Ep. 6 of The #staymarried Podcast: Finding Romance in The Little Things

The #staymarried PODCAST - a brand new series featuring The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John GottmanOk, Episode 6 of The #staymarried Podcast was pretty fun for us to record. We did a little reminiscing about our early days, and some technology we no longer use to connect with each other… anyone else remember MSN Messenger? Is anyone still using it?

Quick recap for our Series The Seven Do’s and Four Don’ts for a Long and Happy Marriage, here’s what we’ve covered so far…

♥ Ep. 1 – Intro to The #staymarried Podcast and The Gottman Institute
♥ Ep. 2 – Do #1 – Exploring Love Maps
♥ Ep. 3 – Do #2 – Nurture Fondness and Admiration
♥ Ep. 4 – Don’t #1 – Criticism is a Relationship Killer
♥ Ep. 5 – Don’t #2 – Contempt is Sulfuric Acid for Love

Today, in Episode 6, we are going over another DO. The third principle for making your marriage work according to The Gottman Institute is: Turning Toward Your Partner Instead of Away.  Today we’ll talk about finding romance in the little things and building up your emotional bank account so that you can weather the storms that are inevitable in a long-lasting relationship. It sounds pretty simple, but we show you how necessary it is and how easy it is to NOT do.

Continue reading “Ep. 6 of The #staymarried Podcast: Finding Romance in The Little Things”

Ep. 5 of The #staymarried Podcast: Contempt is Sulfuric Acid for Love

The #staymarried PODCAST - a brand new series featuring The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John GottmanCan you believe we are already on Episode 5 of The #staymarried PODCAST? We can’t!

If you are a little behind in our Series The Seven Do’s and Four Don’ts for a Long and Happy Marriage, here’s what we’ve covered so far…

♥ Ep. 1 – Intro to The #staymarried Podcast and The Gottman Institute
♥ Ep. 2 – Do #1 – Exploring Love Maps
♥ Ep. 3 – Do #2 – Nurture Fondness and Admiration
♥ Ep. 4 – Don’t #1 – Criticism is a Relationship Killer

Today, in Episode 5, we’ve got another Don’t – Contempt. This one is critical because it can be really sneaky. I’ll confess some contemptuous feelings I’ve had toward Tony in the area of parenthood and we will also share with you the antidote to this big marriage don’t. Continue reading “Ep. 5 of The #staymarried Podcast: Contempt is Sulfuric Acid for Love”

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”

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”

The Art & Science of Love – 15 Favorite Moments from Our Gottman Workshop Weekend

The Art & Science of Love - 15 Favorite Moments from our Gottman Workshop Weekend - #staymarriedTony and I are just getting back to reality after a glorious time away at The Art and Science of Love weekend workshop by The Gottman Institute. We have featured the wisdom of Drs. John and Julie Gottman essentially since we started writing this blog two years ago. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of their work, their extensive research, and the accessible way they are helping therapists and couples understand how to create healthy relationships. I’ve been really excited to hear them teach live and the workshop was even better than I had hoped.

The entire workshop is centered around The Sound Relationship House. Using this as the framework, the teaching was meant to encourage us to change three things:

♥ Become better friends, increasing our positive feelings for one another
♥ Change the way we handle conflict
♥ Build a sense of shared meaning

Dr. John Gottman, who I will just refer to as Dr. John from here on out since we’re basically best friends now, opened the workshop by simply saying, “Good morning. I know some of you are here voluntarily…” Right away we had the sense it wasn’t going to be all business. I’m excited to share with you my favorite moments from this weekend’s workshop.

15 Favorite Moments from Our Gottman Workshop Weekend

1. Couples who laugh together last together.

The Art & Science of Love - 15 Favorite Moments from our Gottman Workshop Weekend - #staymarried“Couples who can laugh together, even during disagreements, have long happy marriages,” Dr. Gottman told us. I’ll admit that when he said it, I couldn’t imagine how that would work, but it became a truth I leaned on during the second day of the workshop when we dove deeply into conflict. Continue reading “The Art & Science of Love – 15 Favorite Moments from Our Gottman Workshop Weekend”

The One Thing You Shouldn’t Do if You Want to Stay Married


The One Thing You Shouldn't Do if You Want to Stay Married - #staymarried

Though it was dark and the scenery was without landmarks, I remember it all clearly. Tony and I were on a road trip, moving from our home in Washington to start a new adventure in Wisconsin. It was late at night and we were somewhere in the middle of Wyoming listening to an audio book: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. This book about trusting your instincts had us hooked and Gladwell began to share about one person, a famous researcher, who could predict with 90% accuracy whether or not a couple would get divorced simply by witnessing a fifteen minute interaction. This was no parlor trick. Malcolm Gladwell was talking about Dr. John Gottman.

A chill went down my spine and we paused the audio book. We both wanted to take in that concept, the idea that a couple’s success or failure in marriage could be predicted. We wondered what Dr. Gottman would say about us, about our friends. It was devastating to imagine that some might be destined for divorce, that even we could be destined to split up, and not know it. Then we asked each other if we would even want to know his prediction at all. It was a long intense conversation. We held hands, reaffirmed our love for each other over and over, and then continued to listen to the audio book. It is very likely that from that moment on, we have taken how we treat each other in our marriage much more seriously.

You see, it’s not that Dr. Gottman, in his now famous “Love Lab,” is just making a guess. He and his team have been studying couples for decades and he has figured out the key factors that help couples stay married as well as those factors that help him predict divorce. He calls the divorce factors The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They are contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling. There is a lot to learn about each of these, but the one factor that kept us talking and immediately changed our behavior was a seemingly harmless body language reaction that Gottman says is a display of contempt – the eye roll.

Have you ever rolled your eyes at someone? Has anyone ever rolled their eyes at you? It’s a move I think I learned in elementary school and definitely mastered in high school. It communicated perfectly without a single word that I thought my mom had no idea what she was talking about and I had no intention of listening. Now, in marriage, it could potentially communicate the very same thing to my husband and shockingly start us on a path toward divorce! Body language is a powerful communicator and it is precisely the roll of the eyes that Dr. Gottman is trained to notice and categorize as one of the indicators of these “four horsemen.”

You may think rolling your eyes is just a mindless reaction and wonder how you can even help it when your spouse has clearly said something ridiculous. If you knew, and now you do, that a seemingly no-big-deal-eye-roll was actually indicative of a deeper disrespect and disregard for your spouse, could you stop yourself from doing it? The truth is you do have control over your behaviors, even the little ones. All of the little ways we communicate with our partners matter. They build up into patterns and set the tone for how we treat each other overall.

There are many things we should not do if we want to stay on track to have a healthy marriage. But, if you will notice how often you are tempted to do this one thing, to roll your eyes, and stop yourself, you may also begin to notice how often you are using other types of body language to communicate disrespect and unkindness.

Noticing first, then taking responsibility, and finally choosing a better route could make a drastic difference in your interactions. Besides, if you’ll practice not rolling your eyes, you could be one step ahead of other couples if you ever happen to be called on to sit in front of Dr. Gottman in the love lab. Who knows, he may just watch your interaction and say to himself, “These two are doing great! They must be one of those #staymarried couples.”

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

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like some other posts where we’ve featured Gottman research like It Really is the Little ThingsThe Six Second Kiss, and Feed the Good Stuff. If you think these could benefit someone else’s marriage, we would love for you to share them.

Tony and Michelle Peterson #staymarriedNew to #staymarried? Welcome! Check out why we started this blog and our first entry to get a little background. You can also find us on the socials: PinterestTwitterFacebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms.

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Michelle

What Would Happen if We Did Not Argue?

If a couple really loves each other, they won’t argue.
Arguing is not the right way to handle problems.
Anger and arguing are sinful behaviors.

What Would Happen If We Did Not Argue? - #staymarried

These are not statements we make on #staymarried. But, I realized recently that they are statements many of you have heard and believed.

What We Learned From Our Parents

You may have heard these things in your childhood from your particular sect of faith, or maybe you understood them as truths because you never witnessed your parents disagree about anything. Or, on the other side of the pendulum swing, you saw your parents yell and fight bitterly your entire childhood and vowed you would never be in a relationship like that.

So much of our understanding of what is healthy and loving is informed by the first relationship we ever witnessed – our parents’. This is good when your parents actually had a healthy relationship. However, it can be a damaging hurdle to overcome if your parents’ relationship was unhealthy.

It’s because I grew up in a single-parent home that I Continue reading “What Would Happen if We Did Not Argue?”

The Love Crumb

The Love Crumb - Bids for Affection and Missed Connections - #staymarriedI have a desk job. I am a UX Designer at Microsoft, which stands for User Experience Designer, which is the current fad-name for a web designer. I sit in a chair, at a desk, staring at a couple of monitors, from 8:30am to about 5pm Monday through Friday in Redmond, Washington. Sometimes I have meetings where I’ll have to un-dock my laptop from my two monitors and walk to a conference room where people critique my work or give me more work to do. But all the time, my computer is with me. This handy little device helps me to stay tethered to my coworkers and my projects, whether they are Microsoft projects or freelance, but also helps me stay connected to my wife and my family.

It started YEARS ago… maybe 2004… but IM-ing (instant messaging) was as cool then as texting is now. I believe Michelle and I started with Windows Messenger. Somehow, when we were still just acquaintances, Michelle or I found the other and we started chatting during the day. Sometimes just a few messages back and forth. Sometimes constant interaction for 8 hours. But there was always one and only one way to start off the day’s ration of IM-ing. A single period. Whomever noticed the other was logging in would send a single dot over once they were available.


This was our whisper. It was a very covert way of saying “I’m here, and I see that you’re at your desk now, and I’d like to talk if you’d like to talk, but no pressure.”

It was always so exciting to get that little dot. Like a trinket that someone brings back to you from their vacation. The trinket’s true meaning is I was thinking about you even when I was far away. You really treasure those gifts, not because of how they practically improve your day to day life, but how your relationship with that person is stronger than it was before. And this little dot was that to me. Day after day, I received a tiny gift from Michelle, saying, You’re on my mind, which in turn put her on my mind if she wasn’t already. This is how our friendship started, and later, how it turned into our committing our entire lives to each other.

Though we never had a name for it, we continued to use this method throughout the years as we started dating, then became engaged, and once we got married. Still to this day, I’ll be sitting at my desk, or in a conference room, and a tiny little gift will pop up and remind me that I have a friend who loves me.

Recently Michelle gave it a name that I think is perfect. Love crumb. Like a little piece of love that’s broken off and left somewhere for me to find. Michelle will never know how much these Love Crumbs mean to me, as I’m not very good with words and any attempt at using the right ones would be feeble anyway. This is our own inside way of reaching out to the other, and even though yours is probably not exactly like ours, you still have one. Continue reading “The Love Crumb”

How Being Defensive is Hurting Your Marriage

How Being Defensive is Hurting Your Marriage - #staymarried“It’s so hard to be around them sometimes. They get so defensive if I say anything at all.”

I was complaining to Tony, my new boyfriend at the time, about a couple of people I was working with.

“Yeah,” he said innocently, “You can be pretty defensive, too.”

Cue internal outrage… What!?!? Did he just tell me that I’m defensive? I AM NOT DEFENSIVE! Wait… am I? Wow, I am falling in love with this guy and I think he feels the same way about me AND he thinks I’m defensive… Maybe I am. How did I not know this about myself?…

The subject died. I had nothing to say after he made his very nonchalant observation. I mean, I wasn’t going to try to get into a fight with him about me being defensive… that would have only proven him right.

I swallowed his words and tried to be much more thoughtful about the way I responded to situations and comments that frustrated me. I think he’s right; I am naturally defensive. But, I mean, who isn’t? Doesn’t everyone want the chance to defend themselves when they feel like they are being insulted, misunderstood, or attacked? It seems so automatic that there isn’t anything I can do about it.

What is your ADS?

It seems automatic because defensiveness in some ways is automatic. In fact, Dr. Steven Stosny, an expert in anger and relationship problems, refers to defensiveness in relationships as a hypersensitive Automatic Defense System (ADS). He says that it is much more reactionary than Continue reading “How Being Defensive is Hurting Your Marriage”

Sometimes My Wife Complains…

Sometimes My Wife Complains - What's behind the complaint and what to do about it.There we were, a night in with the family, and I thought it would be fun to play a board game. I convinced Michelle to put down the laundry she was folding and come and join us. It was great! We were all together in the living room, the girls were having a good time, Michelle was engaged and having fun. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Then, as we were putting the kids to bed together, something clearly switched. My wife went from happy and carefree to visibly tense and frustrated. I couldn’t exactly figure out why. I asked if everything was okay and got the dreaded, “Yes, I’m fine,” from her.

I tried to leave it alone, but it concerned me that everything had been going so well and now, for no reason I could figure out, things were not ok anymore.

Do you ever feel like you are in the dark about what your spouse is feeling? Michelle is constantly processing her thoughts in her own head. She doesn’t typically talk unless what she is about to say has been thought through. In some ways, this is great. I can trust that she means what she says and isn’t trying to play games or manipulate me. In other ways, like this particular evening, it’s lame. I can see that she’s gnawing on something – something is bothering her, and she is spending her energy trying to figure out what it is and if she’ll communicate with me about it. I’m left in the dark instead of invited in to process with her. She knows I want to hear what she’s thinking, because I’m pretty sure that, often times, I can help solve it. But, I know her. She likes to figure things out on her own. I guess we’re the same that way. I just wish she’d let me in.

The next morning, after I left for work, I got this email…

Subject: Frustrated


Last night I was trying to relax and enjoy you and the girls when you insisted I play games with you instead of folding the laundry and doing the dishes. I did have a good time, but was triggered and irritated when Claire didn’t have clean pajamas in her drawer. It was a reminder that my real value is keeping up with the laundry and dishes. I often feel like staying on top of those things, along with whatever else I need to do around the house, doesn’t get noticed until I fall behind. So, I’m constantly choosing between doing something I might want to do – like go out with my friends, or sit down and work on the blog, or even play games with you guys – and the stuff I have to do because the stuff I have to do doesn’t get done all by itself.

I so appreciated your help the other night. I felt like we were working as a team to clean up and you always do so much, especially with the girls, to keep our home tidy. I just get frustrated when the behind the scenes stuff (everyone’s laundry, dishes, pumping breastmilk, feeding the baby) doesn’t seem appreciated when it is done, but instead comes back to me when it’s not done. “Mom, where’s my pajamas? Why don’t we have any clean dish towels? The baby doesn’t have any pajamas. There aren’t any burp rags.” All of that stuff makes me feel like I am doing a crappy job and I’ll never be able to sit down and relax.

It seems especially evident to me on the weekends. I know you want to hang out and it’s not fun for you if I’m busy folding laundry, so I try to set the chores down and not rush around so much. For you, the weekends are your time to relax since you’ve been at work all week, and I get that. It’s your free time, it should be. But, with my “job,” I don’t get weekends. I don’t get to clock out and leave it all until Monday. I get envious sometimes when you decide you want to work on something – play a video game, take a shower – and you don’t have to think about making sure everything else is already taken care of before you just run to the store or head into the office to do whatever you want to do. I always feel like I have to prepare 15 things before I can do something I want to do, and even then, I always have a pile of “work” waiting for me when I’m done so it hardly seems worth it to try to take a “break.”

Anyway, this is all normal stuff and I’m under no illusion that I’m the only person that ever feels this way. I’m not trying to feel sorry for myself, and ordinarily I don’t want to complain because I know my life really is so good. It’s just that last night it felt all piled up and unappreciated and lonely.

So… that’s what that was all about.

I love you,

your wife

"Behind every complaint is a deep personal longing." - Gottman quote on #staymarried

Now, you’re not in my marriage and I’m not in yours, but I have to tell you that getting this email was a BIG deal. Most of the time, even if she is able to identify how she’s feeling and why, she may or may not ever share that with me. The fact that she took the time, in the midst of toddler tantrums and infant feedings, to put some thought into an email was HUGE. I knew I needed to think carefully about the way I responded. Here’s what I sent back…

Re: Frustrated


I love you so much. What you do is appreciated and noticed (not just when someone doesn’t have clean PJs). I know you work really hard, really long, and without breaks, and I want to help out.

I’m here to be your teammate and partner, so let me know how this frustration can be avoided in the future.

You are right… I’m willing to let the chores go by the wayside so that we can bond as a family, but not to the expense of making you feel overwhelmed. Next time we’ll prep our chores before we play games.

In love with you,


In his research, Dr. John Gottman and his colleagues have found that “Behind every complaint is a deep personal longing.” I know my wife doesn’t want to complain, but in a strange way, I appreciate when she does. I know that when she finally lets me in and tells me the things that are bothering her, it’s a window into something more personal. I can see that what she needs is to be affirmed. We’ve taken the Five Love Languages assessment and memorized each other’s “Love Languages,” so I know one of hers is “Words of Affirmation.” Telling her that I appreciate her does not come naturally to me. I typically hope that she just knows I appreciate her without having to say it. But, she doesn’t work that way. She needs to hear it.

When I read her email, I knew that the issue wasn’t really that our kids didn’t have clean pajamas in their dresser drawers. I could figure out that the real issue was that Michelle didn’t feel appreciated for all she does to keep our family running smoothly. I realized it had been a while since I expressed my gratitude in words. One of my “Love Languages” is “Acts of Service,” so I figure that helping out around the house is sufficient to showing her love. And, by her email, I can see that she appreciates my efforts, but it doesn’t replace her need to hear from me that I see what she does and it matters immensely.

"Meeting your spouse's need for love is a choice you make each day." - Chapman quote on #staymarried

So, sometimes she complains. I’ve decided that it’s ok when she does. I believe Dr. Gottman that there is a deep personal longing behind those complaints and I do my best to try to figure that out, to acknowledge it, and to show my wife love in whatever way she feels lacking. I know she does the same for me when I complain.

If you hear your spouse complaining, consider that maybe it’s an opportunity for you to understand them better. Maybe they are letting you in on a deep need that they have, a chance for you to show them love and understanding. Do your best to listen to complaints with an empathetic ear, not to be insulted, but to reach out and meet them where they are so that you can #staymarried.

You are reading Sometimes My Wife Complains, a #staymarried blog. You may also want to read If You Really Want to be Heard and To Love is To Listen. If you think these could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing.

New to #staymarried? Welcome! Check out why we started this blog and our first entry to get a little background.

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Tony