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February 2, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

Things couples should do, to better prepare for marriage?


Paula Holt who is the writer behind the blog, Marital Musings joined the show. She discusses marriage, the issues today and the hope if taken seriously.

Note: Refer to audio player below to listen to this episode.


People often ask Paula Holt why she writes about marriage. They are particularly curious when they find out she has a MBA and sold real estate before getting married and having children. The simple answer is that she finds marriage fascinating. She describes it as “a fundamental institution in our society that touches people on a very personal level.”

Paula first became interested in marriage more than 10 years ago. She was in her 30’s and had already seen a number of friends tie the knot. She had also seen several divorces and toxic relationships that seemed to be headed that way. She wondered what was going wrong and what people should do differently. Already a graduate of Stanford University and the Kellogg School of Management, Paula decided to forgo studying relationships through a degree program and educated herself through numerous articles, books and seminars. She has trained to facilitate several marriage education programs including Couple CommunicationTM and Money Habitudes.

In September of 2003 Paula got married. The next month she got pregnant, and the following month she moved from her hometown of Chicago to where her husband’s job had taken him, New York City. That started a period in Paula’s life when she was “ not so much interested in marriage as trying to survive it.”  Now seven years, a move back to Chicago, and two children later she is once again intrigued by marriage. Probably more so now because as she puts it “I have lived it and truly understand how amazing, difficult, and complex it can be.”

Paula launched her blog, Marital Musings to create an opportunity to explore her interest in marriage through writing. She posts information on the latest relationship research, comments on relationship stories in the media, and takes a look at the lighter side of things such as what it’s like to share a bathroom with your spouse. For her Marital Musings is a forum to talk to people about marriage and hopefully find some answers.


Abbreviated Transcript of Interview with Paula Holt

Eric Michaels: Why did you start blogging about marriage?
Paula Holt: I think marriage is a fascinating topic and one that clearly plays a powerful role in our society. This is a particularly interesting time for marriage because we as a culture seem very conflicted about it. On the one hand you have the recent TIME/Pew Research Center Poll telling us that nearly 40% of Americans think marriage is obsolete, while on the other hand you have people enthralled with the wedding of Prince William. On a personal level I have been married for 7 years so the topic is very close to me. As I reflect on my own marriage and talk to married people around me, I am often struck by some of the issues that arise – those that are funny, and the ones that are very serious. I don’t believe I have all the answers, but I certainly have a lot of questions. So that’s really why I launched I wanted to explore some of these questions and comment on both the serious and funny issues couples face. I also wanted to talk about marriage related stories in the news such as the Tiger Woods and John Edwards situations. I find the blog and the Marital Musings Facebook page great ways to pass on articles and information I think people might gain something from.

Eric Michaels: What topics have you found most interesting to write about?
Paula Holt: I’ve written a range of posts and all of them resonate with me for different reasons. I once wrote a piece called “The Sexful Marriage” because I felt compelled to defend married sex. I had seen several reports on TV about sexless marriages and I wanted to make it clear that while that is a problem that should be addressed, there are many married couples out there having active and satisfying sex lives. You don’t hear about it as much because married people often want to keep the details of their sex lives private. Another post I wrote that generated quite a few comments on the Marital Musings Facebook page was called “The Class Reunion”. In it I asked a question about whether or not you should bring your spouse to your high school reunion. People were split on this more than I expected. One wife had such a great time at her husband’s reunion she felt like an honorary member of the class, while another person said his wife should stay at home “because everyone ends up liking her better than me.” One of the things I most enjoy writing on the blog is a page called “10 Words or Less” It’s a collection of musings on a range of topics including communication, sex and how to make your marriage last, all written – you guessed it – in 10 words or less. The page has even inspired a book I will be publishing later this year.

Eric Michaels: How can you write about such complex issues in less than 10 words?
Paula Holt: It’s actually pretty easy. I find that with fewer words, sometimes the message is more powerful, funny or memorable. Take forgiveness for example. People often refer to the “act of forgiveness” but I don’t think that’s an accurate way to describe what it takes to forgive and go forward in your relationship. It makes it sound like it’s something that just happens. So what I say, and notice I only need 8 words here, is “Forgiveness is not an act, it’s a process”.  To me that better reflects the time it takes to truly move on when feelings have been hurt. Here’s one for all those people who loved the line “You complete me.” from the movie Jerry Maguire, which I must say is a line I consider overly romanticized and frankly a little unhealthy. What I believe, in 10 words or less of course is that “Nobody can complete you, but they should add value.” The point is you have to come to a relationship as a complete person; however, it’s great to find someone who brings out the best in you or can teach you new things. Although the book will contain many of these kinds of musings that will hopefully make people think, some will just make you laugh and say “Hey, that’s how it is in my marriage!” A few examples are “Numerous conversations take place with one spouse on the toilet.” and “You will be awakened by the phrase ‘Are you asleep?’ I don’t know anyone who hasn’t heard those words some time over the course of their relationship. For one of my favorite mini-musings I needed the full 10 words, “Planning for a wedding is not preparing for a marriage.”

Eric Michaels: Why is that one of your favorites?
Paula Holt: Couples spend so much time, money and energy planning their weddings, and so little time, if any, trying to work through issues they will face during the course of their marriage. This is even reflected in reality TV where you have shows like Bridalplasty with women competing to win plastic surgery procedures to get ready for their wedding. There’s another show simply dedicated to women trying to find the perfect wedding dress. On my blog I wrote about how NBC’s morning show TODAY has a contest each year and the couple selected wins a fantasy wedding held live on the show. I feel like they are missing an important opportunity to entertain and inform the audience by not requiring their couple to do anything to prepare for their marriage. Most couples seem to get caught up in the wedding frenzy and don’t really think about the marriage. People often assume their partner is on the same page about issues. Or sometimes they just avoid areas of conflict thinking they can deal with it later. Neither strategy is very effective.

Eric Michaels: What kinds of things should couples do to better prepare for marriage?
Paula Holt: One way that couples may already be familiar with is premarital counseling. Whether it’s through a church or you go to a therapist who works with couples, this process can be very helpful. It might even help with planning the wedding if the couple is having issues around money or family. Even the most famous engaged couple of our time, Prince William and Kate Middleton are meeting with senior British clergy to discuss issues like how to handle disagreements and how to prepare for the changes brought on by parenthood. Another option that is effective for both engaged couples and those who are already married is marriage education classes. There are numerous different courses available dealing with a range of topics such as communication, sex, and money. Some classes last for a day, some take place over several weeks, and then there are classes that can double as a vacation. These take place on cruise ships or beachfront locations. If you can’t go to a class there are many that are on DVD and can be done at home on your own schedule. I’ll make sure to put a link on with more information.

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