They say you can never understand someone else’s marriage. But this week, New York Magazine and the Cut decided to try. We interrogated dozens of couples (and a throuple) to see what makes their marriages work — or not.
Carol and Alden Beauchemin, Married 29 Years
Carol and Alden Beauchemin have been separated twice during their nearly three-decade marriage. She runs a party-planning business; he’s a self-employed land consultant and developer, and they credit the survival of their marriage to a marital strategy she discovered online. Carol is such a devotee that she coaches other wives on how to surrender, but she doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea. “I was watching Fifty Shades of Grey the other day, and Christian was asking [Anastasia] to surrender to BDSM,” she says. “I was sick. That’s not what it is at all.”
Carol: I’ve built my business from the ground up to a team of over 500 women across the country. That pays all our bills and really supports our family. But my tendency was to micromanage his business too. I always knew better.
Alden: What I’ve found is that women want security in a relationship. I’ve been self-employed for 30 years, and that’s always created a lot of stress and resentment. As much as I enjoyed it, it wasn’t enjoyable for her.
Carol: We also made a commercial-property investment that put us into massive debt, and I was so scared about losing everything, losing our home. That caused a lot of fighting between us.
Alden: In 2016, we were separated and started seeing a counselor, and he was advising my wife that my business was a failure, our relationship was a failure. All he could recommend was that we look seriously at divorce.
Carol: That’s when I found Laura Doyle’s Surrendered Wife skills. It was a Facebook pop-up ad, and I clicked on it. I remember this recognition in my soul, in my being, that was like, Oh my gosh, this totally could be the missing piece.
Alden: At first, I was concerned that she was getting involved in some lunatic group.
Carol: There was a deep sorrow inside me when I realized the things that I had done to hurt my husband. It sounds 1950s-ish, but I was not allowing him to be the man of the house. I was controlling him. Criticizing him. Never respecting him as a man. I didn’t realize that men tend to hear women’s helpfulness as criticism. Every time I offered a new idea of how he could track his jobs, or get his bills out better, or collect uncollected payments, he was hearing that as constant criticism. Now I try very much to keep my mouth shut.
Alden: As a result, I’ve been able to actually excel with my business, get back on track. And, of course, she’s not beating me up every night.
Carol: I’m responsible for making myself happy. In our separation, I started doing at least three things of self-care a day. If I’m always looking for proof that he’s a narcissist, well, I can find that. But if I start looking for why he’s an amazing man, I can find that too. I have a gratitude journal, and I practice actually expressing it, like texting him to let him know I’m grateful for something.
Alden: I have a lot of respect for my wife — I really believe she’s on a mission. It was bad. Every time we went to counseling, it was all about me changing or me going to anger management, and [now] there’s never any talk about it. My wife worked on herself, changed her attitude toward me, and it all worked out.
Carol: He’s not gonna write in a journal! But he shows up in a different way. He comes home and helps me in the kitchen, and he even does the dishes and laundry and things that before would’ve irritated him. He texts me during the day, calls me. He can’t wait to see me. In the bedroom, we’re both very respectful of each other. His needs are probably greater than mine — he’s a man. He’s in control, he initiates, but he knows if I’m exhausted or whatever. I was the one who consciously made the changes, but when a woman starts being grateful and happy and not always complaining, the men change too. It was hard because I am a controlling woman. But think about it: How does the dog always greet you? She’s running to the door, she’s wagging her tail, and you’re like, Okay, I’m happy to be home. If you walk in and the dog’s growling, banging the dishes in the sink, it’s, Oh no. We trust and believe that our man does want to take care of us, that he’s a strong man, a smart man, rather than Are you gonna screw up again? A man wants a safe place to show off as the hero.
*This article appears in the April 1, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!