Ask Mary Jo: Keeping marriage fun & quieting self-defeating thoughts

Hi Mary Jo,

What are some tips for keeping marriage fun after 20 plus years?



Marriage experts agree the biggest killers of fun in marriage are complacency, stress, and boredom. Here are tips to combat all three. Practice as many as you can every day and share the list with your partner.

  1. Schedule a weekly date night and take turns planning the date.
  2. Make that surprise overnight getaway happen sooner rather than later.
  3. When you think of something sweet about your spouse during the day, text them and tell them.
  4. Schedule and sync intimacy times on your calendars. Couples who schedule sex have sex.
  5. Keep an active list of fun things to do together in a central area so you always have something to try together.
  6. Quit making excuses for not putting effort into your relationship.
  7. Wear outfits your partner likes.
  8. Go to bed as often as you can together. Skin to skin touch heals the body both physically and emotionally. Put away those thick flannel pajamas – summer is here!
  9. Share the house responsibilities and chores. When possible, do them together.
  10. Praise each other in front of your children whenever you can. Spouses thrive on positive comments made by their partner, and children learn what healthy love looks like.


Hi Mary Jo,

How do I quiet self-defeating thoughts?


Tiffany, everyone has a few self-defeating thoughts, and that’s normal. However, when it becomes excessive, it increases stress and depression. It also makes you feel like giving up. Here are suggestions that can help you minimize the effects and put you back into the driver’s seat in attaining your goals. 

  1. Challenge your inner critic. Before you begin the shame game, ask yourself what your best friend or someone who loved you would say. She or he would probably say, “Was it really that bad?” They would go on to encourage you and help you see the situation from another point of view. Imagine what you’d say to a friend who called you and told you that this happened to them. Talk to yourself using the same supportive language you use when talking to a best friend or loved one.
  2. When you make a mistake or begin having negative thoughts, keep an imaginary box in your mind and put the negative messages in there. Lock the box after each one and file it away. This method works great if your thoughts lead to panic.
  3. Take the name calling away. For example, replace, “I’m so stupid,” with, “I feel like what I did was stupid.” This keeps your focus on the action or decision instead of letting it label or identify you.
  4. Give your inner critic a name. When you name the negative thoughts or voices, it helps you assume control and you begin to see the common pattern. Naming them also helps you talk to them and banish them from your thoughts. 
  5. Embrace your imperfections. The inner critic is learned in childhood when a child is constantly trying to get a parents or guardian’s attention. If the child doesn’t get what they need from the adults who love them, they keep trying harder and harder. Perfection is not a goal – no one is perfect.

Remember that feelings come and go. We need to learn how to move beyond those feelings to accept our mistakes and grow from them. Give yourself the same empathy you give others, and you’ll quiet the self-defeating thoughts.