Episode 174 | June 25, 2019

What You Don’t Know About Marriage! with Jenna McCarthy

A Personal Note From Orion

We often think about marriage as a label to a relationship, when in fact, it’s more of a verb: it’s something you do, something you work at, every single day in the hopes of getting better and better at it. Because no matter how much you love your partner, you are both still independent, unique people with different needs going on at all times. Throw onto that children, bills, and careers, and you’ve got yourself a chaotic situation that would drive anyone crazy. 

In reality, it doesn’t have to be so hard. Through all the ups and downs of marriages, you’ll find that the thing that is going to make the biggest difference, what essentially will keep your marriage together, is going to be how kind you are to your partner. How much you can remember that they are human too, that they are just as tired, frustrated, stressed, as you are, and at the end of the day are simply looking for a warm hug, a kind word, a long embrace – something that tells them it’s going to be ok, you are in this together, and the reason you are in this together is because of love. 

Today’s episode rocks! My guest Jenna McCarthy shared so much extraordinary wisdom in this episode, and she delivers this wisdom with a refreshing dose of humor. Jenna McCarthy is a TED speaker, internationally-published writer, and the author of 16 books for adults and children. She is hilariously brilliant, and I’m sure you’re going to have a lot of fun listening to this episode.



About Today’s Show

Oh my god. This episode rocks! I just love Jenna McCarthy. She is so funny. She shared so much extraordinary wisdom in this episode, but in a way that will make you smile, laugh, and make your day. She is just brilliant. It was such a pleasure to interview her and I’m sure, you’re going to have a lot of fun listening to this episode. Jenna McCarthy is a TED speaker, internationally-published writer, and the author of 16 multi-humorous books for adults and children. Get ready, this is going to be fantastic. Without further ado, onto the show.

Hello, Jenna and welcome to Stellar Life Podcast.

Hi. I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for having me.

I’m even happier because you’re so much fun to talk to. Before we start Jenna, why don’t you share a little bit about yourself?

I was born in New York. I just turned 50 this week. This is kind of a big deal. I’ve been writing and speaking for 28 years now, I guess.

But you look 28.

Yes, I do and I’m sorry about your bad eyesight. I started in New York City. I was in publishing. I’ve written for all the magazines that we used to read when we were young—Cosmo, Self, Vogue, Glamour. I was doing ‘Sex and the City’ before ‘Sex and the City’ was a thing. Then, I got married, had babies, started writing books, kept writing books, continued writing books, started speaking. I gave a little TED Talk and now I get to do all of the things. I just get paid to write, speak, have opinions, and, hopefully, be funny.

That’s refreshing. A lot of the time people are trying to break into the speaking circle, they put on a facade. I think they are really, really serious. You just being you is what draws people to you, right?

It’s so funny because I do get asked about that a lot. “How did you get to give a TED Talk and how did you start speaking?” The funny thing is when you want to attend a TED event, you have to apply. So, I was applying to attend. I was applying to sit in the audience. When you apply, they ask you for a couple of links about you. I had just written a funny book in my head, just a really funny book trailer for it and that caught their eye. They actually reached out to me, the director of the TED conference, and said, “Would you like to apply to speak?” and I said, “No. No, I’m good. I’m not really an expert on anything.”

I’ve seen TED Talks. There are scientists and presidents, for God’s sake. They’re not sit down comedians, which is what I call myself. The guy was very cute and he said, “The E in TED stands for Entertainment and we think you’re really entertaining. By the way, we’re inviting you to apply, we’re not telling you that you’re going to get in.” I was like, “All right, well now you just threw down the gauntlet.” So I applied, figuring I probably won’t get it the way we do. I wouldn’t know what to talk about, but they liked me. I gave my little speech. I kept hearing his words on my head, “E stands for Entertainment,” you don’t have to be earth-shattering.

The marriage killers are the little things you do every day, making you lose sight of the real reason why you are together. Click To Tweet

Fast forward, it made the TED homepage, it started racking up millions of views, and I started getting calls to do live-speaking gigs. At first, I was still like, “Oh my God. What if they want me to be funny? What if they don’t like my kind of tongue-in-cheek, a little bit sarcastic, sometimes profane humor?” Then, I would just have to tell myself, “Well, the only thing they know about me are my books and that TED Talk. If they didn’t want that, they wouldn’t hire me.”

I’m not trying to be boastful. They would say, “This is literally the best. You got our best speaker rating ever. Everybody was talking about it. We want you to come back,” and I was like, “Okay.” That gave me the confidence to go. I can be me, as big as I want, that’s why they want me. But it wasn’t easy for sure. I’m not going to lie; it was not easy. It’s not easy to believe in yourself. Public speaking is flipping hard.

Yeah. I just finished an eight-month long program from Heroic Public Speaking, trying to be the best speaker that I can. It was amazing and people take it very seriously. I mean, I take it seriously too, but it’s a big deal and I just love your approach where it’s like, “Okay. Let’s trust. Trust myself, trust the flow, and go through it.”

Every single time before I’m going on that stage, I have this little talk that I have with myself. I say, “The people out there want me to succeed. They’re not sitting there, looking to pick me apart if I say ‘like’ too many times or judging what I’m doing with my hands. They’re there to have a good time.” I always try to come out of the gate really strong and say something funny so that they can relax. So they go, “Okay, she’s going to be okay. This isn’t going to be awkward, or weird, or not funny.” Rather than, “we’re all sitting here with this stupid look on our faces feeling sorry for poor Jenna.” As soon as you get that  little bit of feedback like, “Okay, they’re having fun. I can have fun and we’re just all there to have fun.”

Nice. How did you choose your first talk?

If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon by Jenna McCarthy

It’s funny. I had just had my marriage book. I run a marriage memoir called, If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon. It’s a funny book. It’s very well received. I was on the Today Show talking about it and people really liked it.

When the TED organizers came to me, they said, “Why don’t you do a talk about writing?” I was like, “Well, that felt so presumptuous of me. Let me stand on a stage and tell you how to be a great writer. Write like that.” That makes the assumption that I’m a great writer. I think I’m a great writer but I wasn’t in this place where I thought I should really get up and talk to people about how to be more like me. I couldn’t do it. I was like, “You know, I have this marriage book. I’ve been researching it for the last 18 months. I have so much of this research and information in my brain and I can make it funny.” I would much rather do that and say, “I can be an expert on marriage because I’ve been doing it for decades rather than I’m an expert on writing it.” I really didn’t want to do that. Fortunately for me, they agreed. Of course, I had to get up, audition, and I had to give them an idea of what I would talk about. So, that’s how that went down.

Nice. When you did a research for 18 months, what were some of the most surprising facts that you found?

What I did for that TED Talk was I took what I thought was not necessarily surprising, but sort of ridiculous. I would set up Google Alerts. This is what I do. So anytime there’s anything in the news about marriage, I would get these alerts that say, “Communication is really important for marriage,” and I’m like, “No shit. Really? That’s a headline. We just spent a whole lot of money on a study to tell you that? This is news?” Another headline would be like, “Winning an Oscar is the death of your marriage.” I don’t think that would help me. I was like, “Help me. Can you have something that’s going to help me? That’s going to apply to 16 people a year and there’s 14 million of us.” That’s not going to help.

I was trying to turn the whole amusing “research” aspect of marriage on its ear. But then, I did start finding things that were really practical and helpful. And even as someone who had been married for a really long time, there’s something I talked about in my speeches because this is a super great analogy.

You have to ask your partner for what you want. Remember that if they don’t hear it, they won’t do it.

There have been studies where they asked men and women separately, “What are the things your partner could do to make you happier in your marriage?” These are little things. These are mostly happy people. It’s not like stop cheating on me or stop smoking crack. It’s really like, what are the little things that you wished you could tell your partner that you wanted?

One of the things that the men always say, which I find interesting, is they would like it if their wives would notice their efforts and express sincere things. That sounds serious and what does that actually mean? So, I gave this a whole analogy. This is what happens when you’ve been married for more than five minutes. Your husband comes in, big old dopey smile on his face and he says, “Hey honey, I took out the trash,” and you’re like, “How would you like your trophy engraved? Big deal, whatever.” So what we do is we wind up, “Well, yeah. While you were doing that, I was making breakfast, I was making lunch, I was making beds, I was driving the kids, I was at la-la-la.” And all he’s really saying is, “I’m trying to make you happy. I’m trying to do things.”

Rather than getting this whole competitive, “I do more than you and I bring more to this table but you don’t appreciate me.” The idea behind this is it comes back to you. Really. That took research for that. But if you didn’t hear, “Wow. That’s something that would really make my partner happier on a daily basis.” If you don’t believe that- this is the analogy I give when I get up in front of my groups. I say, “Okay. You picture yourself. You’re driving to work this morning, right? You’re at the red light and the light turns green. You’re about to go, but you notice a car is trying to merge into your lane. Instead of gently pressing the gas pedal, you gently pressed the break. You give that little wave, that little, ‘Go ahead. You go ahead,’ and you let the person in.”

That’s not happening in LA.

Yeah. That’s not happening, you’re right, but it could be. You could be the person that does it, but when you’re the person that does that, what do you want? What is it that you want when you make that colossal effort of stopping for a fraction of a second?

Harmonious drive.

You want a little wave. You want a thank you. You want that person to go, “I acknowledge that you just let me in.” And when they do, you drive along happily and everything’s great after that. But when they don’t, you’re like, “I’m pulling up behind him and going, ‘You’re welcome,’ but not really.” I got all day. That’s all we all want. We just want that little acknowledgment of our efforts. That’s tip number one.

Okay. That’s a good tip. Something that my husband and I are doing every night—we learned it from Harville Hendrix—is that we say a minimum of three things that we are grateful for in each other. It can be little things like, “Oh my God, thank you so much for opening the car door for me, or doing the dishes, or helping me with that.” My husband is the techy in the family so, “Thanks for helping me with that program, or with that computer problem.”

That’s cute in gratitude. We say that as a family at the dinner table every night, the three things that we are most grateful for.

How many are you in the family?

We have two teenage daughters who are flipping awesome. We definitely won the kid lottery. It’s funny, it doesn’t matter where we are. If we have company in our house, if we’re guests in someone else’s house, my kids are like, “We’re doing our three things,” and everybody is always like, “Oh, okay. This is neat. This is cool, I’ll do my three things.” It’s really special.

Always find the good in each other. It may be hard on some days but celebrate the little things. Click To Tweet

Yeah. It’s really special because we’re so conditioned to look at the glass half full and from prehistoric times, we are conditioned to run from the saber-tooth tiger and look for danger. Our brain didn’t develop that much in the last millions of thousands of years, and we still look for danger. We still look for what’s wrong. This is a beautiful rewiring and re-conditioning for us to look at, “Okay. What’s right? Why am I with this person? What do I love about my family?” and it’s just beautiful how we shift that focus.

It’s so important too because, sometimes, somebody always has a crap thing happening in their day. Maybe every single thing about your day was bad. That’s the whole idea especially when my kids were little. Now, they get it. You have to find the good. You have to look hard and, sometimes, the good can be, “This shitty day is almost over. That’s the best thing I’ve got.” That’s okay. You have to look. What you look for, you will find.

Sometimes, when they were little, they’re like, “I don’t have anything I’m thankful for.” “Really? You’re breathing, you’re upright, you have a roof over your head. Come on buddy, you can find three things I know it. I know it.”

And I love it because, in this generation of Instagram and social media, kids get their validation from social media and not from who they are or the little things, they think that, “Oh, I need to be a huge megastar to have value.” When you teach them that, it strengthens who they are and their self-identity.

There’s nothing humble about this brag. Can I brag about one of my daughters right now?


Last night, my 16-year-old high school daughter, who’s gorgeous and smart, she’s an athlete and an academic, one of her three things about her day was she started telling this story. There’s a boy with special needs at her school who picks up the lunch trash every day. He goes around and every time somebody has a piece of trash on their table that he gets to pick up, he gets really excited and says, “Wooh.” My daughter said, “I’m the only one that says ‘Wooh.’ back. So, he comes to my table a lot.” And she said, “he came to my table like five times and we were, wooh, wooh, wooh, wooh. Just being able to put that smile on his face made my day.”

That’s beautiful.

I was so choked up. I was like, “You go.” That’s everything. I said, “You know what? There are people that were sitting on your table that wished so badly that they could be you but they just care too much at what other people might think, “I don’t know. I don’t want to put myself out there,” though come back at some point and say, “You know what, Sophie? I remember you as the girl who didn’t give a shit at what other people think, who would high-five the guy with a special need, and I wished I could’ve been more like you.” I can guarantee you that will happen. I can guarantee.

Treat your husband like a dog. Speak his language and learn a lot from it.

It’s beautiful because people don’t learn by what we say. People learn by observing us. If it’s little people like our kids or just everybody around us, they learn from who we are, from our beingness.

So true.

So, in your research, you do the gratitude ceremony every night with your family, which is extraordinary. What are other little tweaks and things that you added to your marriage after that research?

Again, it sounds so obvious. Sometimes, if you don’t hear it, you don’t do it. I think, especially after being with someone for a long time, we tend to make assumptions like, “You should know what makes me happy. You should know that if I’m pouty, I want you to ask me what’s wrong.” We’re just all living our own lives, and we’re all so different. If my husband’s pouty and I ask him what’s wrong, he will bite my head off, like it would get so much worse. If I’m pouty and he doesn’t ask me then, I’m pouting twice as hard.

He doesn’t notice, of course, because he’s not me. The big thing that I think everybody needs to hear every single day is what you want and you got to ask for it. If not, here’s what’s going to happen. Me: “Where do you want to go to dinner tomorrow?” Him: “Wherever you want.” “Well, what sounds good to you?” “I don’t know, burgers?” “Oh, I don’t want to go.” I mean, with the whole time I’m thinking, “I really wished you would make reservations at Orion’s. That’s what I want.”

That’s a great restaurant, by the way.

I know, right? It’s like, “If you love me, you’d know where I wanted to eat. You’d know what my heart wants.” “No, no. I’m responsible for my happiness, you’re not. I need to tell you this would make me super happy.” Most partners, if you’re with somebody, if they’re married to you, here’s a big news flash, here’s a headline. They want to make you happy. If they don’t, that’s a whole another opera that Orion and I can’t fix. But if you go into all of your interaction saying, “I know this person wants to make me happy, maybe I didn’t make it clear.”

This is an actual fight I used to have with my husband. I’m a super neat freak, he’s pretty neat for a guy. I’m going to be pretty fair. He’s pretty neat for a guy. When I clean the kitchen, there’s the final sweep that I do and the sink—

Oh, I know. I have the same thing.

Don’t even get me started about how I have to load a dishwasher. Seriously, I could write a whole book about that. I know I’m the pain in the ass there, not him, but I like all my things a certain way.

So, we’re kind of newly married and we’re going through this thing where I go to bed early. He’s a midnight snacker. I would wake up in the morning and every single morning, there would be crumbs on the counter and in the sink. That’s all I could see. That was, literally, all I could see. I’d rinse it out, and I try to say, “Hey, honey. Next time maybe, could you just rinse the sink out” and he’d go, “Yeah. Sure. I’ll do that.” The next night, I’d wake up in the morning, crumbs all over the place.

Life is short. Appreciate what you have today because they could be gone tomorrow. Click To Tweet

There was a day and it was not our finest day by any stretch of the imagination, where I lost it over the crumbs, which are never just crumbs. I was like, “You literally hate me. You hate me like you just can’t do the one thing that would make me happy,” and he looked at me like I was crazy. He’s like, “I put the knife in the dishwasher. I wrap the bread in a special way that only Jenna likes it. I turn the mustard upside down so that it would come out easily. I don’t see the crumbs, Jenna. I don’t see them. They’re not important to me. I’m looking at everything else that I’m doing, and I’m patting myself on the back and going ‘I’m doing a pretty good job.’ You see the one thing that I’m not doing, and I think you think this Jenna,” he said this to me in the fight, “I think you think that I go over to the neighbor’s house and borrow extra crumbs just to sprinkle in the counter, just to annoy you. I really don’t, I want to make you happy. I’m never going to do it because you have a lot of needs,” and he was right. This morning, there were crumbs on the sink and I’m like, “Well, look at the other stuff he did.”

That’s so cool.

Focus on the positive. What you see, you will get. You say to somebody, “Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for cleaning up the crumbs this time.” Next time, he’s going to be like, “Oh, remember how happy she was when I did the crumbs? She really likes that crumb thing.” It’s not his thing and in his defense, he would say this, “You have a lot of things,” and I do. I have a lot of things.

I had two authors on this show. One is John Gray, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. The other one is Alison Armstrong. They both talk about the differences between men and women. On my interview with Alison, she said that when a woman goes into a room, everything screams at her. If there’s something on the floor, the bed is not made, it screams at us. When the men go in, they won’t even see it. It doesn’t register because, again, going back to prehistoric times where the women were gatherers, we had to be hyper-vigilant and look for the poison berries and look for what we can get for our tribe. Men are hunters. They’re single-focused. They just look for what they need to bring, for what they need to do.

As I said, our brains did not change much since. We still have it, but it’s the modern-day version of it where we go into a room and everything is a mess, and we’re like, “I can’t even breathe. This is too much.” When the men go into the same room, they’re like, nothing.

Look at that big cozy bed. I think I’m going to lay on it. Yay.

Yeah. That’s such a wonderful point you brought. What other communication skills have you developed?

Well, I wrote a book with a pastor friend, Mark Gungor. He’s absolutely amazing, you should 1000% have him on your show. He has a whole marriage improving seminar called, Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage. My husband and I actually just went and saw him live, and my kids were so jealous because they know him and they’ve seen him, and they’re like, “We want to go.” We’re like, “No. It’s an overnight. Date night.”

Treat Him Like a Dog by Mark Gungor & Jenna McCarthy

He and I wrote a whole series. There’s a book for women about men. The one for women is called Treat Him Like a Dog (and other tips for marital bliss).

Actually, when I think about it, I treat dogs really wonderfully.

That’s exactly it. Treat him like a dog. There are ten other things that you treat him like but it’s the idea that you think about, if you go to work all day and your dog’s at home, when you walk in that front door, what do you do? You drop to your knees and you let that dog lick your face. “Who is a good boy? Who wants a snack? Who needs to go for a walk?” Like, “I’m all about you. What are your needs? I need to show you that I love you and I feel so bad that I was apart from you.” That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

When you want something from your dog, you don’t go into a long, complicated, laborious explanations of why you want him to give you his paw. You say, “Rex, paw.” Right? Your name and what I want. For women, in particular, we tend to be, “You know what honey, I’ve had a really hard day and my boss kind of gave me this side eye. Then, I tried to use this coupon at Bed Bath & Beyond and the lady said it was expired,” and he’s going, “What do you want? I’m a fixer. I want to fix this. I don’t know how to fix it. You need to tell me what you want.” Then, they tune out. And then, we’re like, “You never listened to me.” We’re not speaking their language. Learned that a lot. “Honey, dinner, seven o’clock. Bam.”

Yes. I like that.

It’s a good one.

It’s a great one. What about when men are sick?

Run. Run into the other room. No, I got to say, this is an area that I, for sure, need to work on. I need to work on it.

I don’t know. It just seems like when you’re sick, you’ll do everything, and it’s all good. When they’re sick, it’s like the whole world just collapsed. It’s like a post-apocalyptic scenario. They’re like, everything is doom and gloom, and they can’t do anything.

In the compassionate corner of my mind—fairly small in this arena, I’m not going to lie—I do know because I’ve interviewed many men, not about being sick per se, but about the pressure that they feel all day. Every day as providers, as fathers, and as role models. They’re not just role models for their sons. They’re role models for their daughters at what they want them to find in a partner or sons – if gay, whatever.

The key in keeping your identity in marriage is knowing your identity.

I really think that, subconsciously, for a lot of men who feel that pressure all day, every day, all day, every day, when they get the man cold, it’s like, “Oh God, I can just take a break. I can relax. I can go lay down on the middle of the day like I need this and I don’t know how to ask for it. I don’t ever want to look weak. I don’t ever want to look like all of this life pressure is getting to me, but I think it does.” If it goes back to rather than what we’re trying to do as women, which is act all superior and go, “I have this same thing last week, and I still went to work and got the kids fed,” what they really want is, “Here baby, let me put a pillow under your feet and bring you some soup.” That won’t kill us. It really wouldn’t kill us.

Yeah. It wouldn’t.

I need to take my advice. I’m not going to lie.

It wouldn’t but if you’re both sick, uhh.

Yeah, forget it. You need to be in separate rooms.

Separate continents.

Yes, exactly.

To continue this thought pattern, what do you do when your husband drive you nuts?

Do you want me to be honest or I do you want me to say what I should do?


To be honest, like many people, I married — I won’t say my opposite; we are very, very opposite — the person that has the qualities that I don’t and vice versa. He’s very calm, he grew up in a very volatile house, he’s very uncomfortable with conflict. I am like, “I’m mad as hell, I’m not going to take it anymore, I need to tell you right now at full volume, and then punctuate it with the slamming of the door.” That’s my go-to visceral response to an argument.

We have some pretty one-sided ugly arguments that are usually me screaming and him completely shutting down, and then later having the same kind of recap, “Honey, when you go Linda Blair, I can’t really hear what you’re saying because I’m too busy shutting down.”

In my defense, I feel like, in the 20 something years that we’ve been together, I’ve gotten better and better about if something will bug me, I’ll actually let it slide. I’ll let it side. I’ll let the next thing slide. Then, something will happen and it’s usually something that’s happened in the past, that same kind of you’ll do the hurry up gesture when I’m in the middle of the story or something else that’s like, “I’m taking this one.” It’s such a conscious thought. “I need to take this one, I’m going to fight this.” That just pushed my buttons a little bit too hard.

In marriage, one choice can put you closer or farther to where you want to be. Click To Tweet

I think we’ve gotten better. I would say earlier in our marriage, “I could go five days not speaking one word, not making eye contact in the house, giving you the cold shoulder in the hallway. I could go forever.” I mean, we’ve got kids, we’re juggling all the things, we’re running six business between us. “The sink in the bathroom is leaking, so I need to talk to you because I really need you to fix that.”

We had some fights early on our marriage where I was like, “You know? I don’t even know why I married you. Maybe, I’ll just file for a divorce.” Later, he’d be like, “What the hell was that?” “I don’t know. I was just mad.” He’s like, “Don’t ever say that to me. That’s not an option.” I don’t think I’ve said that in like 10 years, which is good.

Hopefully, you learn. You get a little bit better. But at the end of the day, we are who we are, not that it excuses it. Of course, if who we are is like you’re punching holes in walls or faces and you need to get that looked at. I’m a big, loud, use my hands, door slammer. I just am. I tried my best to squash that as much as I can, but I’m not always good at it.

Everything you’re saying, I can see myself in you because I’m the same type where I’m this fire dragon and he’s this iceman. Sometimes he’s very stoic.

Sometimes the more stoic they are, the fierier you are. You need to be fiery enough for both of you.

Give me some answers. Don’t go away, I need a response. I’m Israeli, so I come from a culture where it’s more like Italian and we speak with our hands, people are loud, and that’s how we felt conflict. I mean, it’s the opposite.

Whoever screams aloud obviously wins the fight, honey. I’m just trying to win. Sorry.

Yeah. One thing that really helps us especially in the beginning—we still use it every once in a while, we use aspects of it—is the Imago Dialogue.

Like the, “I hear what you’re saying,” that whole thing?

Yeah. You just hear what that other person’s saying. You give them the stage. You are in a place of listening and empathizing and that’s it. You don’t have to agree with their request, but you make sure that they are heard. That alone can disarm anyone.

What I’m hearing is you’re really sad and then you’re like, “No. Actually, what you should be hearing is that I’m pissed,” and then you go, “Oh okay. Let me hear that.”

And you’re pissed. It makes sense that you’re pissed. I can see how you’re pissed. People are feeling hurt and that’s okay. That resolves the conflict. Then, after you finish that dialogue on both sides, you can come to a solution from a place where you both are calm, loving, and from a place of love and connection.

Right. My husband and I, years ago, went to this marriage seminar and it was kind of funny. I was writing for a lot of magazines. I was writing for Self Magazine at the time. I read about relationships a lot. They said, “Would you guys like to go experience this marriage saving seminar?” and I was like, “Well, I guess, if you’re going to pay me, but our marriage is really good and we don’t have anything to work on.”

We were the first people crying in that thing, by the way. We learned so much. At the first break, my husband was out in the lobby buying all the materials, like, “Oh, this was really good.”

You're only going to be miserable if you want to win every single fight with your husband. Click To Tweet

What seminar was it?

The guy’s name is Terry Real. He still does it and it was called Relational Life Institute. It was very different from any other kind of therapeutic approach. It was super intensive, like a very small group, very intimate. People are telling all of their secrets and almost everyone at that seminar was at the make-or-break point like this was their last ditch effort. They tried therapy, they’ve done the trial separations. One of them was like, “Let’s fix this.” There was one man, in fact, who couldn’t even get his wife to come. He was there by himself. He was an older guy at the time. I was probably in my mid-30s, he was probably in his early 60s. He just sat there crying.

Terry’s whole thing in this seminar which was super eye-opening to me, was like, “Couples literally will sit in my office. I’m the marriage ref, like, ‘Well, he left the crumbs in the sink.’ ‘Well, I did all the other things.’ And in this fight, Orion wins.” He’s like, “What I say to people all the time is, ‘Do you want to win or do you want to be married?’ If you want to win every single fight, you’re going to be freaking miserable. If it’s like, ‘Hah. I won another one,’ and you have your little scorecard over here or if you go, ‘You know what? It doesn’t even matter. Where do I want to be with this person in five minutes? Do I want to still be back to back flipping in the bird under the table or do I want to be hugging and saying, I’m sorry, too?’ Where do I want to be in five months? Do I want to be looking back on this and going, ‘Oh my God, remember that huge fight? That was totally hilarious. We totally did that’ or, ‘Do we want to be in a divorce court?’”

Every minute of every day, we all have choices. If you’re in a grumpy mood and I decide to walk away, I don’t even want to be near you because you’re so grumpy. I also have a choice to walk up, just wrap my arms around you, give you a hug, and say, “I love you even when you’re grumpy.” So, all day, every day, when you’re at those little crossroads and you felt, “Where do I want to be in five minutes, five months, five years? Where do I want to be? Right now, one choice is going to put me closer to that and one choice is going to put me farther.”

Everything- you ask yourself where you want to be and you try. You’re not always going to be perfect, none of us are. I just told you how horribly imperfect I am. If you can try to be more conscious of that, which way is going to put me closer to what I want, and then, the key, of course, is being really clear about what you want.

I’ve got four more years with kids in the house. One of them graduates in two years and the other one graduates in four. It’s just going to be me and Joe. What do I want that to look like? Do I want to have a warm loving relationship with a man that I have fun with, that we’ve invested time giving to each other and getting to know what makes the other person happy, or do I want to be in this big huge house, rambling around on my own, reading a book while he watches TV? I don’t want that.

Yeah. It’s good to have a vision and intention for your relationship because we tend to forget why we’re with this person, we tend to forget why we love this person, and we tend to forget our vision when we are just living in the moment, especially when life gets busy, when some life struggle happens. These are the most important times to go back to intention, what we want to get out of this relationship, to see our vision of the relationship, and what do I want to gain out of it.

It’s so true though, but you just said something about the big things. My husband and I have lost three parents between us since we were first together and those moments actually are some of the most bonding. When that person lets you be your maddest, ugliest, saddest self and he’s really there for you.

I’m sorry for your loss.

You’re so sweet. Yeah, it’s tough. I mean it is. Life is tough. Do not get me wrong. I’m not talking about losing a child together for your family home, the big things that we all go through losing parents, having to care for them, whatever. The marriage killers are the little, all day, every day, we lose sight of why we’re together because we’re managing a house, co-parenting kids, and the kid’s thing. That’s a whole another opera. You got to be really on the same page in a million different ways.

People tell me—we don’t have kids yet—they’re like, “Oh wait ’til you have kids. Life changes then,” and I’m like, “Okay, how? I don’t know.” I always get big answers. Maybe, you can give me a better answer to what changes when you have kids?

Well, there’s so many. This would be a 17-hour talk. This is something in many years of writing about relationships. I was writing a story that I’ll never forget for New Parent magazine. It was about divorcing when your kids are young. This one therapist I interviewed—I apologize I can’t recall his name because it was 20 years ago—he said, “When a couple comes to me, and says, ‘We want a divorce,’ and they have young children, the very first thing I ask them is, ‘How young is your youngest?’ If they say anything under than two, I say, ‘You don’t want a divorce, you want a nap. You just want a nap. You are exhausted.’”

I should probably say this because I’ve got a lot of people who read my marriage book and they say, “Oh my gosh, we’re exactly like you and Joe except for I’m Joe and my husband is you.” We tend to fall into these roles, of course, but when the kids are little, there’s either one of them is the caretaker and one of them is the sole breadwinner. If you have a stay-at-home parent, in those cases every single person thinks that their job is the harder one. The person going off to the office all day is jealous and resentful that they’re not getting to be there with their child and thinking that it is so easy lounging on the couch eating bonbons. And the person at home is puked on and shit on, and having no adult interaction all day is like, “I would give anything to be able to put on actual clothing that wasn’t spit up, stained, and go have an adult day and book a lunch at a restaurant.”

Everyone kind of feels like they’re getting the short end of the stick. Then, when the working parent comes home, the other parent’s like, “Here, take this kid. I’m done with it.” And then, “Well, can we have time?” “No. Now, I want to go shower.” It is hard. Of course, the more common scenario today is most families are dual income so you’ve got two people working and leaving the baby, feeling sad, resentful, and guilty. And then, coming home and still having to do all of them. “Got to make the pediatrician appointment and the dentist appointment, and schedule the babysitters.” All the things are so much. It’s so much. Nobody teaches you how to do any of it.

You’re adding four full-time jobs to what your other full-time job was. Before you had kids, your full-time job was being sexy, frisky newlyweds. Now, that job is bye-bye. Who has time for that job? “I’m sorry, I have these six other new jobs.” It really does take a while to get back to, “Oh, this is about us. Remember us? Remember the reason we had the kids? Remember how we got the kids? Yeah, that was me. Hi, I like you,” because you don’t for a while, unless I’m completely misguided. I’ve talked to a lot of people and they’re like, yes, all the yeses. Yes, it’s hard.

Jenna, I’m scared.

No, it’s fine. You’re already a step ahead of the game because you’re having these conversations and asking these questions. When I had kids, there was one book about the subject and it was like the girlfriend died to pregnancy.

The Parent Trip by Jenna McCarthy

I actually wrote a book after I had my first daughter, called The Parent Trip. This was my first book, the first book I wrote. I’ve ghostwritten some books but my first memoir was called The Parent Trip: From High Heels and Parties to Highchairs and Potties. There’s literally a whole entire chapter on how much I hated my husband. The first day, he was like, “All right, so I’m going to work,” and I’m like, “I used to go to work, now I’m just sitting here with leaking boobs, a crying baby, and I have no identity.”

It starts with the woman right away, like there’s no drinking, you can’t eat or breathe. Whatever all the restrictions and some people want to know how much you weigh every five minutes. “I don’t really want to tell you.” “I’m just going to need you to get on the scale.” Seriously, at the end of my first pregnancy, I was like, “Just add five pounds to the last number, okay? I’m not getting on the scale. I’m not.”

You kind of by nature because you’re two people. When you’re pregnant, you’re two people. You’ll lose your identity a little bit. I’m sure some women have an easier time than others. I found it hard, I did. Obviously, the most worthwhile thing now is watching my kids. My oldest just started driving a couple of weeks ago and she’s like, “I’m going to go up to the Galleria.” And I’m like, “Oh. Bye. You’re your own person, you can take yourself places.” It’s crazy, it goes like that. Now, I get to get my life back a little bit.

That is so funny. I feel like, for women, there is a loss of identity. Many stages of the marriage, when they’re pregnant, when they become mothers, when they get a little older. So, what do you with this? How do you dance with this building a new identity for yourself?

When you get married, you change your name, right? I literally remember my husband’s last name is Quido and somebody called our house. The first time somebody called and they said, “Can I please speak with Mrs. Quido?” I was thinking to myself, “Why would my mother-in-law be here? That is so weird. She doesn’t even live… Oh my God, that’s me. I’m Mrs. Quido. Hi, can I help you?” That is a mind messer, if ever there was one.

I remember when my kids were little. We had friends. We were talking about getting married and they said, “Shh.” My father said, “Is she going to take his name?” I said, “I don’t know,” and my other daughter said, “How come the boys don’t have a choice?” I was like, “Oh, I like the way you just swept that,” because they don’t. We actually have the choice. I did take my husband’s name legally so we would all have the same name, but I still go by McCarthy, my middle name, for all of my work and I do have that choice. I actually have a friend who she and her husband combined their names and made a new whole family name, which is the modern world that we live in.

I went on a tangent to answer your question. Let’s see, how do we keep our identity? I think the key to keeping your identity is knowing your identity. Like who am I? Who do I want to be in this world? The last 16 years, the biggest part of my identity, to be honest, has been a mom. I’m okay with that. What do I want that mom person to look like? I want that mom person to be smart, savvy, fun, funny, but also, she isn’t taking any shit and you’re not going to talk back to her. You’re going to be really good friends someday, maybe not right now because she’s the boss and you’re not. That’s all very conscious. It’s how do I want to be in the world as that person.

I’m not discounting that men have this too, maybe my husband struggles with being a husband, dad, boss, and all of those other things. But I really do think for women, like at work we’re supposed to be really, “I started without being aggressive,” and speak our lines. With the mom, with the wife, or they’re nurturing and the mother with a bandaged knee.

I think it’s okay to say, “I’m going to be this person in this capacity and this person in this capacity,” and just checking in with yourself. Is this the wife that I wanted to be? Did I want to be the naggy complaining about the crumbs wife? No. I want to be the cool, fun, loving, let’s go line dancing on a Thursday night wife. I’m failing in that right now. How am I going to work on that? I’m going to work on that.

Do you have any daily rituals to remind you of that intention?

No, but I’m going to start one.

Start now.

I’m super guilty. No, I don’t. I really do try to be a good person. I try to make choices. I’m getting old. Honestly, I think about my legacy, I think about my kids and if I want them to remember mom being this screaming lunatic banshee or mom holding it together and saying, “You know what? You may not talk to me that way. Here’s the consequence. Here’s the calm rational consequence of that.”

Like I said before, I have failed epically. My head had spun on my neck, Linda Blair style. I’m not going to lie. I don’t always regret it. Sometimes, when I really lose it, you get this look of, “Oh, mom is serious this time,” and then they, “We’re sorry, Mom. We’re sorry.” It’s a balance. Nobody’s perfect in 50% of the time. I think if you want to be the best version of yourself that you can be at all times, you have to be aware of that vision and that intention. I think you’ll do a much better job at that than if you aren’t.

Beautiful. So, you’ve been a comedic writer and speaker for a long time. We actually spoke about how people who are funny, actually have higher intelligence.

We did.

We did and I do believe in it. It takes this extra something to see the humor in things. You’ve been writing a book that is a memoir and it is a little bit heavier and very different than your other million books that you wrote.

It is. I had ghostwritten, which means don’t have my name on it. I wrote somebody else’s book, usually a famous person, and they get to say they wrote it. I’ve done that before and always left me feeling a little bit sad like, “Oh, I gave away my voice, that’s my gift, that’s my skill, I’ve worked really hard at that.” So, I felt really good about my career of writing all these books that were just me and my voice, and my story, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, I write both.

I had a, she’s more of an acquaintance than a friend at a time; she’s now my best friend on the planet, but she was an acquaintance. I had written about her many years ago because she’s a well-known bridal designer. Her name is Erin Cole. She is fabulous, glamorous, successful, wealthy, and the warmest. You look at this person. Google her while we’re talking. She’s drop dead gorgeous. She’s got everything you could ever think of a human could ever hope to have in this world.

I’ve known her for about 12 years, and she would email me every time I had a new book come out, like “Oh. I just read your new released book. You’re so talented and maybe someday we could write my story.” I didn’t know her story, but I would look at her, her eloquence, her success, and all the things, all the trappings that I would think to myself. Probably, not a very interesting story like nobody really wants to read how fabulous and wonderful I am.

One day, she said, “I’m ready to write my book. I know you’re super busy. I see how many books you’re cranking out. I just wondered if I could send you one little thing and maybe you could point me in the right direction.” She sent me this little vignette story and it started with the sentence, “I was five the first time I slept outside alone.” I was like, “Oh. Okay, maybe there is a story. Maybe she’s got a story.”

Long story short, she started telling me her story and it was brutal. There was death, alcoholism, and addiction. There was suicide, there was PTSD, there was molestation. It went on and on. I said, “Honey, I don’t know why you would think I would be the person to write this book. I write humor.” She’s actually one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and she said, “No, I know. That’s why I picked you. I waited for you. I’ve been waiting for you. This book, nobody wants to read 300 pages of brutal, horrible, tragedy, and abuse. I need you. I need you to put your funny spin on it because there was funny and there was good and it does have a happy ending. I want people to get to the end.”

Without even really thinking it through, which I’m glad, because I might not have done it. I took on the project, we wrote it. If you look on Amazon, it has all five-star reviews. Good Housekeeping picked us as the book of the month. Cosmo called it one of the best books of the year.

What’s the name of it?

Size of Everything by Erin Cole & Jenna McCarthy

I should’ve probably told you that. I’m a really good marketer. I’m an excellent marketer. It’s called the Size of Everything and it’s pretty special. We’re working on getting it into schools. Just this week, we did a mother-daughter book club because high school girls are reading it because it goes through her life at that time.

Erin’s whole goal in writing this book was, “I want to change the world. I want people to look at people differently. I want kids to look at that kid who looks a little bit different, or acts a little bit different, or dresses a little bit different, and think, ‘Remind me some serious shit going on in their life. Maybe I could be kind to that person.'” This was when I was telling you earlier my not so humble brag about my daughter last night. She knows Erin and Erin’s story of course, but when she was talking about high-fiving that boy in her class, I was completely choked up.

I said, “Honey, I get emails every single week from people, every single week that say, ‘I knew Erin Cole. In high school, she was the nicest person in the entire school.’ You would never have known. You would’ve never known that these horrible atrocities were happening in her life, but she just put on a smile and kind of got through the days. She was kind to everybody. Maybe, just be compassionate because you don’t know what you don’t know.”

It’s a beautiful message. It’s such a beautiful message. I love it.

She’s beautiful. You should have her on your show. She’s beyond.

Yes, I would love to. Wow, so impressive. I feel like I want to go back and read all your books.

Oh, I will send you a big box.

Thank you. What are your three top tips to living a stellar life?

Number one, all day, every day, have some sort of gratitude practice. I do not care if it’s inside your head. I don’t necessarily need to go meditate on a mountain, but what you look for, you will find. Look for the things in your life that make you happy and that you appreciate because whatever they are, they could be gone tomorrow. Appreciate them today. Life is short. That’s number one.

Number two, learn to say I’m sorry. This one was really, really big. I felt like I was raised without that. Not comparing to Erin Cole, but I’ve had a fairly dysfunctional childhood and no one ever apologized to me for anything and I wanted that a lot. I even asked for it and didn’t get it. I feel like as a wife, as a friend, as a mother, one of the most powerful things I can do to be a better person every day is to admit when I’m wrong. Again, not a natural trait for me, not something I learned but something that I want to be better at all the time and I’m conscious of.

Number three, laugh a lot. Find people that can make you laugh. Laughing is so good for you, it’s so important. There’s so much hardness in the world and laughter is really the best medicine, I think.

I love it. Wow, this conversation was amazing and I really appreciate you. If people want to know more of you, read your books, maybe hire you for more speaking gigs, just connect with you, where can they go?

They can even see me in the bathtub, Orion, at jennamccarthy.com.

Perfect. Thank you so much, Jenna.

Oh my gosh, this was so fun. Thank you for having me. I love it.

Thank you and thank you, listeners. Remember to have a gratitude practice because what you look for, you will find. Learn to say I am sorry and admit when you’re wrong. Laugh a lot because laughter is the best medicine and have a Stellar Life. This is Orion, until next time.

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

✓ Acknowledge your husband’s efforts and make him feel appreciated on the daily. A simple “thank you” can go a long way in keeping the fire burning
✓ Always look for things in your life that make you happy. Appreciate every moment because nothing is permanent.
✓ A bad day doesn’t mean a bad life. Focus on the good and count your and your partner’s blessings and accomplishments more than your struggles.  
✓ Don’t expect your husband to be a mind reader. Let him know what you want to avoid any misunderstanding.
✓ Learn your husband’s language. You are both separate individuals with different cultures and upbringing. Understanding his nature will lead to better communication.  
✓ Spend quality time with each other. Arrange date nights without the kids and do something fun together.  
✓ Don’t lose your identity in the relationship, remember self-care and self-awareness. The more you know who you are, the more unlikely it is that you’ll lose yourself.
✓ Learn to say “I’m sorry.” Admitting you’re wrong instead of escalating a heated argument can help save your relationship.
✓ Grab a copy of Jenna McCarthy’s book, If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon.

Links and Resources

About Jenna McCarthy

Jenna McCarthy is a TED speaker, internationally published writer and the author of 16 (mostly humorous) books for adults and children.



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