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Wow, so, it’s Wednesday. I really wanted to post yesterday, I had about a million things to tell you, but now it’s after nine thirty on Wednesday night and it just feels like it’s been so long since we talked.

First of all, the things that were said were said by people who’d never even seen this website or read a single word I’ve written, so don’t worry. I couldn’t believe how many comments and messages I got, apologizing for misunderstood or misspoken words. I had no idea you’d think I was talking about you. And no, Grendl, Nik didn’t say anything, and way to make a situation awkward.

Anyway, I should’ve been more specific. I was trying to explain how, despite the support from friends and family, I let a snide comment from someone who’s never seen my writing completely block me. And that it didn’t matter, because even if all I got were raisins, I was gonna keep on pushing.

Why does that suddenly sound so gross?

Moving on.

I have assimilated. I own a BlackBerry. It was free, with the data package, whatever, I just suddenly knew I needed to be able to access the Internet all the time, from everywhere, no matter what. Why did I know that? Because advertising works really well.

What we really wanted were iPhones, but the BlackBerries were free and I’d rather have hot needles shoved under my fingernails than use AT&T. Until this afternoon my cell phone was a little flip phone, cracked screen and chipped body, a simple device with a 1 megapixel camera and T9 text messaging, and I was happy with it. But now I have this … thing … this computer-like device that logs into the Internet and vibrates when I get a new email and downloads Apps and it terrifies me. It really, actually terrifies me.

In other news, I can now add Professional Blogger to my list of careers. I’d like to unofficially announce the unveiling of my latest project:

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RonandRobertonDivorce.com is news, events, information, articles and personal stories from attorney’s Ron Supancic and Robert Borsky, partners in The Law Collaborative, a family law firm dedicated to bringing peace to the legal process and helping families resolve crisis.

Take a minute to let that sink in.  Divorce lawyers who advocate for the family.  They’re the guys you go to when you really believe divorce is your only option, but you don’t want to go to court, you don’t want to fight, you don’t want to make a big fuss. They’re lawyers who believe in the child’s best interest, family first, and preserving the integrity of the relationship between divorcing spouses. They’re lawyers who will recommend marriage counseling before they talk about filing divorce papers. They’re kind of amazing.

Check out the blog and tell me what you think.

The Second Time

<i>Beneath the sunset and over the sea<i/>
Beneath the sunset and over the sea

The second time couples counseling saved my marriage was in the summer of 2008, exactly three years after the most romantic marriage proposal in the history of all marriage proposals, and less than three weeks after the fight that was the biggest fight in the history of all fights.

The recent six-part story I wrote about babies was supposed to be a post about how important counseling can be when a couple stops communicating, but it ended up being a post about babies because that’s just how I roll.  I could sit down to write a story about ketchup going on sale this week and before I know it I’ll be writing a story about babies.  My biological clock has taken over.

Since I never made the point I wanted to make in that post, I’m going to make it now: Couples counseling saved our relationship and then it saved our marriage.  Now I think counseling is a magical elixir for relationships.  (You can read about the first time it saved us here.)

Instead of re-telling you about how not talking about babies nearly ruined my marriage, I’ll just say that Mike and I have learned the hard way.  Twice.  Ignoring our feelings + avoiding communication = disaster. You could try to argue that couples counseling didn’t work the first time, your evidence being that we had to go back a second time, but you’d be incorrect.  The second time we only needed a refresher course.  We lost our way for a minute but we got back on track in a matter of weeks because we had the strong base we’d built in our first round of therapy.  That being said, I have to admit that Mike and I were lucky in that both times we started counseling, we started before we got to the point where we hated each other.  A lot of couples wait too long and by the time they’re in counseling their relationship has been badly damaged, sometimes heartbreakingly, irreversibly so.

A marriage is another person sharing your home.  There’s you, there’s your spouse and there’s your marriage.  Each marriage has its own needs, it’s own peculiarities and it’s own character.  Marriages need to be nurtured, nourished and cared for.  If a marriage is neglected it will not thrive.

I realize I’ve been proselytizing about couples counseling, but far more important than counseling is simply taking care of your couple, however works best for you and your partner.  Counseling was the magical elixir that taught Mike and I how to take care of our relationship.  What is it for you?  What has been the thing that has saved you and your partner, whenever you’ve needed saving?

Inspired by that kid in the red striped t-shirt.

Last night Mike helped me make one of my dreams come true.

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Mike grew up in Michigan so he knows a thing or two about snow.

That’s right.  One of my dreams was to build a monster out of snow.  Call me crazy, I won’t deny it.  I grew up in California, the land of perpetual sunshine.  Before I moved to the City I could count the number of times I’d seen snow on one hand and still have fingers left over.  As a child I was a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes and I always believed that if I had been lucky enough to live in a place with snow, I’d be the kid building wild snow scenes in the yard every day after school.

Then we moved to the City and it was three years before we got enough snow, enough sticky snow, to build anything.  I started small and with the help of three little girls who’d never built a snowman before:

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The abominable snow lump.


A few days later, Adam and I got a little more advanced.  But then, Adam has a lot of snowman-making experience:

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Frosty the snowman and his trusty sidekick, Freezy the snowdog.

Last night I got home from work around five and dragged Michael from his warm nest in front of the computer to the park around the corner.  It was perfect snowman-making weather and I was determined to take advantage of it.

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Snowzilla tramples everything in his wake!


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Snowzilla has trampled a car and the people, mouths agape, run screaming. But ah ha! A tank is on it's way to shoot missiles at the monster!


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Let your imagination run wild...

Warm, still, calm, quiet.  Just Mike and I, mittens full of snow, snow up to our knees, throwing ideas around like snowballs.  “How about a tank?”  “Ah! His tail looks great!  How’d you do that?”  “What if he’s tromping a car under his toes?”  “Here, try this for the arms.”  The sun went down and it started snowing again.  People walking by pointed and exclaimed, snapped photos.  It was a perfectly perfect evening.

Tips for Happy Couples, #2

Cultivate common interests After the passion settles down, it’s common to realize that you have few interests in common. But don’t minimize the importance of activities you can do together that you both enjoy. If common interests are not present, happy couples develop them. At the same time, be sure to cultivate interests of your own; this will make you more interesting to your mate and prevent you from appearing too dependent.

Mark Goulston, Ph.D.

I’ve never liked pink teddy bears

For as long as I can remember, I have been a hopeless romantic.  I cannot tell you how many high school boyfriends crushed my heart into a thousand tiny pieces because they didn’t arrange for Unchained Melodies to play over the loudspeakers during homeroom, or have a hundred roses sent at lunch or at the very least serenade my bedroom window.  I have always had very high expectations.

Michael warned me early on that he was not a Valentines Day guy.  He’s a spur-of-the-moment romantic guy, but he’s not a Valentines Day guy.  If you were to play a word association game with him and you said, “Valentines Day”, his immediate reply would be, “Greeting card profits.”  He says he doesn’t see the point of having a holiday that forces people to buy pink teddy bears and heart-shaped balloons but I think his distaste for the day has something to do with all the awful Valentines Days he spent in Los Angeles, when he worked in a restaurant that was such a hot V-spot you had to book your reservation a year in advance.  All through the winter holidays, as February 14th crept closer, he’d get more and more tense.  To him it wasn’t a holiday, it was The Worst Night Of The Year.  It hung over his head like a guilty sentence hangs on an innocent man.

Needless to say our first couple of Valentines Days were rough.  He’d work and I’d feel neglected.  I’d pout, he’d get defensive.  We’d argue, we’d make up, we’d move on.  It took a few years but I eventually came to agree with Mike: Valentines Day is overrated and why on earth would anyone want to go out to dinner on the very night the entire rest of the country is going out to dinner?  Besides, Mike’s spur-of-the-moment romance is a thousand times hotter than a pink teddy bear.

This year I had zero expectations for Valentines Day.  We went wine tasting with friends the day before and the morning of Michael scrubbed the entire house while insisting that I stay in bed reading, so I was sure I’d had the nicest Valentines weekend a girl could dream of.  Which is why I was surprised when I came home yesterday and found this:

Be My Wiener

Either Michael is more of a Valentines Day guy than he’s willing to admit, or Theo’s been having inappropriate thoughts about his human companions.

Guilty As Charged

Valentine and Theo are, without a doubt, the center of the universe as far as Mike and I are concerned.   Our daily lives revolve around whether the dogs have pooped and whether or not they’ve had enough exercise.  We worry that they’re too cold or that they haven’t had enough to eat.  We delight in seeing their little faces whenever we walk in the front door and we love bringing home new treats for them.  Mike teases that the way I mother them is dangerous because there was a point when Theo gained too much weight and it was because, in my worry that he wasn’t eating enough, I overfed him until he gained an extra two pounds.  Two pounds might not sound like much, but two pounds on a Dachshund is like fifty pounds on a person.   I’d been over-feeding Valentine as well, but that bitch* could eat her weight in chocolate and not gain an ounce.   Theo, on the other hand, has a slow metabolism and because his back is so long, extra weight could put stress on his spine that could cause fractures and then he’d be paralyzed and if he survived it would surely cost us a million dollars in vet bills.  It’s a serious thing when Dachshunds get fat and so that is why my mothering is deadly.  And that was a long story for a short point:   The dogs are my practice babies.

Last night, after we’d put the dogs to bed in their crates, brushed our teeth, washed our faces, and curled up with an episode of Law & Order, a long, low howl reverberated from the living room.  It was followed by a sharp succession of ear-piercing ruffs.  This has been Theo’s bedtime routine for the last four nights. He waits until we are in bed with the lights off and then he starts in with a howl followed by barking.

“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”
“Why is he doing that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”
“What should we do?”
“Ignore it.”
“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”
“Is he trying to tell us something?”
“He’s trying to tell us he’d rather be sleeping in our bed, but that’s not how it works, so he’s going to have to get over it.”
“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”

The baby books say to let Baby cry for fifteen minutes and, if after fifteen minutes, Baby has not put himself back to sleep, Mother may go in and comfort him.  So that’s what we did.   We let him “Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!” and after about thirteen and a half minutes he stopped ruffing.  As soon as he was quiet I whispered:

“I seriously don’t know what we’re waiting for.”
“You can’t leave a baby in a crate when you go to work.”

They’re practice babies.  It sounds kind of awful, but it’s true.   I’ve never in my entire life loved something small and furry the way I love those little dogs.   Every day I am amazed that I have enough love in my body to love them but every day it’s there and it’s bigger.  I hear people say that about their kids all the time and I am sure that the way people love their kids is at the very least one hundred times more than the way I love my dogs.  Does that mean that when I have children I won’t have room to love my dogs anymore?  A staggering number of perfectly wonderful dogs and cats are given up every year because their owner has a new baby and just can’t deal with them anymore.  It must be very frustrating to have a new baby at home and have your dog suddenly start humping the coffee table, peeing on the sofa cushions and chewing bald spots into his fur.  At least I imagine that’s what’s going on when someone decides to get rid of the dog now that they have a baby.  Or maybe it’s just that now you have a baby and two other baby-like things that aren’t actually babies and your priorities change.  I have no idea.  But the whole thing makes me nervous.  What will they do when I have a baby?

Let’s take a little tour of my writing chair…

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Well hello, Valentine!  So you’re the reason why I can’t sit back and get comfortable.  Aren’t you a little chair-hog?


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And here’s Theo, curled up behind Valentine.  He’s an even bigger chair-hog than his sister.


My hope is that when we have children the dogs will come to see the babies as precious pack members that must be fussed over and adored and protected from danger.  Like the way Chip, my cousin’s five-year-old four-pound Chihuahua, came to see her new baby:

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If we are that lucky, it is then my hope that our children will come to love the dogs as if they were treasured little old great-grandparents to be treated with gentle hands, quiet voices and adoring hearts.  After all, by the time our children are old enough to know Valentine and Theo, the dogs will most likely be just that:  Little old incontinent doglets with stinky breath, grumping and gurgling and leaving strings of slobber behind when they kiss you good morning.

*bitch [bi*ch] (noun):  female dog, wolf, fox or otter.

On A Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning

Sometimes I worry that I’m not working hard enough or fast enough and that the days of my life are slipping blindly past. I worry that we’ll never be ready to have children, that we’ll never have enough money to buy a house or live debt free. I worry that going back to school means we’ll be spending the rest of our lives paying off student loans and we won’t be able to send our children to college because there won’t be anything left over. I worry I’ll never be young enough or pretty enough even though that’s ridiculous because I’m not even old yet. I worry about how we’ll pay the electric bill this month and then I worry that we’ll never have enough money to not worry about how we’ll pay the electric bill. And I know that everyone has these worries. I know that we are young and just starting out. I know that no one’s ever ready for kids and there’s never enough money in the bank. But the worry is real and if we allow it to, it will eat us alive.

And then there is always a Sunday morning.  A morning when the sun pours in through the windows letting the leaves on the pathos glow in a fairy-green light. A morning when the dogs doze peacefully, curled closely with the cats, who, for the moment, are not meowling about their next meal. A morning when Mike is at school, he’s studying, he’s learning, he’s shaping a brick in clay and when it dries hard in the sun on a bright winter day, he will use it to build our dreams a little higher. A morning I have spent writing, writing, writing, my feet tucked under my body and my shoulders beginning to ache, but what a lovely ache; the ache of accomplishment.

The thing to remember is that everything, right now, in this moment, is perfect.

Look around you. Notice your surroundings. Take a deep breath. What do you hear? What do you see? Are you in a cubicle? Can you hear the hum of an air conditioner? Can you hear the comfort in it? Are you at home? Near a window? Is it night or day? Take a deep breath. What is the light like? Is anyone else nearby? How do you feel?

No matter what is going on in life, no matter what happens tomorrow, right now everything is perfect.  Maybe it’s not what you wanted to do today.  Maybe there’s somewhere else you’d rather be or someone else you’d rather see. But we are alive. We are here.

The sun is warming my back. The dogs are in a heap on the sofa. I woke up this morning alive and healthy. My loved ones are alive and healthy. And I thank God and the Universe and all the stars in the sky because whatever happened yesterday and whatever the future holds, we really are blessed.

Kind of a big deal, The End

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Part 4
Part 5

Did you know that for the first week of Baby’s life you have to feed it every hour?  You might have a baby who’ll sleep longer stretches and maybe you’ll only have to feed it every two or three hours, but you must feed it at the very least every three hours.

From your boobs.  (Or from a bottle, but still.)

Did you know that babies start learning the minute they make their appearance and that they require stimulation and attention and you have to play with them and focus on them and teach them stuff and they rely on you for everything?  EVERYTHING.

The more I read about the first year of baby’s life, the more nervous I got.  I had this idea that bringing a new baby home would be like a Johnson & Johnson commercial.  I envisioned myself in a filmy white nightgown, sunlight filtering through breezy open windows, Michael across the room at his easel, the dogs curled calmly on either side of me as I suckle the babe at my breast.  But according to this book a more likely scenario is a house that hasn’t been cleaned since before the baby showed up, unwashed hair and stained pajama’s, weeks and weeks and weeks without sleep, the dogs hysterically chewing bald spots into their coats because their lives have been ruined by the screaming alien we brought home from the hospital.  And also?  Every three hours?  From my boobs?

It’s not that I want a baby any less than I did that first day my switch flipped.  It’s just that now I’m absolutely terrified.  For the first time in our marriage, we are genuinely happy with our life.  We are happy and working towards goals we believe in and building a life we’re excited about.  That’s a big deal.  It’s why we thought now might be a good time to add to our family.  I read up to what to expect in Baby’s second month before I shut the book, stuffed it behind a row of trashy novels and told Mike that maybe now would be a good time to savor our life a little bit.  Maybe now is the time to be enjoying these happy, blissful, quiet moments alone together, I said.  He stared at me for a moment and then he demanded I tell him what I’d done with his wife.  But he agreed.  So we are treasuring nights spent curled on the couch in front of the TV with nothing between us but air.  We will delight in late Saturday mornings and whispering over pillows well past bedtime.  We will relish sleeping for ten hours at a stretch, candlelit dinners alone just because, and dogs who have full coats of fur.  It’s not that we aren’t eager to start a family, because we are.  We just want a little more time to appreciate the adventure we’re on before we jump into the next one.

Fin.

Kind of a big deal, Part 4

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Part 2
Part 3

My husband’s feelings about children vary greatly from mine.  In case I haven’t made that clear enough, I will write here, verbatim, our first conversation about kids:

“I’ve always wanted four of children.  Two boys and two girls.”
“I’ve never wanted children.”
“I’m sorry?”
“I’d love to have a big house and a bunch of slobbery dogs and maybe some grandkids.”
“You can’t have grandkids without having kids.”
“I guess I’ll just have dogs then.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.  When we have kids you’ll tell me it’s the best thing that ever happened to you and I’ll say I told you so.”
“Blah blah blah blah blah.”

The “blah blah blah” part was where I stopped listening.  I didn’t want to hear about Mike’s feelings on kids because that would mean acknowledging that I was falling in love with a man who didn’t want children and if he didn’t want children I couldn’t marry him because I couldn’t marry someone who didn’t want a family.  And also it was our first date and I’d just said, “when we have a kids” and how inappropriate was that?

The longer Michael and I dated, the more his skepticism about having children terrified me.  I had so many emotions tied up in the topic that I didn’t know how to talk about it without crying and he didn’t know how to talk about it without getting defensive so it was easier to completely ignore it.  The funny thing is, if we’d just put it all out there like we did with our finances, we would have discovered that we actually wanted the exact same thing.  But we didn’t do that.  We bared our bank statements, but we didn’t talk about kids.  When we got married we’d paid off all our credit card debt and we had started to save and we could even afford to buy a fancy TV but we couldn’t talk about kids.  Six months later we continued not talking about children while we sold all of our belongings and moved three thousand miles east to a city neither of us had ever visited.

Fast forward to the summer of 2008.  We were terribly, terribly homesick.  We felt alone and isolated even in the other’s company.  My biological clock had started screaming and now we were actively avoiding one another while living in an apartment so small the bathroom door wouldn’t shut if you were sitting on the pot.  We were six months shy of our two-year anniversary and we’d gone from crazy-in-love newlyweds to people who couldn’t make eye contact over dinner.

There is a lot to be said about our decision to move to New York.  It changed my life and it changed my marriage.  I thought we were moving for one reason but it turned out to be something else entirely.  Mike had completely different yet equally important motives for moving.  The last three years have been the hardest of my life.  They have also been the best.  Moving to this city made Michael and I soul mates.  We are family now in a way that we wouldn’t have been if we’d stayed put.

To be continued…

Bury a cold nose in the crook of his shoulder

I am kind of a snob when it comes to my marriage, I just want to admit that right now. I am convinced that my marriage is the best marriage in the world. I’m pretty sure that the way I feel about my marriage is similar to the way I’ll one day feel about my children and the way I currently feel about my dogs. The only reason you don’t hate me is because no matter what I think, I know as well as you do that my marriage is not perfect. No one’s marriage is ever perfect.

Mike and I have worked really hard to be happy. We’ve spent four out of the six years we’ve been together in couples counseling. In college I made the mistake of dating someone I didn’t really like for an entire year because I thought that at some point I was going to have to grow up and pick someone to marry and it might as well be him. I misunderstood “working to keep a relationship happy” for “working to force two people who do not belong together to act like they’re happy”. I know better now. Mike and I went into couples counseling because we saw in each other people with similar values and similar goals; we had a lot in common and we were crazy about each other but we’d stopped communicating without fighting and we didn’t want to be that couple that fights all the time.

See how proud I am of my marriage? All of that up there? Those run-on sentences? That was bragging.

In the last four days I have worked forty hours. Mike, who is still looking for EMT work, has taken sole responsibility for the dogs, the cats, my meals, the laundry, the groceries and everything else it takes to run a household. When I leave for work in the morning my belly is full and there’s a packed lunch in my backpack. When I come home at night there’s hot tea and a bowlful of soup ready and waiting, all of the chores have been done and I am free to spend the rest of my evening doing whatever I want. I curl up with my tea and I write and I write and even though I worked for ten hours I can write for three or four more before collapsing in bed.

All week I have gushed and sighed and squeezed Mike’s hands and kissed his nose and thanked him for taking such magnificent care of me. But it wasn’t until right before dinner tonight, the fourth day of the week, the fourth day of Michael rubbing my feet and pouring more coffee and closing the window so I don’t catch a chill, when he suddenly stood up from painting and wrapped his arms around my waist, that I realized we hadn’t hugged all week. Not once.

See? Even we screw up. We work so hard all week to show each other we care; he cooks, I eat, he cleans, I compliment, but we don’t even hug until Thursday. And all that other stuff is incredible, I get that, I am not complaining, I am absolutely thrilled. But there’s something about a good bear hug, an everything is going to be wonderful hug, a you’re my best friend in the world hug, that just makes a girl feel heavenly.

Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work Our skin has a memory of “good touch” (loved), “bad touch” (abused) and “no touch” (neglected). Couples who say hello with a hug keep their skin bathed in the “good touch,” which can inoculate your spirit against anonymity in the world. –Mark Goulston, PhD How To Be A Happy Couple

We just made a pact to hug every day after work. I need the hugs and he deserves them.

We Deserve An Award

Today is the thirty-second day of my moon cycle. I am grumpy. I’m wearing an entire pants-size larger than I wear the rest of the month because my body is that bloated. I worked all day, the longest day I’ve worked in weeks, and when I came home the only thing I could focus on was a small wad of Valentine’s hair sitting on the floor next to the lumber pile. Now, neither of those things is unusual. Valentine sheds like a m*ther f*cker. I could probably make a million dollars selling Chihuahua-mutt pillows if I thought people would buy them, she sheds that much. And the lumber pile is a collection of wood that Mike’s salvaged from the street, which he keeps in a neat stack in a corner of our living room so that it’s easily accessible when he has time to build something. And let me tell you, some beautiful hand-crafted furniture has come from that lumber pile. However, it being the thirty-second day of my moon cycle, I didn’t care that the lumber pile was right where it belongs or that Valentine had simply shed her usual daily pound of fur. My eyes crossed and I began to froth at the mouth.

That’s when Michael walked into the room holding a mop and a broom. “I’ll do the floors if you’ll vacuum.”
“Seriously?”
“Dinner’s in the oven and I’ve all ready cleaned out the litter box.”
“Really?”
“And I just finished putting away all the laundry.”
“You did the laundry?”
“Yes.”
“I would definitely marry you if we weren’t all ready married.”

My dear, sweet, wonderful husband has made great use of a little tool I call the Moon Cycle Chart, and he is a safer man for it. He knows exactly when to expect mood swings and cravings and crazy. He knows exactly what day the stack of mail on the coffee table is going to make me cry. I created the chart to help me figure out when my hormones do what, but Mike’s paid attention and learned how to help me circumvent the worst symptoms of my moon time.

Not too long ago, the lumber pile and the dog hair would have ruined our night. It wouldn’t have mattered that dinner was ready or that the laundry was done because I’d pour every ounce of my energy into what was wrong instead of seeing what was right. It’s easy to do when you’re all ready tired and grumpy. But Mike’s learned how to anticipate my hormones and I’ve learned how to redirect my focus and we’re much happier for it. Instead of spending the night in cold, angry silence, we enjoyed a wonderful meal and then curled up with an episode of Law & Order while we rubbed each other’s feet.

A few months ago my dad sent me a list of Ten Habits of Happy Couples. He found it on the blog Usable Insight, written by Mark Goulston, M.D. Dr. Goulston is a clinical psychiatrist who honed his communication skills while working as an FBI/police hostage negotiation trainer. Now he teaches people how to get through to each other. He even has a book out. This is number five on that list:

Focus on what your partner does right rather than on what he or she does wrong. If you look for things your partner does wrong, you can always find something. If you look for what he or she does right, you can always find something. It all depends on what you want to look for. Happy couples accentuate the positive.