments challenged our marriage, and we’d love to bring you along on our journey as we try to figure out what’s next.

We realize that unemployment can certainly test the strength of a marriage. We are living in that struggle and stress even as you read these words. But, we are determined to draw closer to each other, to build into our relationship, to work through this as a team, and to #staymarried.

The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

Tony and Michelle Peterson 2017

Wait! What’s the plan?

It’s true, we don’t really know what we’re going to do next, but we have a 3-pronged strategy…

1. Resumes
Submit our fancy new resumes to all of the interesting jobs.

2. Freelance
Tony is now accepting new projects. Check out his portfolio here. I am also accepting projects on his behalf, because teamwork.

3. Patreon
We are now looking for supporters for The #staymarried Podcast. Interested in how you can help? Find out more here.

Learn more about these custom #staymarried Snapback hats on Patreon.

If you found this post helpful, we would be honored if you would share it. Our big dream is to see more and more people living in happy and healthy marriages!

Interested in more posts like this? You might like…
Does Marriage Really Have to be Hard Work? – #staymarried blog
♥ Your Baggage Doesn’t Have to Wreck Your Marriage – #staymarried Podcast

If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post. You can also find us on the socials: PinterestTwitterFacebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms.

Thank you ever so much for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

Ten Lessons from Ten Years of Marriage

10 Lessons from 10 Years of Marriage - #staymarriedTen years ago, I stood in front of a man I’d fallen in love with and committed to spend the rest of my days learning to create a life together. I was all aflutter that day, couldn’t imagine being happier, luckier, or more hopeful about the future. I had no idea!

Since then, Tony and I have sold all our belongings and moved across the country TWICE, and we’re about to do it again. We’ve brought three of the best people I know into the world, our sweet daughters. We’ve experienced the crushing pain of major depression and the gloriousness of healing and finding joy again.

We’ve learned more than a handful of things over these ten years. As I reflect back on this wild and wonderful life, I thought I’d share some of those lessons with you.

10 Lessons from 10 Years of Marriage

1. A little kindness goes a long way.

Being a grown-up comes with so many have-to’s. But, being kind to your partner isn’t one of them. You could bring them an unexpected cup of coffee. You could text them a sweet “thinking of you” message. You could rub their shoulders. You could offer them 15 guilt-free minutes without the kids around. Today, you and I get to figure out a way to show and tell the most important person in our lives that we love them. It’s not a “have-to,” it’s a “get-to.”

2. Our relationship with each other is more important than our relationship with our kids.

We love our kids like crazy, but we know the best thing we can do for them is to take care of each other first! We’re in the thick of it with 3 little ones but someday it’ll be just the two of us again and we need to make sure we’ve loved each other well all along so that we don’t feel like strangers when we become empty nesters. Plus, building a strong relationship with each other adds to a sense of security and confidence for our kids. It’s a win-WIN!

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried

3. Conflict is inevitable. Combat is optional.

Isn’t it great when you can learn lessons from OTHER PEOPLE’S experiences. Some wise friends told us early on that not every battle is worth fighting and that we would spend more time enjoying each other if we chose wisely. Keeping kindness in mind, even when we disagree and both feel passionately, has kept our conflicts mostly out of the battle zone.

4. Defensiveness gets you nowhere.

Because we know each other so well, we also know how to push each other’s buttons. We’ve learned that getting defensive doesn’t help. When we’re feeling defensive, it’s a good indication that we need a break and we need to find another way to listen and be heard.

How Being Defensive is Hurting Your Marriage - #staymarried

5. Dreaming together is a necessity, not a luxury.

We each have our own dreams and ideas of what we want to do with our lives, but we make it a priority to share our dreams with each other before we share them with other people. This gives us the opportunity to cheer each other on every step of the way. We’ve looked for ways to sacrifice for each other in order to help make our dreams a reality. We’ve learned that nothing at all will ever come to fruition if we’re both being selfish instead of supportive.Four Types of Supportive Behavior and how to Identify the One You Need - #staymarried

6. Curiosity is a relationship booster.

I’m not the same person I was when we first met and neither is he. Staying curious about each other, making time to ask good questions (like we do at the beginning of each episode of The #staymarried Podcast) and then really listening and learning keeps us engaged in our relationship instead of drifting away assuming we already know all there is to know.

7. Expectations without clear communication leads to conflict.

We have to be able to communicate what we want. I resisted this for along time, thinking it would be better and I would feel more loved if my husband figured out what I wanted on his own and then did it because he wanted to, not because I asked him to. The truth is, if I don’t ask, I don’t get, and that goes for everything from presents to help around the house to sex. Being brave and asking has made our lives so much better.

"Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable... Brene Brown quote on #staymarried

8. Even great marriages go through really crappy times.

We’ve had our share of rough seasons. There were times when I thought we would never see eye-to-eye, never find a solution, never get back to those first feelings of love. We’ve gotten through those seasons, but I’m sure they’ll come again. That doesn’t mean we need to call it quits. What we have together is fundamentally good, but that doesn’t mean it’ll always be easy.

9. You’re never justified for being a jerk.

The question is not whether or not you should argue with your spouse. The question is how will you argue? Will you be respectful while you argue, avoiding low-blows, name-calling, and ultimatums? Will you approach believing your partner is guilty before they’ve had a chance to explain themselves OR with the intention of giving your partner the benefit of the doubt? It’s okay to be angry. It’s never okay to be cruel.

10. Apologize and forgive often.

Sometimes you will be a jerk. Sometimes you won’t realize it until after the damage to your relationship has already been inflicted. As much as Tony and I value kindness and respect, neither of us will ever be perfect. Keeping a good rhythm of forgivness has carried us through some of our most challenging times.

7 Ways to Be a Better Forgiver - a #staymarried blog for couples

11. Marriages succeed in community and fail in isolation.

A great marriage starts with a solid friendship. But, even if your partner really is your best friend, your partner was never meant to fullfill all of your relational needs. Make every effort to spend time with your friends with or without your partner.  Making sure you’ve built and kept a close community of people is one of the best things you can do to ensure your marriage lasts to ten years and beyond.

10 Lessons from 10 Years of Marriage - #staymarried

Yes, I know I promised you ten lessons, and here I gave you eleven. But, let that remind you that a little extra effort and generosity are never wasted.

This tenth year of marriage has been a beautiful reminder that we couldn’t have come this far, we wouldn’t have made it to ten whole years, without our incredible community loving and supporting us every step of the way.

We’ve shared all of this with you over the years here on The #staymarried Blog and The #staymarried Podcast and have been received with such grace. Ten years have come and gone, there is much to celebrate, and still, it feels like we are just at the beginning. We’re grateful.

The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

Tony and Michelle Peterson 2017If you found this post helpful, we would be honored if you would share it. Our big dream is to see more and more people living in happy and healthy marriages!

Share this article on Facebook
Share this article on Twitter

Interested in more posts like this? You might like…
Does Marriage Really Have to be Hard Work? – #staymarried blog
♥ Your Baggage Doesn’t Have to Wreck Your Marriage – #staymarried Podcast


If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post. You can also find us on the socials: PinterestTwitterFacebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms.

Thank you ever so much for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

Is Your Marriage Dead? Or, Does it Just Appear That Way?

Is Your Marriage Dead? Or, does it just appear that way? Many people discover greater joy in their marriage after going through devastating hardship, as long as they don't make enemies of each other in the process. - #marriage #staymarried blog

“Girls, look ahead! The mountain is out, you can see it…”

This phrase, “the mountain is out,” is a very Pacific Northwest thing to say. Outside of the Seattle area, I’m not sure it would make much sense. But, for us locals, those four words beckon us to look up and notice a rare cloudless sky marked only by the beautiful face of Mount Rainier looking down happily on all of us. When the mountain is out, our collective spirits are lifted. We’ve made it through another storm and this beautiful view is our reward.

My three little daughters shifted their heads around from the backseat of our SUV as my husband, Tony, navigated down the 405. When Nora, our middle child, saw the mountain for herself, she began to shout, “I see it!” Then Claire called out, “Look, it’s so big! It looks closer.”

The freeway twisted and turned, and with a pleasant sigh Nora said, “That was beautiful.”

“It IS beautiful,” Claire corrected her, in true oldest sister fashion.

“Well,” Nora asserted, “It WAS beautiful when I could see it. But, I can’t see it anymore.”

I wondered then, from my vantage point in the front seat, if Nora really thought the mountain wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Do beautiful things cease to be beautiful when we can no longer see the beauty ourselves?

Emily's Orchid
It reminded me of something my friend Emily said at the beginning of the year. She shared this photo of an orchid on Instagram and with it she wrote:

“This is the orchid my husband bought me for our anniversary last July. The original blooms held on until sometime in November before falling into the kitchen sink (this window sill is just behind my faucet). For a stretch, I just let it be. Watered it every now and then, even though it looked like dead sticks pushed up out of the dirt. Then in December, I had a passing thought to look up how to care for it more intentionally, which consisted of carefully pruning two little branches. It didn’t seem like anything was happening for weeks, until buds started forming a week or two ago, and here you see a new delicate bloom about to emerge.

Because this orchid is symbolic of my marriage, I wanted to encourage those of you who might be in the ‘dead sticks’ season of your marriage. It is not easy to keep investing in a relationship that doesn’t feel like it is going well. I’ve been married 11.5 years to an incredible person, but we have hurt each other deeply at different times, and it has not been all roses…or orchids. But as we have taken tiny steps to tend to each other–to sacrifice what we can for the other’s benefit and communicate honestly about what we need–our love blooms again and again, for which I am grateful. I say a prayer for you who don’t feel like your partner knows your real heart, for those of you who don’t know how to bridge the distance or heal the hurt…May this year be one that you continue investing, continue tending the love you have committed yourself to, and may your marriage re-bloom in a beautiful and gentle way in 2017.”

It’s been a few months since Emily began tending to those dead sticks, and here is her orchid proudly displaying its beauty.

Emily's Orchid

Are you in a “dead sticks” season of your marriage? Are you staring at something that once was bright and beautiful and now looks dim and dying? How can you know if your marriage still has beauty in it, if it’s still worth tending to, or if it is actually already dead?

Research from the Institute for American Values asserts that couples who push through a hard season report being happier five years after the strain than they were before. Look at what Mona Charen says in her article “Happy Marriages and Unhappy Divorces”…

“According to the survey conducted by a team of family researchers, unhappily married adults who divorced were no happier five years after the divorce than were equally unhappy marrieds who remained together. And two-thirds of unhappily married people who remained married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. Even among those who had rated their marriages as “very unhappy,” nearly 80 percent said they were happily married five years later. These were not merely bored or dissatisfied whiners. They had endured serious problems, including alcoholism, infidelity, verbal abuse, emotional neglect, depression, illness, and work and money troubles.”

In our nearly 10 years of marriage, my husband and I have traveled roads together that did not appear to be leading us to anything beautiful. We lost sight of our hopes and plans, we lost sight of each other. Still, we kept traveling and neither of us left the other behind. Many times I thought we might take separate exits on this marriage journey, but instead we held hands and kept looking forward. Eventually we were able to see the beauty again, like turning the corner on the 405 to see that majestic face of Mount Rainier or witnessing a bloom begin to emerge from a once very dead looking orchid.

The beauty never left our marriage. We found the beauty again by taking on some new perspectives on our perpetual issues. We found it again by taking the time to nurture fondness and admiration in the middle of our frustration with each other. We found it again when we decided to lay down our preferences and sacrifice instead. The beauty in our marriage never left, it was just out of sight for a little while.

Share on Twitter

The beauty in our marriage never left, it was just out of sight for a little while. ~ Michelle Peterson

Every married couple experiences their share of pain, disconnection, betrayal, and extraordinary stress. Some discover that if they will push through together and not make enemies of each other in the process, the beauty they experience on the other side far surpasses anything they could have imagined for themselves.

If you’re in a tough season, I’m praying for you to have the strength to keep going, keep tending, keep nurturing, and keep investing in your relationship. I’m praying you’ll experience the beauty on the other side when you choose together to #staymarried.

Is Your Marriage Dead? Or, does it just appear that way? Many people discover greater joy in their marriage after going through devastating hardship, as long as they don't make enemies of each other in the process. - #staymarried


The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

If you found this post helpful, we would be honored if you would share it. Our big dream is to see more and more people living in happy and healthy marriages!

Interested in more posts like this? You might like…
10 Things to Try Before Giving Up on Your Marriage – The Gottman Institute
Does Marriage Really Have to be Hard Work? – #staymarried blog
♥ Your Baggage Doesn’t Have to Wreck Your Marriage – #staymarried Podcast

Emily AllenSpecial thanks to Emily Allen for allowing me to share her beautiful words and images here. Emily lives with her husband and six kids in Seattle, Washington. She is a contemplative, creative soul who celebrates the beauty of a humble, handmade life. Her days are full of laughs, epic messes, and lots of learning alongside her kids. She is the founder of Kindred Mom, a blog and an online community dedicated to helping women flourish in motherhood. Her personal blog is Light and Loveliness and she is on Instagram as @emily_sue_allen.

Tony and Michelle Peterson #staymarried

If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post. You can also find us on the socials: PinterestTwitterFacebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms.

Thank you ever so much for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle


Get Your Free #staymarried Love Notes

Sign up to be the first to hear about new blog posts, podcasts, events, and giveaways! As a treat, we’ll send you a free set of printable love notes straight to your inbox.

Powered by ConvertKit




Is Your Marriage Dead? Or, does it just appear that way? Many people discover greater joy in their marriage after going through devastating hardship, as long as they don't make enemies of each other in the process. - #staymarried

12 Awesome Marriage Resources That Aren’t Books

Reading is hard.

I say that as someone who loves to read and loves to write. But reading IS hard, especially when we have so many things in our lives distracting us and making it tough to concentrate for very long on things like words on pages.

While I worked on the manuscript for The #staymarried Book, I found that I could not read anything else. I just couldn’t. I had books that I wanted to read, but opening one had the same appeal as lifting a 200 pound bar bell. Are they even called bar bells? I don’t know. I don’t work out. I’m probably not going to pick one up. Anyway, my poor tiny brain was overwhelmed by all the research and reading and writing I was doing, but I still wanted to absorb some marriage goodness.

So, whether you’re in a No-Books-For-Me season of your life, or you just naturally prefer other mediums, here are some of my favorite non-book marriage resources. {Hint: PIN THIS so you can come back to it later}

12 Awesome Marriage Resources That Aren’t Books


1. Fighting the Fray

John and Paige are the real couple behind Fighting the Fray, a new Vlog series on YouTube that I instantly fell in love with. I think you will, too. You can listen to our interview with them on The #staymarried Podcast hereI also follow their Instagram to keep the encouragement coming.

2. Naked Conversations

Naked Coneversations by Meygan and Casey Caston of Marriage 365These monthly interactive webcasts are brought to you by Meygan and Casey from Marriage 365. These two are so fun and practical, and they aren’t afraid to cover topics like oral sex hangups and forgiveness after betrayal.


Find out more here: Naked Conversations

3. Rethinking Infidelity

Relationship therapist Esther Perel examines infidelity in a way I’d never considered before. This video is so thought provoking, Tony and I have had many conversations about Perel’s perspective and how her thoughts correspond to the way we navigate our own relationship.

Esther Perel TED Rethinking Infidelity



::On-The-Go Encouragements::

4. The Marriage Minute

The Gottman Institute recently started sending out the handiest little newsletter called “The Marriage Minute.” It comes straight to my inbox, usually takes me less than 60 seconds to read, and always gives me some new insight or much needed reminder for my marriage. You can subscribe to it for free here. Here’s a snapshot from my own inbox. The Marriage Minute by The Gottman Institute



5. Jay Cadet’s Instagram

Jay Cadet, Relationship Coach, on InstagramIt’s no secret I love Instagram. Jay’s feed is geared toward those who are dating or engaged, but his clear wisdom has been great for me, too! You can (and SHOULD!) follow him here: Jay Cadet on Instagram. For more about Jay and his philosophy on love and marriage, you can catch his episode on The #staymarried Podcast here.


6. Sweet Wives Facebook Community

Ladies, this one is for you. The Sweet Wives Community is hosted by Chelsea Damon of Living the Sweet Wife. I stumbled across her blog browsing Pinterest and immediately signed up for the free private Facebook group. Chelsea posts encouragements and reminders a few times per week and it’s been so fun for me to hear from some of the other wives in the group about how they are bringing positivity and self-reflection into their own marriages. Check out her blog and sign up for the group here

Chelsea Damon Living the Sweet Wife

::Interactive Tools::

7. Relationship Reveal

Relationship Reveal on #staymarriedThis is a game unlike any other. Instead of finishing ahead of your opponent or scoring more points, the point of this “game” is to gain understanding – of yourself and your partner. Relationship Reveal was designed by Sandra Fischer, a professional writer and consultant with a diverse background specializing in communications, people development, and optimizing organizational effectiveness. Her expertise comes through in the design of the game. Tony and I took it with us on a weekend getaway and had one of the most revealing conversations we’ve ever had! You can find it here.



8. Find Your Love Language

Understanding the different ways you and your partner express and expect to receive love can do wonders for your connection with each other. Even if you’ve taken this assessment before, a refresher never hurts. Tony’s love languages have stayed mostly the same for as long as I’ve known him, but mine have changed a little over the years. You can sign up to take the free assessment here.

Five Love Languages Assessment on #staymarried

9. The Mini Love Map Game

Inspired by work we’ve done with The Gottman Institute, use the Mini Love Map Game the next time you have 20 uninterrupted minutes with your love. {Hint: PIN THIS so you can come back to it later}

The {Mini} Love Map Game - #staymarried



10. The Perfect Wife

This podcast is a fun spin off of another of our favorite podcasts, Marriage is Funny. In The Perfect Wife, host Jessie Pepper interviews wives about what’s making their marriages work. You can find out more here: The Perfect Wife 

The Perfect Wife Podcast on #staymarried


11. Marriage More

Jeff and Mandy Rose tackle everyday topics and interview other couples. You can find out more about them here, and definitely search for the Marriage More Podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast player.

Marriage More Podcast


12. The Loveumentary

Nate Bagley is an ever evolving student of love and with this podcast he invites the rest of us along on his journey to discover that we don’t have to settle for mediocre love. In fact, I had a chance to chat with him myself, and he really is as fun and down-to-earth as he seems on his show. In this episode, Nate and I talked about Dream Building.
Nate Bagley Loveumentary



Wouldn’t it be silly if I didn’t mention the stay married resources WE offer?

The #staymarried Blog

Established in 2012 with this post. Here are a few of our most popular.

51 Little Ways to Build Your Marriage
Does Marriage Really Have to Be Hard Work?
The Best Apology – How to Say Sorry Like You Mean It


The #staymarried Podcast

We run our podcast in seasons and you can find them by searching “#staymarried” on iTunes or your favorite podcast app. We also keep an archive where we post additional resources for each episode.

In Season 1: The Seven Do’s and Four Don’ts for a Long and Happy Marriage, we took listeners through the principles found in the New York Times Bestseller by Dr. John Gottman called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

In Season 2 we brought in Love Experts like Marriage and Family Therapists, our own Marriage Mentors, and even other marriage podcasters to answer questions submitted by our listeners. We covered everything from in-law struggles to why you need a tribe of people if you want your marriage to succeed.

In Season 3 we’ve been exploring marriage through the lense of story telling. We’ve invited real couples and experts onto the show, navigating everything from millenial marriages to second marriages to same-sex marriages. We’re still answering the questions you send in to Ask #staymarried, too! 


The #staymarried Book

#staymarried: A Couple's Devotional by Michelle PetersonThe #staymaried Book is a 52 Week Couples Devotional, each chapter exploring how our faith works together with our everyday lives and with relationship research to give a fuller picture of how we can create a marriage that doesn’t simply last, but fulfills our lives and helps us pursue our dreams. Find out more about the book here.


Get Your Free #staymarried Love Notes

Sign up to be the first to hear about new blog posts, podcasts, events, and giveaways! As a treat, we’ll send you a free set of printable love notes straight to your inbox.

Powered by ConvertKit

Whether or not you have the time or energy to read, I hope you will join me in looking for ways to tend to your most important relationship. Do you have any favorite resources that I didn’t metion? We’d love for you to share them in the comments below. In marriage, we’re either moving closer together or drifting further apart. There is no standing still. Take advantage of these resources, move a little closer to your love, and #staymarried.

12 Awesome Marriage Resources That Aren't Books #staymarried


The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

Tony and Michelle Peterson #staymarriedIf you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle



12 Awesome Marriage Resources That Aren't Books - #staymarried

What To Do When You Disagree About Parenting

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried - Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen at http://www.stacyjacobsen.comAt last count, the internet has provided us with roughly eight million different parenting styles. You’ve probably noticed different parenting styles even among your own friends. Is it any wonder, with so many opinions and philosophies, that two people who share a home and children might also disagree on the best parenting approach?

Marriage is tricky enough without kids. As soon as you add little people to your family, the trickiness is off the charts. Now, not only are you figuring out how best to communicate with your partner and enjoy life, you also have to work together to raise these tiny utterly dependant humans! A lot of couples, including Tony and I, are unaware of the kinds of parents they will be until after the children have arrived. I always thought I’d be the strict enforcer and Tony would be the fun one. It turns out I’m the snuggler, Tony is the fun one, and we BOTH have to be the enforcers when it comes to discipline and handling behavior. Only, we don’t always agree on how to handle the kids.

What I want to share with you is less about the best way to parent and more about how your parenting affects your marriage. Let’s talk about the two of you! Because, above all, the way you treat each other and communicate about parenting can either have a positive or a negative effect on your relationship with each other. It’s your relationship with each other, not the way you parent, that will have the most profound effect on your children’s lives. These are the things Tony and I keep in mind when we disagree about parenting.

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements

1. Let your partner parent.

One of the hardest things to do when you disagree about parenting is to step back and let your partner BE a parent. But, unless something terribly unsafe or abusive is happening, that is exactly what we need to do. Think back to your own childhood. Did your mom and dad handle every situation in the exact same way? Probably not. And, look at you now, handling life EVEN THOUGH your parents parented differently.

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried - Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen at http://www.stacyjacobsen.comWhen our oldest was just a toddling two and a half year old, Tony brought home some small firecrackers from a little pop-up stand around the corner from our house. Fourth of July was coming up and, since he’s the fun parent, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when he showed me his loot. Of course I piped up just a little, “Honey, I don’t think this is a good idea. Claire is two. This really doesn’t seem safe.”

How did he respond? “Babe! It’s fine. I’ve got this.”

So, I was inside the house tending to our infant while Tony went out to the driveway to light off these little firecrackers. I could see a little bit from the front window, but I was really trying not to hover. I snuggled the baby and reminded myself, He’s a good dad. He’s a good dad. He’s a good dad. They’re fine.

The next thing I knew, the front door flung open and in came Tony carrying a screaming little Claire. My heart sank! She’d gotten too close and got a tiny burn on her hand. He rushed her to the bathroom. I grabbed an ice pack and followed him in where he was washing her hand and applying some cooling gel. He was handling it. She was fine. I nearly passed out from the stress, but I kept the I-told-ya-so’s to myself.

Letting your partner parent is not easy but it is vital. Practicing stepping back is about seeing parenting as a long game and not about just this one particular instance in which you would be doing things in a different way… the right way. The truth is that we need to see our differences in parenting simply as differences and not as wrong ways and right ways.

In the long game, the two of you need to be a team in all aspects of your marriage, and that includes parenting. Undermining your partner by stepping in and interrupting a parenting moment is not only disrespectful, it also communicates distrust. Nobody performs at their best when they feel that they aren’t trusted and will be undermined for their efforts anyway. So, if something is happening in a way that you don’t necessarily agree with, take a step back. Pause. Remind yourself that it’s better for the kids and for your relationship to let the situation play itself out. And if your husband burns your baby’s hand, that too will be a situation that you can handle together, hopefully without passing out.

[ctt_author author=”5873″ name=”Michelle Peterson” template=”1″ link=”_ba68″ via=”yes” ]We need to see differences in parenting simply as differences, not as wrong ways and right ways.[/ctt_author]

2. Practice the “Same Team Mentality” in front of the kids.

Smart parents know that kids will do what it takes to get their way. Pitting one parent against the other is a classic move. Kids don’t even need to be taught! They come out of the womb knowing that mom responds differently to a sweet snuggle and a smile before they ask for what they want than dad will. They know which is more likely to sneak some chocolate into their lunch (DAD!) and which is more likely to read one more little book even though it’s 20 minutes past bedtime (MOMMY!). Nobody told them. They just know.

Look, I may not like the extra sugar in her lunch and Tony may not like that bedtime should have been over by now, but in front of the kids we are on the same team. If dad says no, mom says no. So, in order to have the upper hand with these tiny master manipulators we’ve developed a new response…

“Have you already asked Daddy about that? What did Daddy say?” (and vice versa)

With the same team method, whichever parent gave the first response to the request is the parent that leads that situation. Sometimes the kids forget that their main objective is to divide and conquer, so they’ll ask one parent in front of the other. When that happens, we openly discuss in front of the kids what we each think about it and come to an agreement together.

“I really don’t like Claire to have chocolate at school.” – Mom, obviously

“I like the idea that she’s got a little treat with her lunch.” – Dad, the fun guy

“Sure, I get that. Let’s just not make it a daily lunch habit.”

“Great. Maybe once a week or so, she’ll get an extra little treat. Claire, what do you think?”

Not only does this method save a ton of arguments between the two of you, it’s a fantastic chance to model what teamwork looks like for your kids. They can see that we disagree and that we’re willing to talk it out and work toward a solution together.

3. Talk about differences away from the kids.

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried - Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen at http://www.stacyjacobsen.comIf you’re letting your partner be a parent, and practicing the same team mentality in front of the kids, you may still find yourself frustrated over something your partner has done. The best thing to do is to wait until the kids aren’t around to bring it up. Then, when you bring it up, don’t forget all of the problem solving skills you already know:

Start kindly and respectfully.
♥ Name what specifically happened.
♥ Name how you feel about it.
♥ Present what you think would have been a better method.
♥ Remain open to their perspective.
♥ Remind yourselves that you’re on the same team.

It could look something like this…

“I love that you want to do fun things and make fun memories with our kids. But, when you took Claire out there to light fireworks, I felt scared and frustrated. I was afraid something bad would happen, and I was frustrated that it seemed like you ignored me when I mentioned it. I wish you would have listened to me, or that we could have waited until I didn’t have my hands full with the baby so I could be out there to keep Claire away from the flames while you lit things on fire.”

4. Get a third-party perspective.

So far, we’re just talking about parenting instances. But, if you feel like you are having disagreements about parenting overall and not just in one situation or another, it’s time to bring in some perspective. All of those eight million different parenting styles come with eight million different websites, books, and seminars. One of the best ways to stay on the same team is to grab one of these resources, read it (or watch it or listen to it) together, and then discuss how you each feel about it.

Having an article to consider together is a great buffer because it takes the discussion out of the “me vs. you” state and puts you in an “us + new information” state. Instead of feeling attacked and criticized for the way you do things, now you can explore someone else’s thoughts and methods on parenting and make some decisions together. It’s not about your way vs. my way. Instead it’s about discovering our way.

Just remember, if this is the method you choose, you’ll still want to introduce it in a way that is kind and respectful and doesn’t make your spouse feel accused of doing something wrong.

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried - Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen at http://www.stacyjacobsen.comWhat I mean is… and I’ve said this on our Facebook page before… do not simply tag your spouse on an article you want them to read or send them a forward without any explanation. When you don’t include a comment to give context as to WHY you are tagging your partner or sending them an article, they could easily feel accused of having done something wrong. So, if you’re going to share something for your partner to read or listen to so that you can discuss it later, be thoughtful in how you share it with them.

Here are some quick options…

“Hey babe, let’s read this and talk about it later…”

“This article made me grateful for the way we do things in our marriage. I thought you might like it.”

“This article has some great ideas. I’d love to know what you think.”

Marriage and parenting really are a ton of work, as are most worthwhile endeavors. At the end of the day, whether you do everything exactly the same or not, the most important thing is to honor and respect each other and work out your solutions as a team. Stepping in, undermining, and rudely disagreeing with your partner in front of your kids can be really damaging to your kids and also to your own relationship. Be patient with each other, practice the same team mentality, present a united front with the kids, and #staymarried.

Special thanks to the Coleman family for letting us use their beautiful family photos to illustrate this post.
Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen whose work can be found at

Now, for those parenting resources I promised you…

Brain Rules for Baby by Dr. John Medina and Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow are the two books I recommend most often. They both thoroughly changed the way I parent, giving me insight based on scientific research, and practical steps I could take right away. If I’ve been to your baby shower in the last 4 years, chances are I gave you one or both of these books. I love them!

I can’t even believe I waited until the end of this post to tell you that, for all of our email subscribers, I get to GIVE THESE BOOKS TO YOU! Both books! In audio book format, because who has time to read! Ordinarily that would be a $40 value, but the people at have generously offered #staymarried Subscribers FREE downloads of both!

#staymarried and Parenting Audio Book Giveaway

Enter your name and email address to receive both of these parenting resources, a $40 value, as our gift to you!

You'll also stay up to date with the latest from #staymarried, speaking events, meetups, and more giveaways!

Powered by ConvertKit

If you’re a current #staymarried email subscriber, you should have already received yours. If you didn’t, feel free to re-subscribe by entering your name and email above and we’ll be sure to get them to you.

The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

Tony and Michelle Peterson #staymarriedIf you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

15 Ways to Calm a Fight

15 Ways to Calm a Fight - #staymarriedHave you ever been in a fight that you knew was going nowhere? Have you ever been in a fight that you knew was going nowhere AND you wanted it to end, but couldn’t figure out how to stop bickering? The way a couple ends a fight says a lot about the quality of their relationship and the stability of their marriage. Dr. John Gottman, the foremost researcher on marriage, calls these fight ending techniques “Repair Attempts” and says the way they are delivered and whether or not they are received can predict the longevity of the relationship!

Tony and I agree that in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, the overarching ideas really come down to having good manners. But, there’s clearly more to it than that if there are so many books on marriage, so many years of research, and still so many couples getting divorced, right? None of the research out there says that couples should avoid fighting. Instead, Dr. Gottman and researchers like him concentrate on how couples fight. One thing they’ve noticed that affects whether or not a couple will stay married is how they make and receive these repair attempts.

I threw out this idea to some friends and asked, “What are some common repair attempts between you and your husband?” Here’s what some of them said… Continue reading “15 Ways to Calm a Fight”

Cleaning Up Is Not My Destiny – How Your Marriage Benefits When You Share the Load

How Your Marriage Benefits When You Share the Load - #staymarriedClaire, our oldest, had only been in Kindergarten for two weeks when she sat on the floor of our living room picking up her toys and through gritted teeth she said to me, “Mom, you know what? Cleaning up is NOT my destiny.”

What I wanted to do was pull out my white handkerchief and wave it at her shouting “Preach, Girl! Ain’t that the truth!”

But, I’m the mom, so I sat on the floor with her and told her she was right, but that cleaning up still needed to be done and I would help her.

Every year The Gates Foundation writes their Annual Letter addressing the issues around the world that the foundation will focus on. This year’s letter caught my attention in a really personal way. One of the issues they addressed is the global inequity between genders of who performs unpaid work. In Chapter 3 of The Annual Letter, Melinda Gates writes:

“Unless things change, girls today will spend hundreds of thousands more hours than boys doing unpaid work simply because society assumes it’s their responsibility. Continue reading “Cleaning Up Is Not My Destiny – How Your Marriage Benefits When You Share the Load”

Three Ways to Keep Your Hobbies and Your Marriage

3 Ways to Keep Your Hobbies and Your Marriage - #staymarriedYou guys ask the best questions! There are things about our marriage that we think are humdrum… our pet names for each other (Goose and Chother), our go-to dinners (Spaghetti and Taco Bowls), where we keep the toaster (in the pantry like normal people). This is the stuff we both know and have taken for granted at this point in our ten (plus) years of marriage. These are things we don’t think would matter to anyone else’s marriage. But then, there you go, asking your questions and we realize that something that feels insignificant to us might be causing frustration or confusion for you.

I received an email recently from a husband who listened to The #staymarried Podcast and picked up on one of these seemingly insignificant details of our marriage and he wanted to know more about it. He asked…

“How do you manage playing computer games in your marriage, especially with kids?

My wife and I have been married for two years, with our first child due any day now. We all know that computer games can often be quite absorbing, if not downright addictive at times, so how do you balance family life with playing games?”

FINALLY! Something I can talk about! If you’ve been around #staymarried for a while, you know that Michelle does the bulk of the writing. She’s good at it. She reads a lot and thinks about these big marriage concepts like conflict and communication, blah blah blah. But, this guy asked about VIDEO GAMES. This one’s mine! Continue reading “Three Ways to Keep Your Hobbies and Your Marriage”

Six Conversations Every Couple Must Have

Is “Happily ever after…”6 Conversations Every Couple Must Have - #staymarried even a thing?

That’s the question that’s given me insomnia over the last three years. Sometimes I lose sleep for a week, tossing and turning going over the stats and stories of divorce over and over again in my mind. Is it possible for anyone to actually stay married? And, if they manage to stay together, can they also be happy and not just suffering through life together? Who even came up with this phrase “Happily ever after…”? Had they experienced it themselves?

Then I discovered that most couples who divorce do so within the first three years after the wedding. Newlyweds become divorcees. Isn’t it called the honeymoon phase for a reason? Why aren’t the newlyweds blissfully carrying on? Continue reading “Six Conversations Every Couple Must Have”

Some Problems In Your Marriage Are Here To Stay

Some Problems In Your Marriage Are Here To Stay - Michelle Peterson on #staymarriedEvery couple has their perpetual problems. These are the problems that you fight and argue about, but nothing seems to change. You plead your case, you hear their side of it, you may even reach some kind of agreement or compromise, and then, before too long, you are arguing about it all over again. Perpetual.

Early in your marriage, you may argue and disagree about a number of things. I mean, you should. You’re still figuring each other out and navigating what it’s like to live together. Your expectations and dreams are confronted with reality and those things never line up completely.

In our first year, we argued about Tony leaving wet towels on the bed or which of my piles of clothes were clean and which were dirty and why I never put the dirty ones in the hamper… What if I can get one more wear out of those jeans before I do laundry? Little things, no biggie… That is what that first year is about – discovery. We didn’t know then that some of the things we argued and disagreed about, some of the things that hurt, would become the things that we still can’t come to terms with eight years into our marriage.

On our 8th Anniversary date, over tapas, we discussed our perpetual problem. Continue reading “Some Problems In Your Marriage Are Here To Stay”

E is for Empathy in The Relationship Alphabet

The Relationship Alphabet by Zach Brittle on #staymarriedThis guy wrote this book and you HAVE TO get it! The guy is Zach Brittle, a Certified Gottman Therapist, and I’ve been fan-girl following his work on the Gottman Relationship Blog for the past couple of years. The book… THE BOOK!… is The Relationship Alphabet: A Practical Guide to Better Connection for Couples.

As you might imagine from the title, Brittle discusses an essential element of healthy relationships for each letter of the alphabet. I love the way the format allows you to read the book from cover to cover or choose a letter & topic and dig right into it. With discussion questions at the end of each chapter, this is the kind of resource I’ll be picking up again and again when I hit those roadblocks in my own marriage and need just a little direction and encouragement.

With this book, Zach Brittle has taken his years of experience helping couples in therapy as well as thriving in his own marriage and created something that is fun and easy to read, practical, and implementable!

You can grab your copy here, and YOU SHOULD, but I just couldn’t wait to share a bit of wisdom straight from the book. Here’s Zach with E is for Empathy… Continue reading “E is for Empathy in The Relationship Alphabet”

Does Marriage Really Have To Be Hard Work?

Does Marriage Really Have To Be Hard Work? - #staymarriedWhenever we write or talk about boundaries that keep your marriage healthy, we hear a little bit of backlash. The overall sentiment is something like, “Why should I have to change? Why should I have to do things differently than I did when I wasn’t married? Shouldn’t my spouse accept me, flaws and all? Shouldn’t they trust me?”

If you’ve ever wondered, “Why boundaries?”, I want to make something clear to you. If you want to have a great marriage, you should really do whatever you want.

Now, I realize this sounds like it’s the opposite of what we’ve told you in the past, but it’s not. How you read that statement depends entirely on what you really want. You see, marriage isn’t meant to hold you hostage or prevent you from being yourself or pursuing what you want out of life. A great marriage has many benefits, but nobody reaps the benefits without putting in the work. Continue reading “Does Marriage Really Have To Be Hard Work?”

When Your Marriage Needs More Than a Date Night

When Your Marriage Needs More Than a Date Night - #staymarriedI’m going to go out on a limb here and make a sweeping-generalization-type-of-statement: No one wants to become simply roommates with their spouse.

Right? Right. It’s trendy to talk about how we should still make time to “date” our spouses, but I think that should mean more than a date night once a month. Remember when you were dating and you’d be willing to do almost anything your significant other suggested, just because you wanted to spend as much time with them as possible? (Just me?) Don’t get me wrong: dinners and movies and stuff like that are necessary. One-on-one time is necessary. I’m just proposing an extension of that.

Like I mentioned the last time I wrote a post for #staymarried, my husband and I have been in a season of dream-chasing for about two years now. He has made excellent progress in his goals of acting, directing, and improvising in Chicago– with a number of shows, short films, and web series under his belt. I have been so proud of him, but it has also been difficult being the wife of a dream-chaser. There has been lots of solo parenting, pity parties, and poor communication in the past two years.

The first year of this season was especially hard. In order to keep working his full time job AND chase his dreams, it meant that we weren’t seeing very much of each other. He’d spend many evenings down in Chicago taking improv classes, many weekends working on commercials or independent films, and I’d spend that time taking care of our son and doing my own thing. Truth be told, I didn’t like it very much. I knew it was necessary, because we agreed he was going to “go for it,” but it was lonely, and I felt jealous and spiteful and guilty about feeling all of those things. Instead of being on one path, we were forging two different paths and trying to make them run parallel to one another rather than to make them intersect and work together. In marriage we often refer to this as “disconnect.” Of course we still tried to make time for date nights during this stage in our dream-chasing, but there was still huge disconnect on our dates. I felt like all he ever talked about was his improv, his friends, and his experiences in Chicago. That probably wasn’t true, but what was true is that it was hard to talk about because they weren’t my experiences. I felt like he was telling me about his other life– one that I just wasn’t part of. We were living like roommates.

How the Writing Program at Second City Helped Our Marriage

When Your Marriage Needs More Than a Date Night - #staymarriedMichelle’s post last week was all about how to connect when you’re too tired to connect… and that’s exactly where we were in the beginning, when we were trying to figure out how this new direction of our life should work and look like. I reflect often on this process and how we’ve made it work. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but there seems to be one thing that has been most vital in helping us connect and stay connected.

Last year he introduced an idea: we should do Second City’s writing program together. At first I just said, “oh yeah. Sure.” Not taking him too seriously. But after he mentioned it about five more times, I realized he wasn’t just saying it the way we say, “we should buy a vacation home on Oahu.” He actually meant he wanted to do this program now, and he wanted me to do it with him. It was terrifying, pushed me way outside of my comfort zone, and I don’t regret it at all.

I gave him a tiny commitment to take Level 1, but I didn’t promise anything beyond that. I ended up really loving it and continued, even taking a class without him! We are at the end of this program now. We are currently in the middle of putting up our graduation show (if you’re near Chicago, come see it!) and as we are going through this crazy process, I’ve been reflecting on how completely, utterly good this has been for us. Taking the writing program together not only gave us a purpose for connecting, it gave us something new to connect about– a shared interest, shared group of friends, and shared experience when we really needed it.

Tips for Finding Your Point of Intersection

When Your Marriage Needs More Than a Date Night - #staymarriedAs the editor of a marriage blog, I’ve also been trying to put this experience into words to share hope for other couples who may also be in a season of dream-chasing while also raising small children. I talked a little bit in my post about how prioritizing your spouse is essential, but it can be especially difficult to do that when you’re so disconnected.

While I think it’s important for spouses to have their own interests, their own things, I also think it’s important to find something to do that is just about the two of you. If you don’t, you run the risk of just living parallel lives. In marriage, it’s easy to end up in our own lanes running parallel to each other. We need to be purposeful about finding points of intersection and connection, to meet each other there, to continue to grow together. Without intersecting and connecting, you become exactly what you don’t want to become: roommates. Here are some suggestions based on our experience for finding that “thing” you can enjoy together.

1. Find common ground

If your spouse has always wanted to skydive, but you have a crippling fear of heights, perhaps taking up skydiving together isn’t going to fit your relationship. Whatever you are going to do together shouldn’t be completely out of the question for one of you.

At first thought, the Writing Program at Second City was not something I would have considered common ground for me and Jonah. He figured that since I was into writing and he was into all things Second City, it’d be a great fit. I was terrified at the idea of trying to write comedy (I mean, trying to be funny?! Is there anything worse?!). He was right though– while writing sketch comedy has never been an interest or goal of mine, I do love writing, and I found Level 1 of the program to be excellent advice for all kinds of writers. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Take some risks

This was a huge risk for me. I needed to be willing to be stretched. Underneath the fear of writing sketch comedy, I knew that it was at least possible that I would enjoy this and get something out of the class. I’m semi-used to putting writing out there, but putting it out there on the internet is different than to a circle of other writers. Face to face. Thankfully, the teachers at Second City are some of the most positive, encouraging, and helpful people I’ve ever met. (As a teacher, I’ve learned a lot from them in that respect, too!)

It was a risk for my husband as well, though I didn’t see it that way at the time. We were on his turf! But while he was already a great improviser and actor, it was his first attempt at writing comedy as well. Which brings me to my last point…

3. It should be NEW for both of you

Having new experiences together is so important. If you already have a hobby that you and your spouse do together regularly (or semi-regularly), that’s great and you should keep doing that; however, an article from the Berkeley Science Review reports that “psychological research suggests that couples who play together feel closer, experience more positive emotions, and as a result are happier together,” and this is especially true when the couple is trying out something new and exciting. These activities often involve cooperating, create shared meaning, and the feelings of newness and excitement get linked to your relationship. The feelings of pleasure from the experience extend to feelings of pleasure for your partner, and as a result, you grow closer to one another.

Second City was certainly not a new setting for Jonah, but he also wasn’t much of a writer. I loved to write, but never considered writing comedy. Even though I didn’t see it as such at the time, Jonah was taking a risk by signing up for the program, too. While it was something he wanted to do, it wasn’t necessarily in his wheelhouse. The writing program connected us on Saturdays during class, but it also carried over into the rest of the week. We talked about class on the way home, checked with each other throughout the week to see how our homework was going, ran ideas past each other… we supported each other in this new adventure while also connecting in a new way.


As we were sitting in Donny’s Skybox, watching six actors perform scenes we had written, I was overcome with two feelings: excitement that this was happening and love for my husband. Doing the writing program together brought us closer together during a time that it was easy to grow further apart. It was the point of intersection for the dual paths we were forging and brought us back to a singular one. It kept us tied to each other, brought me into my husband’s new world in the right way, and helped both of us grow as people. And these people want to #staymarried.

 The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

Katie Saesan 2015Katie Saesan is the editor of the #staymarried blog. She doesn’t write here often, though her fingerprints are on every entry that’s ever been published. We are so incredibly thankful for the faithfulness, hard work, and enthusiasm she brings to the #staymarried mission. She and her husband Jonah, along with their adorable son Skip, are chasing dreams just north of Chicago, IL. If you’d like to hear more from her, you can find her on Twitter and her own blog where she writes about two of the things she loves most in life: running and reading. 

Interested in reading other posts by Katie? Check these out…
Does Your Marriage Need a Rebrand – Six Simple Ways to Prioritize Your Spouse
Walking Side-by-Side – How to Keep Perfect Pace with Your Partner

If you found this post helpful, we would be honored if you would share it. Our big dream is to see more and more people living in happy and healthy marriages!

If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and our first post. You can also find us on the socials: PinterestTwitterFacebook, and Instagram. We’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!


3 Things You Must Do When You’re Just Too Tired to Connect

3 Things You Must Do When You're Just Too Tired To Connect - #staymarriedI wonder sometimes if barriers toward intimacy cause as many divorces as fights and hostility do. What I mean is, I think intimacy is tough. It is hard to bare all in front of another person. It can be excruciating to let down our armor and really admit to how we feel, where we are weak, where we have failed, and how much we are afraid of to another person.

We know that fighting and disagreements can lead to divorce, but I think a fear of true intimacy is also a factor. Continue reading “3 Things You Must Do When You’re Just Too Tired to Connect”

71 Ways to Express Your Love When You’re Not Shakespeare

Everyone wants to hear that they are loved and admired. It’s love that inspired Journey’s “Faithfully” and Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” Love is at the center of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook.

“How do I love thee, let me count the ways,” wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and then she went on to compose one of the most famous love notes of all time. But, what if you, being full of love for your spouse, are not a poet? What if you have all of the feelings, but not so many words? You do love and admire the person you married, but verbally expressing yourself has never been your strong suit. Well, you’re not alone. Continue reading “71 Ways to Express Your Love When You’re Not Shakespeare”

3 Better Ways to Connect with Your Kids

Connection is Greater than Pefection - 3 Better Ways to Connect with you Kids - #staymarriedParenting is the thing Tony and I fight about the most. We don’t fight about it because we have vastly different philosophies on parenting– for the most part, we agree on how we want to raise our girls. But the act of parenting is very different from the idea of it, and that’s where we find ourselves butting heads.

It’s been awhile since we posted here in #staymarried, but the #staymarried vision of offering hope, stories, and resources to couples who want to stay married is never far from our hearts. The simple truth of our absence is that we have been working on focusing our energy on our own marriage and family, which has desperately needed our attention.

Tony has been busy working his usual 9-5 and then coming home and spending most evenings in the office working on freelance projects. He is very talented, and I am so proud of him, but it’s meant that our time together as a family has been limited. It’s not just the work on his plate that has filled up our time.

I have been speaking regularly since January. Public speaking was never a part of my vision for my life or for #staymarried, so I am still wrapping my brain around it. Each time I get to share, speaking my own heart, using my real voice, I feel so fortunate! Fortunate that people would trust me to deliver a message. Fortunate that I get to write and process in a totally new way. Writing to speak is completely different for me than writing to post on the blog. I’m still figuring out the process, but so far, the biggest difference is that it takes me A LOT longer. So, I’m still writing, but I haven’t had the brain space to write both for #staymarried and to write for speaking.

{Here’s a podcast of my latest message: I’ll Never Be a Pinterest Parent}

Sometimes in order to say “yes” to great things, we have to say “no” to good things. Continue reading “3 Better Ways to Connect with Your Kids”

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Divorced

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Divorced - #staymarried guest post by Lindsay HellerWhen my husband and I were dating, we went to one of the most lavish weddings I can remember. It was before brides were pinning their dream days on Pinterest, and looking back, I’ll bet Pinterest probably sent a correspondent to this same wedding just to take a look at all of the details.

The bride, Lindsay, was perfectly polished in every way. Her groom was tall and handsome. They were both friends of mine, so I’d witnessed their rocky and passionate relationship from a distance, but none of us questioned that they would get married some day. And, on that day, everything seemed just as it should be… at least it did from the pew I sat in.

Sadly, their dream wedding did not result in a dream marriage and they divorced. I later learned that Lindsay, like 30% of other brides who end up divorcing, had serious doubts on the day of her wedding.

Henry Ford said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” I have watched and learned so much from Lindsay over the years. She is wise and resilient, creative and determined. She and I talk from time to time about what it looks like to move on and today we get to share her perspective with you. Wherever you are on your relationship journey, I hope you’ll take in her story and glean from her the way I’ve had the opportunity to…

Irrevocably Broken

by Lindsay Heller

There surely comes a time in every marriage when we question if the grass is greener on the other side. When marriage is not easy and doesn’t look or feel like we thought it would. When the voids within ourselves become so dark and heavy that we can’t help but blame our spouse for not filling them, not meeting our needs, not coming to our rescue and pulling us out of the slump. So we question the decision to have made those vows, wondering if we should throw in the towel or trust that a dire situation could ever be redeemed.

Divorce was never part of my plan, yet I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have doubts before walking down the aisle. In the back of my mind, Continue reading “10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Divorced”

Ask #staymarried: He says I complain too much, and I think he’s rude. Please help!

Ask #staymarried - advice on marriage, love, and relationshipsGood Evening,

I am a newlywed, just over 7 months of marriage. I had always heard the first year of marriage was the hardest, but knowing the relationship my husband and I had, I didn’t think it would apply to us. We were friends for over a year before we started dating, and dated for 5 years before taking the plunge. I thought we knew each other pretty well, now I’m not so sure.

He is constantly picking at me, and makes me feel bad about myself. I don’t think he tries to do it on purpose, but it’s always something I’m doing wrong or something I said that’s wrong. Sometimes I’m not even sure what things I should say out loud. I always end up being the one to say sorry just because I don’t like the awkward feeling in the house. But a lot of times I’m not sorry because I don’t feel I did something wrong.

Most recently, I told my husband I was annoyed that UPS was taking so long to deliver packages I have been waiting for, that they keep on delaying. Just expressing my frustration and he basically responded with a get over it, that’s life type thing. It was in a very rude manner and it made me really upset. Now I can’t even vent to the only person I see every single day? He said that I’m always complaining about things. This type of thing happens more often in different ways, and I keep reminding myself that most days it probably just isn’t worth saying anything at all.

But can I really live the rest of my life not saying when something is bothering me? I don’t know what to do anymore, and I think because of it I don’t love my husband as much as I once did.

Please help me.

Tired Wife

Dear Tired,

Continue reading “Ask #staymarried: He says I complain too much, and I think he’s rude. Please help!”

“My goal is to not die…” – Postpartum Depression and Our Marriage

"My Goal is To Not Die" Postpartum Depression and Our Marriage - #staymarriedI’ve been in a slump. I can tell because most mornings when I wake up, I already want to go back to bed. I spend a lot of my thought life trying to figure out how I might be able to get out of my next social engagement. I practically count my own words because talking out loud and trying to express myself can be excruciating. I want to be alone. I want everything to be quiet.

If this is your first time to #staymarried, welcome to our bright and shiny corner of the internet! Oh, wait… that bright and shiny corner might be elsewhere today. Our mission is to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married. But, sometimes, in order to get to hope, we need to tell our own stories of pain and apathy and how we work through it. Right now, I am working my way through it.

At eighteen I was diagnosed with Dysthymia. I can’t stand the labels of things, but I also value that they help make murky ideas a little bit more clear. Dysthymia is a mild form of depression, mostly manageable without medication. It is very real, but not necessarily incapacitating. The trouble with this kind of depression is that, because I am used to being just a little less joyful than the average person who does not deal with it, a true season of deeper depression can sneak up on me pretty easily.

Because of the Dysthymia, I have been more prone to severe postpartum depression. Now, I didn’t know that, so rather than being snuck up on by a depressive season, I was tackled by a huge linebacker of darkness and self-loathing after the birth of my first daughter. Continue reading ““My goal is to not die…” – Postpartum Depression and Our Marriage”

How to Share Your Spouse and #staymarried

How to Share Your Spouse - #staymarriedRelax… I do not mean “share” in the polyamorous sense of the word. That’s not my thing. Only two people in my bed, please… Unless we are adding our snuggly adorable children. Wait. No. I still prefer just my husband and I in my bed. Unless I can have my bed all to myself. What the heck? You guys totally got me sidetracked!

What I mean is, in a committed two-person relationship, it is still a really good idea to share! One of the myths of marriage is that it is a relationship between two people. It’s easy to believe that once you tie the knot, you and your spouse exist in a silo. The two of you make your little home and maybe you put up a white picket fence around it and there you will stay for the rest of your days in wedded bliss. Together you’ll share the romantic notion that it’s just “You and me against the world, Baby! I gotchu! We all we got? We all we need!”

Hate to break it to you, but you are not Jay Z and Beyoncé on tour. You need community before you get married and you will definitely need community after you get married. This is one of the reasons that when I talk about how to “Date Smart” with the pre-marriage crowd, I tell them that they need to have a list of red flags about the people they choose to date. One of those red flags should absolutely be: “Does not want to hang out with my friends.” Continue reading “How to Share Your Spouse and #staymarried”