Yours, Mine, and Ours – Money and Your Marriage

Disagreements over money is one of the top predictors that lead a couple to divorce. If we want couples to stick together through thick and thin, why haven’t we talked about it on #staymarried? Well, I’ll tell you… It’s because I don’t love talking about money. But, after this weekend, I really don’t think I can avoid it any longer.

#staymarried Live

Yours, Mine, and Ours - Money and Your Marriage - #staymarried, photo by Jake Gravbrot PhotographyIf you’re just joining us, you may not be aware that we have coordinated with Rain City Church in Bellevue, WA for a six week message series called #staymarried. It is an honor that they have invited us to be a part of something like this. We get to go from writing and sharing on the internet to speaking live and sharing with a room full of people who are eager to listen. We have been working with Rain City’s Pastor, our friend, Jesse Butterworth to make sure we are sharing content that is relevant and useful to what married couples, and singles for that matter, are facing today. Months ago, as we were dreaming up what this series would look like, we all threw out the topics we thought we absolutely needed to cover. Jesse, in all of his wisdom, said, “We definitely need to do a week on money and a week on sex.”

I said, “Of course! You are totally right. Those are the top subjects couples fight about and struggle over…” and in my mind I said, ah crap! Continue reading “Yours, Mine, and Ours – Money and Your Marriage”

The Second Time Bride – 5 Reasons My Marriage is Better the Second Time Around

The Second Time Bride - 5 Resons My Marriage is Better the Second Time Around - #staymarriedWhen I was a child and thought about what my life would be like, everything seemed like it would follow a straight line. I would go from middle school to high school. I would go to college, get a job, maybe get married, and maybe have kids. Things would move progressively, linearly, from one stage to the next. In some ways, that did happen, but there have been many splinters and branches, exciting high points and devastating low points, that I could never have predicted.

As it turns out, life is not quite the straight line we all imagine it should be. Ideally, the point in the line where we choose whether or not to marry someone else would continue on forever. We know that for many people, that’s just not true. Love doesn’t always last the first time around. But, can it last the second time?

Statistics have shown that in the U.S. 50% percent of first marriages, 60% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. You know we love to push against those stats, and we love it when other people do too. Today, I want you to hear from Joy, a second time bride pouring herself into her marriage and doing the beautiful and daunting work to make it last…

The Second Time Bride

By Joy Mushacke Smith

“If you get married again and it doesn’t work out, I think that should be it. You should just be single.” My mother’s words stung. Perhaps her advice came from fear that I had started dating a man eleven years my elder without the “proper” mourning period after my divorce. Maybe she worried, like mothers do, that I’d make the wrong choice again.

Nevertheless, it was more than unsettling. Continue reading “The Second Time Bride – 5 Reasons My Marriage is Better the Second Time Around”

A Bad Fight or a Good Fight?

A Good Fight - a #staymarried blog featuring the difference between a good fight and a bad fight by Drs. Les and Leslie ParrottA friend and I were having coffee, catching up with each other, and talking about how much our kids seem to be paying attention and noticing. I told her about some of the random things my not-quite-two-year-old has been saying lately, like, “Oh my goodness!” and, “That’s okay.” We laughed about the silly things her elementary aged kids have gotten into and the seemingly serious conversations they appear to be having with each other. Then she told me about something a bit more heartbreaking that her seven year old son said to her after she and her husband had been fighting in their bedroom one night.

“Mom, when you and dad are arguing, why don’t you just stop? Just stop doing it.” She was so sad that her son had been so affected by what she thought had occurred behind closed doors that she started to tear up. She put her hand on his shoulder and then he said, “Or, maybe instead of fighting, you could just text each other.”

I felt for my friend. She’s navigating territory that I have yet to enter into – children old enough to understand and communicate how their parents fighting is affecting them. His words were sweet to his momma, and wise, and pretty funny. Who knows, he could be the next great marriage therapist! It got me to thinking about my own fights with Tony and I wondered, why don’t we just stop?

Maybe because if we stop, our spouse will feel like they’ve won. Or because we just have to get our point across and make sure we are being heard. Or because we are hurt and they need to hurt with us. Maybe one of us won’t overlook an offense. Maybe the other won’t admit a mistake. Maybe we both refuse to let go of our need to be right.

I think what this sweet boy was trying to say to his mom is that he hears their fighting and it makes him feel insecure. He wants to know that everything is ok, that they love each other, and that their home is safe and full of peace. He asks why they don’t just stop because, in his mind, the lack of conflict – yelling, arguing, fighting – means that there aren’t any problems. What he doesn’t understand now, but he may someday, is that all couples fight and it is not a bad thing.

The Good Fight Book, photo by Brandon Hill #staymarriedDrs. Les and Leslie Parrott, authors of The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring You Closer share that the difference between a marriage that grows happier and one that grows more miserable is not whether they fight, but how they fight. They say:

All fights are not created equal. A good fight, in contrast to a bad fight, is helpful, not hurtful. It is positive, not negative. A good fight stays clean, but a bad fight gets dirty. According to researchers at the University of Utah, 93% of couples who fight dirty will be divorced within ten years.

Do you feel like the fights you are having with your partner are good fights or bad fights? Do you think they are mostly good, with a little bad sprinkled in? Are they mostly bad? You might think these questions are just a matter of opinion; the fight is good if we say it is. However, research shows us that we can figure out exactly what makes a good fight or a bad fight. Check out this info we found in The Good Fight…

A Good Fight - a #staymarried blog featuring the difference between a good fight and a bad fight by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

It’s a daunting list. Some of these need a lot more explanation, and Les and Leslie offer great insight in their book. But, they also say that if you boil the essence of a bad fight down to a single ingredient, it would have to be pride. Look back at the Bad Fight column of the chart. Do you see it? I do, and I see now more than ever that I am guilty of it.

Most of the fights Tony and I have start when I feel like I haven’t gotten my way… pride. They escalate when I hear him say something that reveals my own selfishness… pride. I move into my classic silent-treatment mode when I see that I might be wrong, but I’m not yet willing to give in… pride.

Look again at the chart. See that last line? The benefit of a good fight is growth and intimacy. Holy crap if they didn’t just nail the very thing I want most in my marriage! I want Tony and I to grow together. I want us to experience real and vulnerable intimacy. My pride does absolutely nothing to help us get there, but laying down my selfishness might. Evaluating where I am coming from in a fight could be exactly what I need to go from escalating the tension we are having to easing that tension.

Fighting is as intrinsic to marriage as sex... quote on #staymarried blog

In marriage, we’re not going to stop fighting. We shouldn’t even think that the absence of fighting is the goal. What we should do is figure out how to get better at it. As for me, I’m going to start with one little habit that I hope will make a difference. I’m going to pause. Before I enter into the fight, I’m going to check myself for that little pride monster. I’m going to look at this chart and evaluate my motives. I’m going to take a deep breath, think about taking responsibility instead of blaming, and then decide how to bring up what’s bothering me. I’m going to try to have more good fights and less bad ones so that Tony and I can grow together and #staymarried.

P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like Show Some Respect and No Yelling… and 9 Other Rules for Fighting Fair. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by!
~ Michelle

Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross

Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross on the #staymarried blogIf you are not already aware that there are external threats to your marriage, then my guess is that you haven’t been married for very long. One of the biggest threats to marriage has been infidelity, and researchers from the University of Central Florida have found that people in committed relationships who view pornographic materials are more likely to cheat on their partners than those who don’t. With more than 500 million pages of porn on the internet today, most of which is directed at men, Dr. John Gottman says in his book What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal :

Even non-compulsive use of [porn] can damage a committed relationship. Masturbating to an image results in the secretion of oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones linked to attachment. Porn users are in danger of becoming attached to a mere fetish of impersonal sex.

So, if pornography poses a problem, why don’t we talk about it? I mean, we can all admit that we’ve seen it, and that we want to see it again. Marketers are aware of this and use it against us every day in advertising products that have nothing to do with sex. I see this billboard all the time for a local plumbing company with the image of a beautiful woman in a low cut shirt. Am I supposed to believe that if I call that company, she’s the plumber that is going to show up at my front door?

There are several reasons we don’t often talk about porn. First of all, it’s embarrassing. Viewing porn is not normally a group activity for a reason. When people engage in it, there are the perceived positive effects of being aroused and perhaps even reaching orgasm from masturbating to it. But, with that comes secrecy and shame. It’s incredibly uncomfortable to talk about or admit. Sometimes, while we may even see that porn could be a problem for someone else, we can be fooled into thinking we, ourselves, won’t be affected, so it’s not really a problem for us the way it might be for others. William Struthers, Ph. D., a bio-psychologist and the author of Wired for Intimacy, says after much research:

Denial is the first line of defense. Because so many men have viewed so much porn, the fear about how it has affected them is too overwhelming. So they deny the issue. But it doesn’t go away. Because we are embodied beings, viewing pornography changes how the brain works, how we form memories and make attachments.

Michelle and I are hardly experts when it comes to the study of the effects porn has on a marriage. So, we asked Craig Gross, founder of, who is also known as “The Porn Pastor,” to weigh in. We believe, along with Craig, that we should absolutely be talking about it. If we are going to address the things that threaten our marriages, we need to do it head on. We need to know if and how it affects us so we can arm ourselves against it. When we talked with Craig, he had some very insightful things to share. He weighed in on why we need to push past the shame and embarrassment, and why porn should be talked about in every marriage, and here is what he shared with us…

Porn Breaks Trust and Destroys Intimacy

Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross on the #staymarried blog

A healthy marriage is based on trust and intimacy. Secrets, especially your secret stash of porn or that website you keep deleting from the history bar, are only going to get in the way of that trust.

Another scenario of broken trust happens when a spouse suggests bringing porn into the marriage, wanting to “spice things up.” I have heard both husbands and wives confess they used this approach out of a selfish desire to indulge in porn. When one spouse trusts another and follows his or her suggestion, it is devastating to discover that the spouse who wanted to use porn did not have the best interests of the marriage or the other spouse at heart. Rather, he or she was seeking a way to indulge lust.

Broken trust alters the very core of a relationship, and the only way to restore it is by making good decisions over time. Without trust, a vital marriage component, intimacy is almost impossible.

If you choose to use pornography as a means to sexually arouse yourself, you are forfeiting the ability to become aroused by your spouse. Over time, porn users find that it becomes more and more difficult to be sexually aroused by your spouse because he or she will age while the porn star forever remains youthful in pictures and videos.

Porn lies, telling you that your spouse will never measure up to what porn has to offer. Once you believe that—and you will believe that—your intimacy is over. Fantasy eventually takes people farther away from their spouse than they wanted to go and offers no turnaround.

Though porn destroys marriages, it takes more than just abstaining from porn to keep your marriage growing, healthy, and strong.

Here are some keys to assist you as you strive to keep your marriage thriving:

1. Set Healthy Parameters

Don’t allow unhealthy glances or wandering eyes. Television shows and even some television ads can produce impure thoughts that lead to unhealthy behavior. Turn them off before you get hooked. Sticking to this guideline will take guts and willpower. For Christians, Jesus had some especially candid words for how powerful the link between our mind and our emotions can be. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27–28) Essentially, Jesus stated that having an uncontrolled mind will inevitably lead to thoughts that become actions. It’s the same way with porn.

2. Guard Your Associations

You are the average of the five people with whom you hang around with most often. The behavior of those you spend time with becomes your behavior, and bad company corrupts good character. If your friends are consumed with talking about sexual escapades or exploitative behavior, get new friends. Take charge of the relational environments in which you place yourself.

3. Guard Your Ears

Inappropriate words masked as flirtatious compliments are stepping-stones toward irreversible effects. I have seen relationships destroyed because a wife was innocently seduced by a friend’s listening ear and kind words. I have also known men and women who have mastered making comments that lead to more aggressive flirtatious behavior. Don’t allow it. If someone makes a comment to you that is flirty or over the edge, make it immediately clear this is not acceptable behavior. If it happens twice, bring your spouse into the loop and talk about it.

4. Guard Your Time and Money

Friends of ours who have struggled with porn have taken steps to control their use of time and money. They have asked their spouses to control the money and made themselves accountable to a friend for the ways they spend their time. The formula is simple and it works as a healthy parameter. If there is strict accountability of money (no cash in hand) and time (where have you been and what have you been doing?), it is much more difficult to get in a place that leads to trouble.

5. Work at Romance

Did you know it’s important to keep dating even though you’re married? I know Michelle and Tony have touched on this here at #staymarried, and I only want to reinforce the idea.  It’s easy to let time pass and allow dating and romance in your marriage to disappear, but then you’re setting yourself up for boredom and the inevitable desire to seek out something new. Instead, set up date nights with each other. They don’t have to be expensive, just creative. Your calendar should have at least one date night a month. Remind each other and plan ahead so you have something to look forward to. Even a movie night at home with take-out food can keep the love spark glowing.

6. Communicate Love Clearly

Every person hears “I love you” in a different way. According to Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, couples need to hear love in the way they understand it most clearly. Michelle wrote a post giving more insight into this idea here. When you identify your partner’s love language, you can then communicate “I love you” most clearly. A breakdown occurs when you think you’re communicating love but it sounds like a foreign language to your spouse, so work hard at discovering your spouse’s love language and communicating love clearly . . . and often.

7. Maintain Physical Intimacy

According to a 2003 Newsweek study, between 15 and 20 percent of couples are living in a sexless marriage—these are couples who make love no more than ten times a year. While sex is not the be-all and end-all in a marriage, it is obviously one of the best ways to maintain intimacy. Most men think sex has to be daily, while women may be satisfied with less sex than that. The longer men go without sex, the more desperate they become for it. The longer women go without sex, the more they don’t need it. Find a good compromise and make every effort to follow through, even though one or both of you may be busy and tired. Couples who said they were sexually fulfilled had sex an average of 2.5 times a week. Sex must happen on a regular basis. Plan for it. Prepare your mind for it. Do it.

8. Forgive

Every relationship is going to have an occasional bump in the road, but don’t let that bump turn into a mountain by refusing to forgive a mistake. Remember that forgiveness is not a synonym for justifying, accepting, or condoning sinful behavior; it is about allowing room for growth and trusting that a change in behavior follows every apology. Many times couples can let too much time pass without asking for or offering forgiveness. When this happens, bitterness, resentment, and disillusionment set in. Soon the person harboring unforgiveness can start to think these issues wouldn’t happen in a different relationship, a deception that leads to a “grass is greener” mentality. Invest in your relationship by asking for and offering forgiveness whenever it is needed.

Growing together and nurturing your marriage is a lifelong task that both husband and wife must undertake. Even in the midst of a culture charged with sexual imagery, your marriage can remain healthy and strong if you are vigilant about protecting it. Some of these parameters may seem extreme, some of them are. But, we believe we need to take an extreme stance against anything that would threaten our desire to #staymarried.

P.S. You are reading Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross, as part of a #staymarried series on infidelity, pornography, and forgiveness.  If you missed the first two parts, 7 Ways to Become a Better Forgiver and 5 Ways to Prevent Infidelity, you might want to check them out. If you want to read more about safeguarding your marriage, you may also like Five Trust Building Boundaries.
Thanks for reading!

Feed the Good Stuff

Feed the Good Stuff, 10 Ways to nurture fondness and admiration in your marriage - a #staymarried blog for couples In our desire to see marriages succeed, we’ve learned that we need to feed the good stuff.

Taking the time to write down something good, and reading the uplifting responses of others, can be really encouraging all on it’s own. There are plenty of opportunities to complain and air out our frustrations, especially over social media but, we don’t see that really helping anyone. In fact, I think it’s quite counterproductive to air “in the moment” annoyances over the internet by posting a status like, “I could probably get more sleep if my husband would do his part and get up with the baby once in awhile.”

We’ve all seen, or perhaps written, some version of these public, passive aggressive spousal criticisms in our news feeds. It’s a bummer. But, even more than just bringing me and the rest of our social network down, it’s having a negative effect on your marriage. In John Gottman’s research on healthy marriages, he’s found that criticism and contempt are two of the four main factors in predicting divorce. One of the ways to combat those, he says, is to nurture your fondness and admiration for one another. This is so essential that he’s named it as Principle #2 in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. He asserts:

Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Although happily married couples may feel driven to distraction at times by their partner’s personality flaws, they still feel that the person they married is worthy of honor and respect. When this sense is completely missing from a marriage, the relationship cannot be revived.

Did you catch that? Without honor and respect, Gottman says, your marriage doesn’t stand a chance.

Feed the Good Stuff - 10 Ways to Build Fondness and Admiration in Your Marriage - a #staymarried blog for couples

If you’ve been out of the habit of praising and building up your spouse and your marriage, here are a few things to think about..

1. Remember your early days.

Dr. Gottman has found in his research that 94% of the time couples who put a positive spin on their marriage’s history are likely to have a happy future as well. He says, “By focusing on your past, you can often detect embers of positive feelings.” We’ve shared about this before, but when you choose to think about your favorite memories of your relationship and even talk with your spouse about then, your love for them naturally grows.

2. Speaking positively helps you think positively.

Our brains are tricky little organs. When we’re frustrated about something, we naturally gravitate our thoughts on building that list of frustrations. Even if we never say it out loud, it’s common to have an inner dialogue that gets stuck on this cycle and says to itself “And another thing…” However, the opposite is also true. If we focus on the good and positive things, our brains want to stay there and build upon it. So, finding something positive to say, or even a positive way to look at something irritating, can help you nurture that fondness.

3. What gets rewarded gets repeated.

I first heard this concept when it came to managing others at work. I now believe it to be true in many areas of life including friendships, parenting, and especially my marriage. Criticism is simply not motivating. Saying to my husband, “You NEVER take me out!” is not likely to encourage him to plan a date night. However, if I said, “I love spending time alone with you. When can we go out again?” I’m almost guaranteed to have a fun date in the near future. Expressing your needs in a way that communicates your fondness toward your partner is going to yield much greater results than simply complaining to them. Look for the things your spouse does that you appreciate and then acknowledge it right away. Whether verbally, or with a good, long kiss, you get to be creative in the way you “reward” your spouse and encourage within yourself those feelings of admiration.

Interested in increasing your fondness and admiration quotient? Those geniuses at The Gottman Institute have come up with this fun assignment. Take one Thought and Task per day, especially on the days you spend less time with your spouse, and see if this exercise doesn’t make a positive difference in your marriage.

Feed the Good Stuff, 10 Ways to nurture fondness and admiration in your marriage - a #staymarried blog for couples

We hope you enjoy this exercise. Remember, feeding the good stuff will starve the bad stuff so that you can have a long lasting romance with your partner and #staymarried.

Photo above is of Andy and Sharon on their 50th Anniversary!
Credit: Lindsay Kaye Photography

P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like to read A Little List. If you think these could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing. You can use the social media buttons at the top or bottom of this post. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by!
~ Michelle

Odds are, I won’t stay married.

At this point we’ve all been told countless times that the divorce rates in the United States are hovering around 50% and have been for quite some time. Whether or not those stats are true is debatable, but they feel more and more real to me every day. I cannot count how many phone calls, emails, or text messages I’ve received in the past few years from people – no, from FRIENDS – telling me that their husband or wife is leaving them. That they’ve been cheated on or been unfaithful. That their marriage seems to be falling apart for one reason or another. It breaks my heart to see the reality of divorce, the devastation of broken dreams, and the toll it takes on their children. After all, I am one of those children.

My mother and father separated when I was just three years old. Their divorce was final by the time I was five years old, and then I never laid eyes on my father again until I was twenty-two. My younger sister and I were raised by our incredibly intelligent and independent single-mother. Fortunately, in our younger years, her family was around to help. Otherwise, she had no real community and we really were on our own. I share this background to tell you: the odds are not in my favor that I will stay married.

Stats aren’t completely clear, but it seems the risk of divorce goes up when one spouse is afflicted with any form of depression. The risk for divorce goes up 50% more when one spouse comes from a divorced home.  The risk for divorce goes up again about 36% for adults who were sexually abused as children.

My husband, my rock, comes into our marriage with none of these stains. His parents are still married, no history of depression or abuse of any kind. I, on the other hand, carry these black marks in my heart, marks I didn’t ask for or bring upon myself. I know that a lot of you carry them as well. Still, I am hopeful. I plan to stay married, to honor the commitment I made to my husband, and to give my own daughters a better chance at their future.

But, the reality of how fragile marriage really is keeps me awake at night. I know that if I want my marriage to last, if I want my friends to stay married, we can’t simply be hopeful and then shrug our shoulders when something bad happens. We need to arm ourselves, to get around people who care about our marriage, and to invest in one another.

If you are one of my friends who has been separated or divorced, please know that I love you. I wish more than anything that you didn’t have to go through it. I remember your pain, your frustration, your sense of loss whether you were the one who left or the one who got left behind. I know things are complicated. I know it’s not easy to stay married. I know separating and divorcing is a painful decision to be faced with. I pray you know that I have hope for you, too.

So, as a woman hoping to stay married against the odds, I hope you will root for my husband and I. We are rooting for you and will continue to read and research and love each other in a way that brings hope and light and a chance for all of us to push against the stats that linger over us. I’ve started this blog to be a place of encouragement. The only qualification I have is hope. So, I will often cite other resources and share real life stories. I hope you find the things I write about helpful on your own pursuit to #staymarried.


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

If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page. You might also enjoy our #staymarried Podcast! You can find us on the socials: InstagramPinterestTwitter, and Facebook. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms.
Thank you for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

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.


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