The Fallout Of Affairs: Think Before You Leap
November 16, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (1)

By Lisa Merlo Booth

Many people do not purposefully leap into an affair. Typically they start as innocent conversations, cups of coffee or lunches with a friend or co-worker.  Seldom are they a well thought out plan for deception.

Unfortunately, the impact is the same regardless of whether they were planned or not.  And the fallout is often way beyond what people expect.

Before you jump into an affair take a moment to think about the implications of that choice to you as well as to those around you.  The reality is that affairs rock marriages.  In fact, affairs actually destroy many marriages.  Below are some of the almost universal effects of affairs…the ripple effect, let’s say, of affairs:

1.    Affairs break the trust in relationships.  This mistrust does not come back simply by ending an affair.  Mistrust becomes a new entity in the relationship and typically lasts for years. If the partner who had the affair doesn’t address the mistrust in an honest, forthright and compassionate way, the mistrust is likely to remain in the relationship throughout its duration.
2.    Affairs have a tendency of being passed down from generation to generation.  Your children are likely to also struggle with affairs in their life (either their own or their partner’s).  This is such a powerful phenomenon that at times it can be shocking.  I’ve worked with several couples impacted by an affair who reported that there were no affairs in their parent’s marriage only to later find out that when they asked, there were indeed affairs.  Their parents just tried to keep them a secret from the kids.
3.    Affairs take 3-5 years to overcome…under the best of circumstances.  This does not mean you are doomed for 3-5 years of the kind of intensity prevalent in the first year; however, the affair takes up a lot of space for a long time.

4.    Seldom do affair relationships work.  Many people have left their partners for an affair only to later regret it or realize the same issues are repeating themselves in the affair that were present in the marriage.  The grass is often greener at first but soon turns brown when it’s not watered.
5.    Often when one parent has an affair, their relationship with their children is damaged.  If the children find out, they are incredibly angry and hurt at the offending parent.  The affair puts the children into a loyalty bind between their parents that is unfair and caustic.
6.    The offending partner often struggles with guilt, self-esteem issues and depression as a result of having an affair.  Many people who have an affair struggle with the decision they made and lose respect for themselves.  Others around them also may lose respect for them as well.
7.    Affairs minimally damage relationships and often ultimately destroy them. This is especially true if the offending partner is not willing to do the hard work necessary to repair the damage they caused.

The bottom-line when it comes to affairs is they are caustic to individuals and families.  No one comes out of an affair unscathed and the ripple effects are often far reaching.  Before you enter into an affair be certain that you are willing to bear the brunt of your actions.  Also be certain that you’re willing to have your family bear the brunt of your actions.

Don’t just blindly put your relationship in jeopardy.  If you aren’t happy at home then speak to that.  Get help if you need to but don’t run via an affair.  There’s never an excuse for having an affair and the repercussions are far worse than you predict.

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Are You Keeping Yourself Stuck? Stop The Sabotage
November 4, 2010 · Posted in Marriage, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Are You Keeping Yourself Stuck? Stop The Sabotage

This is a piece from Straight Talk 4 Women, Lisa Merlo Booth’s new blog dedicated to helping women in relationships. Enjoy!

I hear endless statements of self-sabotage from women every day:

•    I’m not very smart
•    I don’t have the energy to change things.
•    I don’t have any control of the situation.
•    I don’t have any options—I have young children and I don’t work.
•    My boss is a jerk but at least he pays me.  I have to put up with his treatment.
•    I’m fat; I’m ugly; I’m…(fill in the blank)
•    I don’t know what I think

Stop thinking about all the things you can’t do, don’t know or can’t change and start trusting your instincts, your abilities and your strength.  Things may be hard, you may be scared and those around you may be hurtful, AND… you can create change if you so choose to.

Change starts with you and you alone.  If you feel trapped—figure out the obstacles and do what you need to do to chip away at them (find a job, see a therapist, start exercising etc.).  If you don’t like how you look—take steps to take better care of yourself (exercise, eat healthy, cut your hair etc.).  If your boss is a jerk and you need a paycheck—start looking for other jobs and start having your back on issues that won’t jeopardize your job.  Begin to send a clear message that it’s not okay for your boss to treat you mean.

If you’re feeling stuck, start looking at what you’re doing or not doing to keep yourself in that position.  Stop telling yourself all the things you can’t do and begin to look at all the things you can and have done.  I’ve yet to meet any woman who has done nothing and seriously doubt that you are incapable either.

The only way to have healthy relationships is for you to be healthy in them.  Get yourself healthy and stop sabotaging your success and your life.  You deserve better than that and only you can give yourself better than that.

Challenge: Pay attention to all the negative messages you give yourself and how they keep you doubting yourself and playing small.  Every time you hear these messages step in and fix them.  Refuse to allow your brain to attack our success.  You have the ability to create change all by yourself; stop telling yourself you can’t and instead start stepping up.

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Marriage After Baby: The Myth of Perfect Harmony
October 5, 2010 · Posted in Marriage, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Marriage After Baby: The Myth of Perfect Harmony

The following is an excerpt from our book, A Mother’s Circle.

“I feel more in love with my husband than ever. At times I am overwhelmed with passion for him. It is a wonderful time for us.”

“I’m furious at my husband for not caring more, not participating more, not helping more. Sometimes the most insignificant things make all my anger well up inside of me and I just hate him.”

These statements were both made by the same woman about her husband during the third and fourth months of new motherhood. Husbands and wives are often surprised at the intensity and range of feelings they have for one another during the first year of parenthood. Thoughts and behaviors that seem impossible to coexist do.

The transition to parenthood happens in fits and starts, with ups and downs and continual adjustments in your marriage along the way. It can be a time of deepening love and renewed commitment. It can be a time of extreme marital stress and even of crisis. It may well be the biggest challenge you have faced as a couple so far. Even the steadiest of husband-wife relationships will feel turbulence. Your successful navigation through this period does not necessarily depend on how long you have been married, whether or not your baby was planned, how you fared during pregnancy and childbirth, or on your financial situation. Instead, much depends on mutual respect, flexibility, and communication. Ultimately, a lot comes down to hard work, shared vision, and blind faith.

Many couples become especially close during the last months before their baby is due. Both man and woman project and dream about their baby-to-be and what parenthood will hold for them. If they attend childbirth classes, the man may develop a heightened appreciation for his wife. He may also feel grateful to have, at last, a role to play in the upcoming delivery. As she gets bigger and bigger, the woman may become increasingly dependent on her partner. The progression of the pregnancy, her growing belly and nervous excitement, the teamwork between husband and wife during childbirth, all climax with the arrival of the new baby.

The early weeks and months of new parenthood can seem like a blur, a wild run of emotions. Life is in upheaval, your marriage is stressed, but often little is said or done about it. Consumed with the care and growing love for their babies, new mothers often feel sequestered from the rest of the world, lonely and overwhelmed by all the changes in their lives. Often, new fathers say they don’t know how to act at home anymore. At day’s end, both husband and wife crash with exhaustion, knowing something feels wrong, but too tired or confused to talk about it. When asked to describe their marriages in these initial months of new parenthood, comments from the mothers in our groups range from “We’re sailing” to “We’re drowning.” Most agree that the waters are choppy.

Perhaps the greatest pressure on new parents is trying to live up to the romantic image of happiness and harmony that a new baby is supposed to bring. It is a myth that, as parents, you and your husband will automatically feel more in love, more deeply bonded to one another, fulfilled and happy. Because everyone around you seems to expect you to be basking in new love, it becomes especially difficult to handle the bad feelings you may be having
A baby can bring a husband and wife together, swelling their love with new pride and affirming their bond. But a lot of these good feelings can be dampened by anger and resentment as the stresses of new parenthood play themselves out. These mixed feelings are all very common, but they can feel especially threatening to new parents who expected parenthood to be conflict free.  The reality is that having a baby brings joy and challenges to every marriage. It can be liberating to let go of the myth of the new, happy family, and work toward realistic expectations for family life.

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Building A Relationship Reserve: 25 Ways to Cherish Your Partner
September 28, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage · Permalink · Comments Off on Building A Relationship Reserve: 25 Ways to Cherish Your Partner

By Lisa Merlo Booth

Too often couples forget about the importance of the little things.  We can get so wrapped up in our lives that we think things are okay as long as we’re not fighting.  Although I wish this were true—it’s not.  Great relationships require a lot of positives, not just the absence of negatives.

Relationship guru John Gottman talks about the importance of couples having positive relationship reserves to draw from when things are tough.  Building relational reserves is like having a relationship savings account that both partners make deposits into daily.  Think of this relationship account like an emergency fund.  The way couples build up these reserves is by doing loving, cherishing acts.  Think of each compliment, hug, supportive word, etc. as a deposit.  The more loving the act we do, the greater the deposit we make.

When things aren’t going well, we need to know that there’s a good chance they will get better and we’ll survive the struggle.  If couples have minimal positive interactions day to day and often have neutral or negative interactions, there’s no reason to think things will be okay.  Below are 25 ways to be cherishing and build up your relationship reserves.  I call these tender sprinkles.
•    Greet your partner when you come home by saying hello and asking them how their day was.
•    Say goodbye, when you leave, with a hug or kiss.
•    Give a compliment whenever possible.
•    Listen to their stories as if you care.
•    Share your stories.
•    Notice the ways they help and thank them directly.
•    Help with chores you don’t usually help with.
•    Smile at your partner as if you’re happy to see them.
•    Call them before a tough meeting/event and let them know you’re thinking about them.
•    Text them a loving message.
•    Hold their hand.
•    Touch their shoulder as you walk by.
•    Randomly tell them you’re glad they’re in your life.
•    Tell them you love them.
•    Bring home a small gift.
•    Put a little note on their bathroom mirror that says, “You ROCK!”
•    If they handle the children well—tell them so.
•    Laugh with them, not at them.
•    Go out on a date.
•    Surprise them by doing something they like to do, but to which you typically say no.
•    Give them a shoulder rub without expecting the same in return.
•    Say something nice about them in a group when they’re present.
•    Give them time to themselves without resentment—tell them to go enjoy the day while you watch the kids.
•    Shut off all technology whenever possible and give them your undivided attention.
•    Periodically tell them three things you love about them and why.

Making deposits into our relationship bank accounts is not hard work and nor is it necessarily time-consuming.  Making deposits just requires us to pay attention and to be the partner we wish to have.  When you add these tender sprinkles to your relationship, it’s like taking out insurance on your relationship.  It’s well worth the effort and can potentially save you a lot of future misery.

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Divorced? Feeling You Have a Scarlet D?
July 1, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Relationships, Separation/Divorce · Permalink · Comments (1)

scarletHere is some sensitivity training about divorce. To say divorce is provocative is an understatement.  Though approximately 40% of couples divorce, people experiencing divorce can still feel like an outcast. It is common for friends or acquaintances to fade away and seem uncomfortable around you – as if it were catchy.  Married friends are often frightened by separation. “If that could happen to you maybe that could happen to me,” clangs in their heads. Out of this insecurity some friends feel compelled to wax on about how great their marriage is, lessening their capacity to be supportive.

On the other hand, your divorce may cause jealousy. Your new freedom, a sense of liberation and empowerment, new romantic partners – it’s enough to drive a moderately unhappily married friend insane. Those people may want to live vicariously through you, or judge you because of the way your new life makes them look at their own.

There are of course, friends who are there through thick and thin and can manage their reactions. Acquaintances can surprise you with incredible empathy and support.  So remember, for the divorced and married alike — try not to judge and be aware of your reactions.  Life takes unexpected turns and if we can support each other the journey is much, much easier.

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The Balancing Act of Healthy Relationships
May 27, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on The Balancing Act of Healthy Relationships

21524-004-AB750978This piece from Straight Talk On Relationships explains how keeping your partner accountable while maintaining a loving attitude towards them is a mandatory part of a successful relationship.


In my work with women, I often stress the importance of not settling in their relationships.  Too many women end up taking poor treatment, staying with active addicts or trying to coax a philanderer back to their bed.  I work with the women to set limits, hold their partners accountable and to ask for what they want rather than getting resentful for what they’re not getting.  The other side to this is to also be cherishing.

Holding our loved ones accountable for their behaviors is vital for both women and men; it’s a necessary component in any relationship. Many people, however, struggle with holding others accountable.  This struggle intensifies if the other person is at all volatile, controlling or intense.  Some people just wish others would act better and in the mean time they settle for what they’re given.

Not holding others accountable, however, does not help your relationship—nor does it help your partner, child, friend or whoever it is that you’re not holding accountable. Saying nothing about poor behavior sends the message that the behavior is fine.  It also sends the message that you will take whatever kind of treatment they give you.

When people don’t stand up for themselves, it results in a loss of respect — a loss of respect by others and for themselves.  The bottom line is you cannot have healthy relationships without accountability.

Equally as vital to relationships, however, is cherishing.  If a relationship is all about accountability, but has little cherishing in it, it won’t last.  Sometimes women, especially, will go from being kind at all costs to the extreme opposite end of only sharing about what they don’t like.  They become the relationship police.  They don’t ever want to be taken advantage of again so they are constantly on their partner about what they are doing wrong.  This will not work.

We need to remember that relationships are meant to fuel us.  They are meant to add to our lives, not zap us of energy.  We need to have the strength to call others out on the actions they do that hurt us while also appreciating the kind acts they do that fuel us. Too much in one direction or the other will hurt our relationships.  We need to find the balance.

Be loving and strong at the same time.  You will feel better for it and your partner will respect you more.

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Blame Game: You Can Only Change Yourself
May 4, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Blame Game: You Can Only Change Yourself

This post from Straight Talk On Relationships explains the importance of taking control and accountability of your own emotions – enjoy!


by Lisa Merlo Booth

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world — that is the myth of the atomic age — as in being able to remake ourselves.

One of the biggest obstacles to transforming relationships is an individual’s endless investment in changing the other person.  Regardless of whether the individual is male or female, most people are ultra-focused on changing their partner.  Many people will say that they do what they do because their partner does what s/he does.  Do any of these sound familiar:
•    “If he would be more responsible, I wouldn’t be so controlling.”
•    “If she weren’t such a nag, I’d be home more.”
•    “If he weren’t so cold and absent, I wouldn’t have to plead with him to speak to me.”
•    “If she weren’t so critical, then I would help more around the house.”
•    “If she weren’t so unaffectionate, then I wouldn’t have had an affair.”

I hear these comments and more like them almost every day.  Believing, however, that you’re the way you are because of someone else, is not serving you.  When you excuse your behavior because of the behavior of your partner, you give your partner WAY too much power.  Since when are you not capable of controlling your own actions?

If you truly want to transform your relationships, then start by transforming yourself.  Begin by looking at yourself rather than your partner.  Pay attention to your relational mistakes and change them.  If you’re too controlling—back off.  If you’re too weak—get stronger.  If you’re too strong—soften. If you’re defensive and dismissive—listen with humility.

Stop putting the onus of control for your behavior on your partner. Your behavior is 100% your responsibility.  Always.  No one makes you be critical, passive-aggressive, controlling or intimidating.  You do that ALL by yourself.  Stop defending your position and start changing your actions.

Know that we all have our fault lines or, as I like to say, our edges.  Our edges are those behaviors that aren’t serving us.  They’re typically the behaviors that those closest to us complain about.  When we can own these edges with humility and have compassion and love for ourselves despite them, it is an incredibly freeing life shift.  Stop dismissing, justifying, rationalizing or blaming your edges on others and instead address them head on.  Change your side of the equation and it will force a change in the entire system: Changing Me, Changes We.

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“Oh Honey, Not Tonight”: Sex After Parenthood
April 22, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on “Oh Honey, Not Tonight”: Sex After Parenthood


“I’m too tired”, “We’re just too tired”, “Do we have to schedule it on our Blackberry’s”, “Who has time for sex, I need to pump”, are just some of the comments we hear from new mothers. The transition from being a couple without children to parents typically takes a pretty big toll on your sex life. Spontaneity, extra energy, tight tummies and libido may seem gone and never to return. Many couples really struggle to bring back an intimate, physically connected, satisfying sexual relationship after kids.

Sex is often hard to talk about even in the most communicative relationships. Often the subject is joked about, or argued about but not really discussed. So here are some suggestions given by women over the last two decades that have made the transition to being sexual and parents at the same time.

  • Don’t worry–this is all normal. Every couple goes through tremendous changes in their sex life after having children.
  • Don’t make assumptions about what your spouse is thinking. No one is a mind reader.
  • Talking is the best aphrodisiac. Getting close emotionally about the changes makes couples more apt to reconnect sexually.
  • It is normal to feel satisfied from the physicality with the baby and to feel less of a need or desire for sex.
  • Some lubrication is necessary be it wine or KY or both.
  • Do schedule it! It can become an exciting and fun private joke to know that Saturday nap time, or Thursday nights are your time.
  • Fake it ’til you make it. Many feel a resistance to begin having sex but once they push themselves past that point they are so happy that they did.
  • Just one night alone without the baby can have a lasting effect–so line up those grandparents or good friends and go to a hotel or just be alone in your own place.
  • Women are hard on themselves about weight gain. Don’t assume your husband feels negatively toward your body.

The added responsibilities, the physical changes, the stress that parenting brings, naturally shifts your sexual desire and changes to your pre-baby sexual frequency. Try not to focus on how it was- but more on how to make the present fulfilling for you and your partner.

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Defense Is Offence
March 23, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Defense Is Offence


It is easy to get caught up in defending ourselves when it comes to communicating, especially when you feel attacked.  This piece from Straight Talk On Relationships describes the importance of taking yourself off the defense, gaining an attitude of humility and working through conflict together.


By Lisa Merlo Booth
Defensiveness can be the death of a relationship.  There are few things more frustrating than having a partner who gets defensive the moment you dare to speak about anything that might be upsetting to you.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  It sounds something like this:

Jody:  Honey, can we talk about the other night?

John:  What?  What’s wrong now?  Jeez—are you EVER happy?

Jody:  I haven’t even said anything yet.  Why are you getting so upset?

John:  Because I already know it’s going to be something about what you don’t like.  I haven’t even done anything.  Forget this–I’m going to the gym.

Ugh, I’m getting frustrated just writing about it!  For anyone who has been on the receiving end of defensiveness, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.  The other person is either defending what they did, explaining to you that they didn’t really do what you said they did, accusing you of being too sensitive or turning the entire story around so that you look like the one who was in the wrong.  Sound familiar?  By the end of the conversation you’re either wishing you had never said anything or wondering if perhaps you were the one in the wrong.

Let me help relieve your sense of sanity for a minute.  If your partner becomes defensive about feedback you’re giving them—they are off.  Defensiveness stifles growth and shuts down relationships, period.  Do not begin to question yourself just because your partner gets what I call BIG.  When someone becomes defensive, in essence they are puffing themselves up and going on the attack, thinking the best defense is a great offense.  People use this technique because…it works.  It gets people off their back and they don’t have to look at their own behaviors.  Unfortunately, it only works in the short run.  In the long run, the damage is very costly.

If you struggle with defensiveness, you need to learn the art of humility.  Who are you to think you would never make a mistake?  We all make mistakes—that’s what makes us human.  When your partner has the courage to tell you that they’re upset with you, step up and have the courage to listen.  Listen with humility.  Listen for truth in what your partner is saying and have the strength and integrity to cop to it and repair it.

Making mistakes does not ruin relationships.  Refusing to be accountable for the mistakes we make absolutely does ruin relationships.  The reality is that defensiveness gets people off your back temporarily.  Your loved ones will eventually begin to stop sharing their upsets with you.  They will no longer tell you when they are hurt by your actions.  They eventually will truly get off your back – and then you will need to worry.

The cost of listening with humility and owning your imperfections is far less than the cost of defensiveness.  Defensiveness will erode your relationship.  Apologizing for your mistakes and doing things differently will save it.

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Insurance for the Hardest Unpaid Job In The World
March 18, 2010 · Posted in Fatherhood, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Separation/Divorce, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off on Insurance for the Hardest Unpaid Job In The World

life_insurance1ALERT! Women are still making 77 cents on the dollar! Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the founder of the Center for Work-Life Policy has estimated that the penalty is 10% of income for every two years out of the job market, a loss that is never recouped. If a woman divorces, the Rutgers Divorce Project states, her standard of living decreases by 27% and a man’s increases by 10%. So between lower wages in general, no social security benefits for full time mothers, and divorce rates holding between 40 and 50%, what’s a woman to do?

Here’s an idea that you and your spouse can implement which takes these facts into consideration. Not romantic, but realistic and fiscally responsible planning. How about a Family Insurance Plan?  A self-made insurance policy for the mother who stays at home for a number of years. Each year you can put aside a percentage of the family income toward this safety net. We get life insurance so that our family is cared for if we die, so why wouldn’t we honor the work being done at home and protect your family financially at the same time.

Whenever this is suggested in Mother’s groups, women first get excited and then deflate- fearful about bringing this up with their husbands. Men and women alike have difficulty attaching a monetary value to being the family manager. More importantly, woman are worried that bringing this up feels like a vote of no confidence in the marriage.

On the contrary, this is a protective forward-thinking gift to the whole family. You address the financial sacrifice that women make by deciding to either decrease, or stop their work outside the home, and you protect your children from undue financial hardship. Sounds like a win-win!

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