Gottman’s 5 to 1 Ratio

Everyone wants to feel heard and valued.

Increasingly, I find myself reading up on all things autism, due to my recent diagnosis. The other day I was particularly interested in how people cope with meltdowns, because I was writing blog post on the subject, which you can find here. I find that you can learn a lot if you not only read articles, but read the comments from readers that often follow them.  This time was no exception.

Many people were giving advice based on their own experiences with autistic meltdowns, and one mom said that she always tries to follow Gottman’s 5 to 1 Ratio. Unfortunately, she didn’t elaborate. Now, I knew I had heard of this ratio before, but for the life of me, I couldn’t place it. So naturally I delved deeper with the help of a search engine, as one does.

I went directly to the source. The Gottman Institute website reminded me why I had heard of this ratio. It comes from their research into healthy and happy marriages. By studying how couples work through conflicts, they were able to predict, with 90% accuracy, which couples would divorce. They determined that for every negative interaction a couple has during a conflict, a stable and happy marriage has at least five positive interactions.

I genuinely believe this ratio is true, based on my own observations. However, I had never thought of applying it to relationships that weren’t romantic, such as those with work colleagues or children or friends. I have no idea why.

I think everyone wants to feel heard and valued. Everyone appreciates little acts of kindness. It’s always a more comfortable conversation when we can emphasize common ground, understanding, and compassion. All of these things constitute positive interactions.

Dear Husband, in particular, is very adept at this. I’ve never met anyone before him who seemed to be born to be married. DH definitely is. He thrives in matrimony. He is positive with me in particular, but he’s also that way in general. It’s second nature to him to seek out the positive spin on every situation, and you can tell that he’s really sincere about it. How lucky I am to have found him!

I, on the other hand, waited until I found a keeper, which means I married for the first time at age 53. Sometimes I feel like I’m a baby giraffe just learning how to walk in this marriage thing. DH is very patient with me, and he has taught me a great deal by sheer example.

You’d think positive interactions would be common sense, but they don’t come as naturally to others as they do to my husband. That’s unfortunate. I agree that it’s also good to be playful in a marriage, but I’ve known a lot of people who take this way too far.

It’s okay to joke and gently tease, but it’s easy to cross the line. Some jokes can be cruel. Some teasing can be humiliating. If you get too comfortable in your interactions, they can become hurtful. I’ve witnessed a lot of couples who interact in that manner, and often at least one of them doesn’t seem to realize that they’ve stopped being mindful of the other’s feelings. Those are the relationships that don’t last. I often wish those people could pay more attention to how Dear Husband treats me.

But the same thing can be said about how one deals with coworkers or friends. Have fun, yes, but also show that you respect the people you interact with. Make sure they feel that you support them. These basic tenets have fallen by the wayside since 2016, and it’s having a negative impact on society in general. We have to turn this around somehow.

I know it sounds corny, but that’s only because it’s so true: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!


Wow. The nerve of some people.

For once, the people with the nerve aren’t the rich ones.

Imagine this. You’re rich. Very, very rich. So rich, in fact, that you’ve put your mansion up for sale to the tune of 5.7 million dollars. And it’s worth it. According to Zillow, it’s 16,313 square feet, including 9 bedrooms and 15 baths. It has a heated pool as well as a spa and a sauna and a lagoon pool. It also has a bar, a two lane bowling alley, a tennis court, and a movie theater.

The owners come from IHop money, which sounds about as tacky as your average Florida millionaire. But they’re not the ones who have nerve. More power to them, I say. Way to be capitalists while your wait staff at the IHop are probably on Food Stamps.


No, in this rare case, the people with nerve aren’t the rich people. They are an engaged couple who decided it might be fun to have a two day wedding celebration, without permission, in a mansion that they assumed was abandoned. Because Florida. You can’t make this stuff up.

According to this article, and this one, Courtney Wilson attended several open houses at this location, pretending to be a prospective buyer of the estate. At that time, he approached the owner about having his wedding there, but the owner politely declined. You’d think that would be the end of the story.

But no.

It seems that Courtney Wilson and his bride-to-be, Shenita Jones, decided to push forward with the wedding anyway. Their very elaborate, multi-page wedding invitation calls the place “The Wilson Estate”, and “our dream home”. It goes on to describe how they met in high school, but that Courtney was a bit of a “bad boy” at the time, so Shenita paid him no mind.

Heaven knows how many of those wedding invitations were sent out, but I’d love to know why no friend or family member questioned their sudden, miraculous acquisition of a multi-million dollar home. (Especially Courtney’s ex-wife.) Sure! I’ll come to your wedding! And I’ll also come the next day for the brunch by the pool, accompanied by a jazz band!

Imagine the homeowner’s shock, on the morning of the big day, when Courtney shows up, expecting to set things up for the big event. The owner called 911 and said there were people trespassing, and that they said it was God’s message that they have their wedding there.

I don’t know about you, but the god of my understanding does not encourage breaking and entering and illegal trespass. Even coveting is frowned upon in most spiritual tomes, as far as I know. But hey, to each his own interpretation, right?

Needless to say, the wedding did not take place. A couple other questions spring to mind. Did Shenita Jones even know that the wedding venue hadn’t given permission for its use? Did she really think it was owned by Wilson? Are they still getting married or did god inform them that there would be a slight change of plans? Were they able to get any of their deposits back for cake and chairs and jazz band? And did the poor homeowner have to spend the rest of the next 48 hours turning away wedding guests?

The mind boggles.

“The Wilson Estate”

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The Creepy Concept of Covenant Marriage

This seems like a disturbing, backward trend.

Recently, I came across a disturbing little factoid. In 1997, the state of Louisiana passed Covenant Marriage into law. Arkansas and Arizona later jumped on the bandwagon. Thank goodness no other states have taken the bait.

These policies, if you opt into them, make marriage more difficult to get into, and a lot more difficult to get out of. For starters, according to Wikipedia, you have to attend premarital counseling sessions, which “emphasize the nature, purposes, and responsibilities of marriage”, and you must sign a statement saying that the marriage is for life.

While I think premarital counseling is a great idea, I wonder who exactly is conducting these sessions. And I really would have a problem with having someone other than me and my spouse dictate what the nature, purpose and responsibilities of our marriage are to be. Marriage is what you make it. No two are alike.

And as for signing one’s life away, if you aren’t confident that the other person is going to try for a lifelong commitment unless they put it in writing, then you might want to reexamine how much you trust this person in the first place. Trust is the bedrock of any relationship. If you don’t have that, you’re building a castle on sand.

This is starting to sound like the equivalent of a homeowners’ association for relationships. I chafe at rules and regulations. I’ll pass.

Even worse are the restrictions placed on getting out of the marriage. In a covenant marriage, you are waiving your rights to a no-fault divorce. Before you can even consider divorce, you have to first go to counseling. You must also be able to prove that your spouse has committed adultery, a felony, is a drug addict or a sexual predator, or that you’ve been living apart for at least a year (perhaps two, depending on the state.)

First of all, why bother with counseling if your spouse is involved in such heinous acts? Those things, as far as I’m concerned, are deal breakers.

And you notice there’s no provision for your husband punching you in the face and not being prosecuted for it, nor is there an option if your wife suddenly joins a cult. Your only recourse in those situations would be a long painful separation, and there’s no guarantee that the nut job in question would agree to being apart.

Life is messy. It can go south in many ways that are outside the bounds of these few legislative dicta. No one should have the right to define what you deem to be unsupportable.

Is it just me, or is it creepy and strange that these three super red states, full to the brim with conservatives who claim to want less government, not more, are all for these highly regulated covenant marriages? But then, this legislates religion and “family values”, and restricts the freedom of women even further, so yeah, I guess it makes sense.

Fortunately, these three states have not made covenant marriage mandatory, and less than 1 percent of the couples getting married each year in these places opt in to this foolishness. But still, it seems like a disturbing, backward trend, and it gives me the willies.

I love holding my husband’s hand, but I wouldn’t want to be handcuffed to it.

Business people handcuffed together

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!


Who knew?

Buy one, get one free. Everybody knows that’s a screamin’ deal. That is, if you want two. But who doesn’t want two? Two is always better than one!

Similarly, good things come to those who pair up, it seems. The second we got married, my husband’s auto insurance rates went way down. As did our health insurance rates.

And of course, we now have two incomes to pay for one set of utilities, one mortgage, one wifi bill, etc., etc., etc.

One family AAA membership costs less than two individual ones. The same can be said of the family plan for one’s phone. And hey, now we can shop at Costco! (I didn’t do that when I was single because the portion sizes were way too big for one person.)

And then there’s the social aspect of coupledom. Suddenly you have twice as many friends, and twice as many opportunities to have fun. You have twice as much family, too, which fortunately is turning out to be a wonderful thing in my case. (Your results may vary.)

You don’t really think of the implications of all this when you’re single. The world is really set up for us to go two by two, as if it’s one big Noah’s Ark. When you get married, you give yourself an instant raise, and you join a much wider support system.

I hope I’m not turning into one of those obnoxious people who try to force relationships upon everyone. I’m just pointing out that it’s really a completely different world on so many levels. Who knew?

king penguins

I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that?

An Atmospheric Shift

Some connections are every bit as precious as the air that you breathe.

I grew up always having cats. So imagine my surprise when I went away to college, and my eyes stopped itching and my nose stopped running. Holy crap. I’d been allergic to cats that whole time and didn’t even realize it. It was just status quo for me.

Similarly, people have been telling me my whole life that I’d feel different when I got married. I didn’t believe them. I mean, I’m an adult. I know myself really well. And I’ve been in two long term relationships. So why would this be any different?

And yet, it is. It’s completely and utterly different. Why is that?

It had been confounding me for a few days. So, one day while sitting on my drawbridge, I decided to do some inner dialogue with myself to try to get to the bottom of this feeling. What’s changed?

After meditating on it for a bit, I figured it out. And It brought tears to my eyes. Because here it is in a nutshell: For the first time in 53 years, I’m not afraid.

And I’m not just talking about feeling more financially secure because of our combined incomes. (Although, yes, that’s a part of it. We are saving a fortune in insurance and utilities and in so many ways it’s insane. You don’t realize how much the capitalist system is stacked in favor of married couples until you join that elite group.)

But that’s only a small part of it. Here’s what’s huge: I had been living in fear for so long that I didn’t even realize that free-floating anxiety had always been in the very air I was breathing.

Fear of spending the rest of my life alone. Fear of dying on the weekend and it being days before anyone found my body. Fear of getting so sick that I couldn’t call for help. Fear that this painful loneliness would eventually kill me. Never feeling completely safe.

For the first time in my life, I feel like someone has my back. Always. Unfalteringly. There’s someone I can count on, and someone who can count on me. That’s incredibly new. Before, if I screwed up, I was on my own.

And if I triumphed, I was on my own, too. You don’t realize how freakin’ lonely that feeling is until you actually have someone to share the triumphs with. And that makes me really excited about the future!

The fact is, I’m part of a team now. A mutual admiration society of two. We are each other’s roofs and foundations. While past relationships have dragged me down, this one lifts me up, and if we go down, we’ll go down together, and climb back up together, too.

It seemed as though in past relationships I had to do the bulk of the heavy lifting. In this one, we are more equally balanced. We work toward the future together, and we want to go in the same direction.

So yes, this realization brought tears to my eyes, and they were complex tears, indeed. Tears of joy for the amazing place I find myself in now, and tears of sadness for the person I was a month ago, who had absolutely no idea how afraid she always had been.

If you’re lucky enough to be on a winning team for life, go and hug that person right now. Right this minute. And never let go. Because that connection is every bit as precious as the air that you breathe.


An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!

The Winnowing

Getting married teaches you who your friends really are.

Well, here’s something that took me by complete surprise: Getting married teaches you who your friends really are. I’m not talking about the people who could or couldn’t attend my wedding. There are quite a few legitimate reasons for people to make that choice. Distance, expense, health, timing… I’m okay with that.

I’m also not referring to the people who might have disagreed with my decision. That’s fine, too. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion.

I’m talking about those who could not or would not emotionally support my decision, and my happiness, whether they agreed with it or not. I’m also calling out those who were offended by how a fundamental shift in my life goals and priorities had impacted them, as if they had staked claim to the center of my orbit and I had no right to deviate, ever. I’m talking about those who made a concerted effort to rain on my parade, as if they were the grand master thereof.

I admit it. Barb isn’t going to come out and play quite as often. At least, not with them. The center of my world is now the person I am sharing my life and my future with. But that doesn’t mean I’m not an awesome friend to have.

Personally, I can’t imagine saying to someone, or even thinking, “Now that you’re getting married, we can’t be friends because we no longer hang out twice a month.” How absurd. I’d like to think that my friends are grown-a$$ adults who can survive with a little less of me, and yet remain secure in my unwavering esteem.

I fully expect to have friendships outside of my marriage, as I expect my husband will. We are a team, but we’re also individuals. We’re not fused at the os coxae (look it up).

But for that to happen, it will require people to be just a little bit flexible. It will oblige people to make a tiny bit more effort, just as it will necessitate more effort on my part, because the logistics will be more complex. It will also demonstrate that the friends who stick around think I’m worth it.

So, as painful as certain realizations have been of late, I choose to look at this as a winnowing process. The wheat is being separated from the chaff. And what lovely wheat it is, too!

I am very, very lucky to have the amazing friends that I have, old and new. I am grateful for them every single day. Those who don’t have the staying power were apparently never true friends in the first place.

And to that, all I can say is… Namaste.


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Twitter me a Precious Memory!

Help me out, Drawbridge Nation!

So, guess what? I’m getting married! Yes. Little ol’ me. Hard to believe, I know, but when you finally get something right, it deserves some recognition, some consecration. This is going to be good. I can feel it in my bones.

Sorry. You’re not invited. It’s going to be an intimate little affair, and there are only so many cupcakes to go around.

But the exciting thing is that Jason Mraz is playing at my wedding! Can you imagine? I’m so excited!

Well… he’s sort of playing at my wedding. He doesn’t know it. It’s just that he’s doing a concert in the park that day, and we’re getting married in that same park right beforhand, and then going to the concert afterward.

So, I have this fantasy. We get married, we’re feeling all romantical and stuff, and we go to the Jason Mraz concert, and he dedicates my favorite song, “I’m Yours” to us. Oh, the feels! The feels!

The thing is, I don’t know how to get the request to him. I see he’s on Facebook, and Instagram and Youtube. He even has his own website but I don’t see how to post in any of those places.

So, this is a long shot, but the only way I can think of to get the word out is if you guys help me by blowing up his Twitter feed. It’s or @jason_mraz.

Here’s an example of a twitter-length message to send him:

Jason: Barb marries for the 1st time at age 53 right before ur 9/9 concert! Plz dedicate “I’m Yours” to Cris & Barb? Thanks! @BabelHauser

Please, please spread the word. If I can get enough people sending him that message, maybe, just maybe, he’ll give me the best wedding present in the whole wide world. If he does, I’ll give you a full report!

Thanks for your help!

http _images2.fanpop.com_image_photos_8500000_Jason-Mraz-fans-of-jason-mraz-8571512-716-481
C’mon, Jason! Do me a solid!

12 Things to Discuss before Getting Married

It’s really important to have all the hard conversations beforehand so that you know what you’re getting yourself into.

I’m getting married for the first time at age 53, so I’m hardly an expert on the subject. But I’d like to think that my age is a plus. I’m not impulsive. I believe in doing my homework. I am all about looking before I leap.

Lord knows I’ve seen enough marriages fail to get a strong sense of what kills them off. It’s really important to have all the hard conversations beforehand so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. It also helps to know the other person’s hopes, dreams, and expectations in advance, and decide whether you’d be willing to help them achieve them.

Here are a few things you may wish to consider talking about ahead of your big day:

Money. This one is huge. Is one partner bringing a mountain of debt into the union? It’s only fair to bring this out in the open. How will you handle finances? How much credit card debt can you tolerate? What level of discretionary spending are you comfortable with? What are your plans, if any, for retirement? What are your expenses? How will you cope with financial emergencies? What are your long term financial goals, and how do you plan to reach them?

Children. Do you both want them? How many? Do you already have some? Who has custody? What is your philosophy regarding discipline, and child-rearing in general?

What goals do you have for your future? Do they align? If you want to travel and your partner simply wants to retire and watch Jerry Springer all day long, that’s a problem. What do you consider to be a successful life? What is most important to you in terms of a future? Where do you want to live? What kind of home do you want to have? What types of vacations do you like to take? What are your priorities? What are your expectations?

Sex, Intimacy and Fidelity. It’s okay to be who you are. But it’s only fair that you spell it out. If one person is asexual, and the other expects a high degree of intimacy, that’s a problem waiting to happen. If your philosophies regarding fidelity don’t align, it’s a recipe for disaster. If one person hates public displays of affection, and the other feels rejected if her partner won’t hold her hand, this is the tip of a much larger iceberg. Is pornography a big part of your life or do you have any sexual habits that your partner might find unusual? Discuss what you need to feel loved and sexually satisfied now, or your marital ship will sink like a stone.

Individuality. You don’t have to be joined at the hip. You don’t always have to like all the same things that your partner likes. You don’t even have to have all of the same friends. Becoming a football widow isn’t a big deal if you have interests of your own. Are you both comfortable doing things alone? If you have different expectations in terms of togetherness and attention, it’s best to work that out now.

Vices. If you smoke and your partner does not, you should find out if that will become a deal-breaker. If you have a drug addiction, your partner has a right to know. How much do you drink alcohol? How much is too much? You should even put your quirky habits out there. One person’s quirk might be another person’s intolerable oddity.

Health. Does your partner take health as seriously as you do? Are there any ticking time bombs with regard to family health history that you need to be aware of? How will you cope with a medical catastrophe?

Religion. What are your spiritual philosophies? Atheists and Fundamentalists can marry, of course, but they’d have to be extremely tolerant of their differences. If one is expecting the other to make a dramatic, very basic shift, and the other person isn’t willing to do so, then that will be a problem. Also, what holidays are important to you, and how do you celebrate them?

Politics. I’ve seen couples thrive in spite of political differences, but if politics is a huge part of your life, it rapidly becomes a definer of the content of one’s character. And in this current atmosphere of division, it’s not like you can ignore the elephant (or donkey) in the room. Will you be willing to agree to disagree on the issues? It’s never a good idea to go into a relationship with expectations that your partner will change and come to his or her senses.

Family. Unfortunately (or luckily, as the case may be), when you marry someone, you marry that person’s family, too. Everyone has a few nuts in the family tree. Having insane in-laws is not necessarily a problem unless you discover, to your horror, that your spouse expects said crazy relative to live with you in his or her dotage. Will you be okay with that? What does family obligation mean to you? Best to figure that out in advance.

Communication and Conflict Resolution. How do your resolve disagreements? If one is a shouter and the other tends to withdraw, you’ll never be able to meet in the middle. It’s all about respect. Talk about issues before they get out of control. Listen to what your partner is saying. Nip things in the bud as often as you can. Don’t stuff things. Don’t get hostile. Don’t just hope things will go away on their own. Take the initiative. How do you plan to talk things out?

Cleanliness. Can you tolerate your partner’s level of clutter? Can your partner stand your obsessive compulsive need for a spotless home? And how will the cleaning tasks be divided? This is 2018. You can’t assume that both of you are on the same page regarding basic chores. Talk about it.

Communication about all of the above is key. It’s important to know as much as possible about the foundation on which you are building your relationship. A solid foundation leads to a long-lasting home.

Are there any other topics that I’ve overlooked? Please share them in the comments below!


Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book!

‘Til Death Do Us Part

Most married couples have included that phrase in their wedding vows. But how many of them actually think about it? I suspect that it gets thrown in there because they want to stress the fact that they’re not planning on a divorce. But the truth is, if your marriage truly is for life, unless you both die in a plane crash or something, it’s only going to be for life for one of you.

Yep. Death will part you. And even though we all know that on a basic level, it still comes as a great shock to the person who is left behind. The grief of losing the person you love most in this world is indescribable. You don’t truly grasp it until you’re in it. There’s no real way to prepare for it. There are no shortcuts. You will either be the one who dies or the one who mourns. Frankly, I’m not sure which one is better off.

It’s a really strange feeling to have your future all mapped out with someone and then one day, poof, it’s gone. It’s unsettling. It’s like having the tablecloth ripped out from under your feast. It’s messy. It’s destructive. Shit is gonna get broken. There will be stains in the carpet that will never come out.

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s important to have this conversation. Not that it will mitigate the damages. But at least you’ll get a sense of where each of you stand, while both are still standing. Just a thought.

wedding vows

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book.

Marriage. Ugh.

I love my friends. Truly I do. But I must admit that I’m happy to have the excuse of living all the way on the other side of the continent from most of them, because this way I can tactfully avoid weddings.

Weddings generally give me migraines, because I can feel the stress and tension all around me. If I’m not thinking, “Man, oh man, this is a really bad Idea,” I’m reviewing the overwhelming statistical fact that this union is more likely to fail than not. I find this concept supremely depressing. It’s like dressing up for a slow moving train wreck, and being expected to provide a gift for the occasion.

And then, as a woman, I have to try not to grind my teeth too loudly while the traditional sexist pomp and circumstance unrolls before my eyes. The father of the bride, giving her away as if she were property. The bridesmaids, originally supposed to dress exactly like the bride to confuse evil spirits. And even if the word “obey” has been removed from most modern wedding vows, it still looms unspoken over the event. Then there’s the wedding veil to hide the woman away from those same evil spirits. (Why are evil spirits so drawn to weddings in the first place, hmmm?) And the throwing of the rice to bring on the fertility, because of course, everyone wants to procreate, right? Give me strength.

And then once you’re married, you’re legally bound to that person, and their every bonehead financial move reflects upon you. The thought of endangering my hard-won 800 FICO credit score for some traditional view of happily ever after causes a grapefruit sized lump of aversion to form in my throat. And if you think that in this day and age marriage is some guarantee of stability and/or fidelity and/or security, you are, frankly, delusional.

And then there’s the traditional anniversary gift thing. Your first year is paper. Your tenth is tin or aluminum. Fifteenth is Crystal. Fiftieth is diamond. Like you slowly increase in value over time. Like you’re an investment. Well, heaven knows you’ve earned it, but to be honest, I suspect that in reality, your spouse appreciates you less as the years go on. You depreciate as a used car does. Maybe you should get the diamonds in the first year, if they’re so important to you.

Okay, yeah, I’m cynical. But it’s only because I’ve never really seen a happy marriage. What does one look like, exactly?