Here’s my latest for eHarmony … Fairy Tale
Love isn’t perfect. It isn’t a fairy tale or a storybook, and it doesn’t always come easy. Love is overcoming obstacles, facing challenges, fighting to be together, holding on and never letting go. Love is work, but most of all, love is realizing that every hour, every minute, every second of it was worth it because you did it together.
I did it again last week. We were out of town and stopped for a cold drink after walking around for a few hours. The only open seats were at a table for 4 that had a couple seated at it. They motioned us over to join them (which was so nice!). After a quick moment to assess them, my gut told me they were dating so I dove right in! My husband rolled his eyes and smiled as if to say, “Here she goes again!”
“Can I ask you both a few questions …” I began, and the conversation rolled from there.
This couple was clearly dating. They were cute together. Laughing! Talking! Engaged (meaning engaged in conversation, not engaged to be married). They clearly had life experience. In other words, they weren’t 20-somethings, but rather more like 40-somethings! I wanted to know more about how they met, how long they had been dating, etc.
I love watching and listening to people talk about how they met. It’s always fun to see how they bounce the story back and forth between them, and present the “he said/she said” sides of their relationship. They were finishing each other’s sentences, laughing and smiling as they remembered different points in the story, and feeling good about reliving the start of their relationship.
As their story unfolded, Lisa mentioned a prior relationship in which she was involved, and how different it was to what she found when she met Dave. I asked her what she meant. Her answer was profound. I immediately grabbed a napkin off the table and wrote it down. Lisa said, “I want and need a real relationship, not a fairy tale. He wanted a fairy tale, and that won’t last.”
Lisa went on to say that many people would have considered her last relationship to be “perfect.” That was the problem. It was “too perfect.” He insisted on sending her hand-written cards and fresh flowers weekly. He bought her presents. He liked her to dress and look a certain way. He took her to the best restaurants where it was good to be seen.
What starts off as amazing, romantic, and loving can quickly become overwhelming, controlling and suffocating. When you can’t be as comfortable with each other hanging out in your old pajama bottoms watching a movie as you are getting all gussied up and eating at the best table in the best restaurant, there’s a problem! At least Lisa thought so, and so she called off the relationship. She said, “That kind of fairy tale – wanting things to be perfect all of the time – can’t be maintained forever. At some point, you have to do life with all of its imperfections, and people who want to control perfection can’t deal with that.”
Her comment reminded me of a song I love by John Legend,. The chorus starts like this: Cause all of me, loves all of you; Love your curves and all your edges, All your perfect imperfections.
Isn’t that a great mental image? When we are truly in harmony with someone, we do love their perfect imperfections. Things which might bother or annoy us in others become tolerable. We are willing to forgive or overlook these “imperfections” because their “perfections,” the good they bring to us, and the good they bring out in us, are so much more powerful.
Some people might have been surprised when Lisa ended the relationship. Others knew she absolutely made the right decision. People want real. They don’t want perfect. There is a difference.
What about you? Are you looking for perfect, or striving for real?
My latest for Huffington Post … May 2014 … Lose a Woman!
How do you lose a woman in 90 minutes?
When I was dating my husband, I recall telling him (and this was before he met my children), “I am falling in love with you, but if my kids don’t like you, we’re going to have a problem.” Harsh? Yes. But true!
As much as I was falling for this amazing man, my first allegiance was to my children who had already survived the divorce between their dad and me. Since my kids were still in elementary school, I didn’t want any issues between anyone I was dating and my kids, and certainly not with anyone I was going to marry.
Dating someone who has children (especially if you don’t!) can be very tough. I can only speak from the mom angle. Don’t mess with Mama Bear! We can be very protective of our children. Dating a single mom means you may sometimes feel that you are taking second seat, as opposed to being her first priority. You have to be OK with that. Dating a single mom means you may sometimes feel that she is choosing them, over choosing you. You have to be okay with that. Dating a single mom may mean that your wishes, interests or needs are sometimes put in the back of the line behind the wishes, interests or needs of her kids. And, you have to be okay with that! It’s not that single moms want to put their kids on a pedestal and idolize them, but rather that most moms are going to be protective of their kids and attentive to their needs. That’s just a fact of life! That’s Mama Bear 101. Speaking as a single mom who was dating, and is now married, I can honestly say I still sometimes feel as if I am being pulled between my kids and my husband. It’s the normal push and pull of all relationships. Am I doing enough here? Should I be giving more there?
But the quickest way to lose a woman is to have an issue with her kids. Guys, you want a quick way to get out of a relationship with someone you are dating who has kids? Say something rude about her kids. Disrespect her kids. Act jealous of her kids. Don’t show tolerance of her kids. That will get you kicked out of the relationship faster than almost anything else. It’s an easy way out if you are looking for one.
My two dogs have this uncanny ability to be sleeping quietly on the floor at my feet until I get on a phone call for work, and then they immediately become needy and whiny, scratching at my chair, barking, wanting to go outside, etc. One friend shared that her boyfriend acted the same way. He would be as sweet as could be and laid back/low-key, but as soon as her kids needed her for something like help with their homework, or to drive them to an event, he would suddenly become needy and demand her attention. It began to drive her crazy. She didn’t have the time or energy to deal with this kind of jealousy, so she said adios to him.
Here are five tips for dating a woman with kids:
1. Accept that you may come in second place. It’s pretty easy to pick up on this, and only the most confident of men can deal with this successfully. No one wants to feel as if they are being trumped by others, but the reality is that when the babysitter doesn’t show up or the baseball team makes it to the playoffs (on the night of your planned special date), you are just going to have to go with the flow. If your response is positive… and something to the effect of “I can’t wait to watch Junior play outfield in the playoff game,” you will win lots of extra points!
2. Be patient. It may take longer than you are accustomed to before she invites you to her home or to meet her kids. Taking this step will make her feel vulnerable, and it also exposes you to her kids. Chances are she is the kind of mom who doesn’t want her kids to see a revolving door of men so she will be very choosy about who gets to come in. I dated my boyfriend/now husband for several months before finally inviting him to meet my kids.
3. Learn that spontaneity is not always an option! Moms with kids have to plan things out. Not only is she managing her schedule, but also that of her kids. Someone always needs to be somewhere! And, if the kids are young, mom is not going anywhere without someone to watch the kids. You can’t always count on finding a spontaneous babysitter. From personal experience, I can tell you that once my need for a babysitter passed, then my need to be available to play chauffeur increased exponentially!
4. Be comfortable with direct and assertive! Many single moms have taken the time to look in the mirror post divorce and have dissected what worked and didn’t work in their past relationship. They become really good and figuring out what they want “next time around” and become even better at articulating this. They aren’t necessarily going to spend the time “hoping he will change” this time around. They know better. I became very comfortable articulating what I wanted and didn’t want in my relationship.
5. If you think her kids are brats, if you think they lack manners, if you think they are spoiled, if you think they are little terrors who need to be sent to military school, leave now! They very well may be all of those things, but the reality is that they aren’t going anywhere. Your differing opinion on the subject of her children will lead to ongoing frustration and heartache.
So, back to my initial query: How do you lose a woman in 90 minutes? Here’s how. A friend shared that her boyfriend proposed over a romantic walk at the beach one evening, following by a beautiful dinner outside watching the sunset. As you would expect, over dinner they began to talk about the proposal and plans for the wedding. During the course of the conversation, her fiancée gave her a card from each of his four grown children welcoming her to the family (“If you are reading this card, then we know you said yes! Congrats! Welcome!). Very sweet and thoughtful, right? But… she realized that her own three adult children hadn’t provided cards like his did. She asked about that. His response blew her away. Even though he knew her three kids, and saw them regularly, he said, “I never asked what they thought, or told them I was going to ask you. I didn’t think it mattered.” What she heard was, “I didn’t think they mattered.” Within 90 minutes of proposal, she called off the wedding saying, “You obviously don’t get me or know what’s important to me.” That is how you lose a woman in 90 minutes!
What about you? What other tips should be added for dating a woman with kids?
My latest for eHarmony … Quacks Like a Duck!
“If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”
Speaking of ducks. It would have been good to be a duck in Atlanta this morning. The morning commute in Atlanta is usually bad; when it rains, the traffic gets worse. When it storms, like today, the roads virtually shut down! Today’s long commute found me listening to a popular morning show. The DJ’s were talking about how scams are becoming more and more difficult to detect. We have all received the email from the Saudi Prince who needs you to deposit his $15M in your bank account and in return he will give you 10% of his money for your trouble. They laughed and said that anyone who responded to one of those emails deserved to be scammed.
They then started talking about other phishing emails. I know I received one a few weeks ago from “PeyPal” asking me to click their link and enter my account information. No thanks! The fact that they couldn’t even spell “PayPal” correctly was certainly a not-so-subtle hint that this was a fraud.
I received another email just last week from my “bank” asking me to click on the link and enter my account information. It certainly looked legitimate. It had the right brand, the right feel, the right logo … but then I noticed a few things that made me start to hesitate. Little clues here and there just didn’t feel right. There was the sentence that ended in a preposition. There was the use of the word “a lot” instead of the more professional “frequently.” There was the sentence that didn’t begin with a capital letter. I knew I couldn’t avoid these “hunches” that something wasn’t right. Delete!
This got me thinking. Don’t we frequently do the same thing with relationships? Sometimes the scammers are obvious and it’s easy to say no to the first date, or certainly to the second date. Picture the antithesis of your perfect date, and this is what shows up at your door or tries to get your number at the bar. Easy to identify. Easy to say no. This is the “Saudi Prince” version. It’s so obvious that this is wrong. You are crazy if you actually consider the date.
Then there are the other potential dates or relationships. They may initially look “right.” They may say the right things, dress the right way, drive the right car, and have the right job, but there’s still that little voice in the back of your head that says, ‘Hmm… ???” They may say they are “Paypal,” but in reality they are “Peypal.”
We need to pay attention to the warning signs that present themselves. Too often, we are so focused on the dream, our vision of what is perfect, that we allow ourselves to be sucked into that situation when all it will lead to is a nightmare. We want it to be right. We want him (or her) to be “the one” and so we ignore the obvious and the not-so-obvious clues that start to appear. Pay attention to the signals you are receiving. Pay attention to the voice in your head that processes something as odd or unusual.
There was my friend who was dating “the one” but started to wonder why she was never invited to his house. Turns out he had a good reason. He didn’t want her to meet his wife, of course! There was the guy whose date always showed up a bit tipsy and explained it away as “we had a special happy hour after work,” or “We went out and celebrated my friend’s promotion.” After several of these “tipsy” meetings, he decided this wasn’t a one-off event, but rather there was a drinking problem lurking. As the DJ’s said this morning, we all need to be mindful of being scammed. We need to pay attention to our intuition. We need to not ignore the clues. Better said, we need to remember that “If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”
What about you? Have you met someone who turned out to be a duck? What were the clues?
Brave! – Here’s my latest article for eHarmony … April 2014.
I just read a book that I have to write about. In fact, I think every single woman should read it. If you are a widow, it’s for you. If you have been through a divorce, it’s for you. If you have friends who are widowed or divorced, it’s for you. Anyone who has experienced a “loss” will be able to relate to this book and will get lost in the stories. Do I sound cliché if I say, “I laughed, I cried…?”
Written by Sue Mangum, “Braver Than You Believe: True Stories of Losing Love and Finding Self” is the story of six newly single moms who write about the worst event in their lives. Three of the six women found themselves widowed, and the other three found themselves confronting divorce. None of this was part of anyone’s “plan” for how their lives would play out, but as we all know, our “plan” often fails and we have to come up with contingency plans pretty quickly.
There are several things I loved about this book.
One, it wasn’t just six sad and tragic stories of six different women. The substance of the book comes from a year’s worth of emails that were exchanged amongst the women as they looked to create a safe space in which to grieve. They called themselves, “Single Moms After Loss: Talking Advising Healing Laughing Crying” or SMAL TAHLC (small talk!) for short. Nothing was off limits – which led to many of the tears that I shed, and the laughter that I shared – as I related to things with which they were dealing. The stories are crafted together in a brilliant roller-coaster of a ride.
Two, I loved how I nodded my head in agreement over and over as I read the book. I truly felt like I was a part of the group, or sitting around chatting over coffee with these women. I haven’t been widowed, but I have been divorced. I remember things I felt and thought during my divorce. To read these same issues being addressed by these women provided honor and validity to these emotions. We aren’t alone in going through life’s trials and tribulations. Others have forged a path. We can learn from each other. There’s comfort in knowing you aren’t alone, and you gain strength from seeing others persevere, survive, and thrive. It gives you hope and faith to see others travel through such dark times and come out alive and vibrant.
Three, I loved how no subject was off limits. These women address the questions that I know went through my mind, and so many other women with whom I speak. Things like: “Will I ever have sex again? (heck, I even have a whole chapter in my first book about this one!), “I thought I was religious, but is there really a God?,” “When should I tell my children that I’m dating?,” and “Wow…I’m happy…is that allowed?”
Aren’t all of our lives a soap opera? It was fascinating to gain an inside perspective in so many areas … often times like slowing down to watch the car wreck on the side of the road! I learned new things too. The divorced women shared “insights” as the widowed women started to date … often times “trusting” men who were still married, but who assured them that it was “just a technicality.” As we learned, that’s not always the case! Then there were the well-meaning friends, who just didn’t get how insensitive they were being! These were the women who were still married (and hadn’t endured the grief of losing a spouse to death or divorce) who said things like, “You are so lucky you get to do what you want when you want and don’t have to report back to anyone,” or “You are so lucky that you get ‘free’ time whenever your ex has the kids … what I wouldn’t give for some time alone!” I know I heard things like that when I got divorced.
If you are looking for a quick read, and an inspiring and relatable story, this book is for you. I bonded with the women in the pages of this book, and loved it when each ultimately accepted her new reality, and in several cases, discovered what Life 2.0 had in store for them. Yes, happiness is allowed, and you will find it again!
My latest for eHarmony … Think Twice!
“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” Napoleon Hill
I got a call last week from someone looking for some advice and perspective. She saw a text on her “tween” daughter’s phone from her ex-husband’s wife. It said, “I wish I was your mom.” She asked me what I thought … because her initial reaction was one of extreme annoyance.
I wholeheartedly agreed with her annoyance.
My ex-husband would crack a gasket, flip his lid, and lose his cool if he ever heard my husband say to my son, “I wish I was your dad.” My son has a dad. It’s my ex-husband. He’s a good dad. When I first remarried, my ex made it a point of asking me what our kids would be calling my husband/their step-dad. He wanted us to know that “dad” was taken. Of course it was! I assured him that “dad” was not going to be used, and that the kids would come up with a moniker that would be appropriate (and they have!). Being “mom” or being “dad” is an important title that is not to be thrown about loosely. It’s an honor, and it’s a commitment.
Let’s assume that all parents in this scenario are “good” parents! This young girl who fielded the text from her step-mom is put in a no-win situation. Guilt is never a good emotion, and it’s unfair for her brain to have to process this. “I wish I was your mom” conveys “I wish your mom wasn’t around.” If the girl agrees, “Yes, I wish you were my mom too,” then there’s an inherent feeling of taking sides against her mom. There’s that guilt. Regardless of the angst that many teen girls feel with their moms, there’s still an underlying level of loyalty and love. The other response is, “Not me; I’m glad you aren’t my mom.” That’s kind of mean to think, and it’s rejecting someone who just shared a personal emotion with you. Again, it creates a feeling of guilt against someone who does play a key role in this young girl’s life.
Why would any step-parent think that it’s OK to verbalize “I wish I was your mom/dad?” Whatever good intentions underlie the statement are completely lost in the delivery. While I agreed with the annoyance articulated by the woman who called, I also encouraged her to “take the high road” and give the benefit of the doubt to the step-mom. I’m sure she meant well. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. Nobody can be that clueless, can they?
“I am so glad I am your step-mom/step-dad!” How about rephrasing it this way? It conveys the same intention! It essentially delivers the same message, just in a way that is phrased more openly! It’s declaring something positive, not wishing for something impossible. The insidious negativity goes away. It removes the propensity for feelings of guilt to seep into the conversation.
Communicated this way, it honors both roles – mom and step-mom, dad and step-dad. It says, “I value my role as step-mom/ step-dad.” Phrasing it this way honors all players in the blended family. I get goosebumps when I witness my husband and my son bond over something, laugh, and share a special time together. It warms my heart when I hear him say, “I love being your step-dad.” It honors the special bond they have, yet it takes nothing away from my son and his dad.
What a difference a few words can make!
I wonder how many other things we say – perhaps with good intentions – that get interpreted wrongly or that serve to create guilt? Can you come up with any?
My latest for eHarmony – Proud of Me!
“It is not enough to be well-intentioned: one must strive to put those intentions into action in a capable way. One must consider the effect his actions will have on others. Looked at like this, to persist in ignorance is itself dishonorable.” Andrew Cohen
I’ve started to see a theme amongst the men and women with whom I speak post-divorce. It’s interesting. I’m seeing this more in people who have been divorced for a few years now, rather than those who have recently divorced. Life has started to settle down. Perhaps the drama and the emotion tied to the divorce has quieted. Affairs have ended. People have moved on. Perhaps they have remarried. Addictions are under control. The fuel is off the fire, and the erratic and often selfish behavior has ceased.
It’s at this point that I’m hearing men and women reflect and say, “I just want my kids to be proud of me.” Wow. What a sentiment. I think at our core we all strive to make those we care most about in our lives proud of us. My parents used to encourage me to “make us proud” when I was a teen. I knew what that meant. It meant to make good decisions and wise choices. It meant to be kind to others. It meant to treat people the way I would want to be treated. It meant not cheating, stealing or lying to get ahead. It meant honoring the morals and values on which I was raised. It goes without saying that we want our parents, our spouses, our friends, and of course, our kids, to be proud of us. The opposite of pride is shame. I can’t imagine anyone taking pleasure in being shamed or in feeling that our loved ones are ashamed of us.
Which brings me back to the sentiment I keep hearing: “I just want my kids to be proud of me.” A few years post-divorce, when things have quieted down, there appears to be a growing awareness and more reflection that begins to occur. It’s a rear-view mirror kind of thing – you know, hindsight is 20:20.
I believe that many of these moms and dads are finally able to look past their selfish behavior, some of which may have served as accelerators, if not actual causes, of the demise of their marriage, and view that behavior through a different lens. Suddenly it’s no longer a matter of “I’ll do what I want, with who I want, when I want,” and more a matter of “Oh no, I don’t want my kids to know about that.”
Unfortunately, the behavior that might now produce shame, and certainly not pride, is over and done. It’s a thing in your past. It’s in your rear-view mirror. I’ve spoken with dads who regret engaging in affairs as a way to end their marriages. I’ve spoken with women who regret becoming dating fanatics and having their kids see different men at the breakfast table on Saturday mornings. I’ve spoken with people who realize their addictions have become a part of the “story” that defines the lives of their kids. In talking about these years, kids talk matter-of-factly about having to “get dad off the floor and into his bed when he passed out drunk again,” or talking about how “creepy it was to have a man we didn’t know show up at the breakfast table, or remembering how “dad wasted all of our money and we had to move into an apartment.”
People tell me, “I only look forward; I don’t believe in looking backward,” as a means to justify what may have occurred in the past. You know, “Let bygones be bygones. There’s nothing I can do about it now.” BUT, what if back whenever said behavior was occurring, these same people followed their own mantra of “I only look forward; I don’t believe in looking backward?” Is it possible that in looking forward they would realize that they don’t one day want to be ashamed of their present-day actions? Is it possible that they might think, “I want to make my kids proud … and this isn’t the way to do that?” Is it possible that they might rethink the behavior which was about occur and instead take a higher road?
Mahatma Gandhi summed this up in three simple words: “Action expresses priorities.” If your priorities are your kids, and making them proud, then be sure that your actions are in line with what you deem to be pride-inducing, not shame creating.
My latest for Huffington Post … (March 31, 2014):
“The most comfortable prison is still a lonely place.” Kenneth Kolb
“Should we go out to dinner and go dancing with the gang, or stay in, cook-out and watch a movie together?”
“Should we invite our neighborhood social group to join us on a hike, or should we disappear ourselves to wander in the mountains alone, holding hands, hiking, and sharing our adventure?”
“Should we organize a trip to Cancun for all the couples, or should we plan a romantic get-away for just the two of us?”
When faced with these kinds of questions which do you more often choose? The group activity, or time spent alone with your spouse? One answer is not all right or all wrong, but when your time as a couple is constantly spent with others, warning bells should start to go off.
As I speak with couples, and I ask about how they spend their “free time,” I’m no longer surprised by the number of people who say they have a very active social life together. They get along great! They have a fabulous time. They have tons of friends always ready to go somewhere with them.
But, when we start to peel back the layers of the onion, it’s always interesting to see how frequently this great social life — robust, active, talkative, fun, adventurous — is really hiding that fact that these couples don’t want to spend any time alone together. The conversation ceases, the laughter ceases, the fun ceases and the adventures ceases. Frankly, it becomes very lonely. When forced to be a couple, without any outside interaction, these couples find it difficult. They would rather not confront their loneliness. Two isn’t supposed to be a lonely number.
What’s going on here? I see this in couples who have simply grown apart. It’s not that one or the other is having an affair (yet!) or engaging in some other marriage-destroying behavior, but rather simply that these couples drifted apart in their marriage. In most cases, the intimacy is all but gone. One or the other may simply be satisfied “living as roommates.” Often times divorce isn’t considered a viable option for any one of several reasons. Either they really are completely OK being roommates, and not lovers. They don’t want to suffer the financial hit that a divorce inevitably brings. They want to stay married “for the kids.” And, they do have a great life together … as friends in a larger friend circle.
Ask these same couples what happens when the party is over and they are driving home, and they will tell you that it gets really quiet. The energy that fueled such a fun night has dissipated. Instead of talking all the way home about what they did, and flirting about what’s to come, they instead sit quietly in the car, get home, and climb into their respective sides of the bed, turn over, and go to sleep.
Ultimately, many of these couples do inevitably call it quits and bring in the divorce lawyers. At some point, the idea of living the rest of your life as roommates leaves you wondering if there isn’t something more to life. I hear, “I’m not sure I can do this for the second half of my life.” I hear, “It’s not like I’m going to be lonely by myself … I’m already lonely and by myself in my marriage,” or they say, “I’d rather feel lonely than feel alone when I’m with somebody.”
It’s these same couples, who if they ultimately decide to call it quits on their marriage, are the ones whose friends exclaim in surprise, “But why? You guys get along so well? We have so much fun together!”
If as a couple, you are okay with this “social relationship,” then no one should judge you. If however, you long for a relationship where two isn’t a lonely number, and if you truly do want to stay away from considering divorce as an option, then perhaps you should start to focus on how to rebuild your lives and your schedules such that you are okay being alone with just each other.
In fact, couples in really healthy marriages crave that together time. The idea of spending time “just the two of us” gives them incentive to frequently turn down social invitations. No one says you need to become an asocial hermit, but you do become aware of whether time spent in groups is trumping time spent as a couple.
Is being along the worst thing in life? Or is being in a relationship with someone who makes you feel alone the worst? What do you think?
Here’s my latest post for Cupid’s Pulse … My Way or the Highway!
“Marriage is about compromise; it’s about doing something for the other person, even when you don’t want to.” – Nicholas Sparks, The Wedding
I had a great conversation with two friends, both widowed, the other day. They’re dating each other, and it’s starting to get serious. While not pointedly addressed quite yet, it’s clear that the “we should spend the rest of our lives together” conversation is not that far off in the future. How wonderful for them! To have found love again — and all the joy, happiness, and elation that comes with new love — after both having lost spouses is wonderful and very sweet to see. Of course, they should spend the rest of their lives together. Thank goodness for second chances and the fact that they met each other.
Once example of a celebrity couple who will be tying the knot soon is Christina Aguilera and Matthew Rutler. This will be Christina’s second marriage; again, thank goodness for second chances! She has a young son, who Matthew will become a stepparent to, yet another transition that will hopefully be smooth for everyone involved.
Deciding they want to spend the rest of their lives together is the “easy” part. The more practical and more difficult part comes when the discussion turns to where to live. His house or hers? Her family room couches or his? His china or hers? His toaster or hers?
It’s crazy, but this is where it can become overwhelming. The reality is that both people own their own beautiful homes, fully stocked with every practical item (the blender, ironing board, and beach towels) and also filled with all sorts of things that are meaningful (grandma’s mirror, great-grandma’s gravy boat, and the painting bought on vacation in Italy many years ago). Their styles may differ: His Victorian period furniture may clash with her Asian influence.
What to do? Of course, it’s essentially no different than when two divorced people choose to marry and frankly no different from when two established single adults (never married, divorced, or widowed) but well on their way to being “real” adults (with more than a studio apartment outfitted with milk crates and a mattress of the floor) enter into marriage.
Often times, both partners come to the relationship with established “goods” as well as established habits, ideals, and traditions. Perhaps one likes to eat dinner by 6 p.m. each night, whereas the other enjoys eating much later. Maybe one likes to be up and out each Saturday morning by sunrise, whereas the other relishes the idea of lounging in bed reading the paper until lunchtime. Perhaps one likes to spend Christmas out of town surrounded by the chaos of dozens of family members, whereas the other likes to make the holiday a more quiet, intimate celebration.
Younger and less-established couples certainly need to compromise as they begin their lives together, but it’s often easier, as they don’t generally have decades worth of “baggage” (both literally and figuratively) that they bring to the marriage. It gets tougher as we get older!
When I remarried several years ago, my husband and I brought together two households. As crazy as it sounds, we literally did have to decide to keep my silverware or his, my dinner plates or his, my toaster or his…and on and on! That was challenging in and of itself (actually, he had a lot of things that were “nicer” than mine, so it made for some easy decision-making). Some people might say that the best solution is to start new with everything, and as fun as that sounds, it’s just not practical. Who has that kind of money to throw around, and why get rid of things that are meaningful to one person or the other?
In addition to compromising on the things, we also had to learn how to merge our family traditions and our expectations for everything from how to save, how to spend a Sunday morning, what temperature to keep the house at, how many blankets to put on the bed, etc. This can be much tougher. After all, we were established in our routines. We had our “normal,” and defining a “new normal” isn’t always easy.
You know what, though? Defining a “new normal” can be fun if approached with the right attitude. If you aren’t open to compromise when dating, how in the heck are you going to compromise if you get married? Open yourself up to learning something new or even just experiencing something with a new lens. You might surprise yourself at how much you enjoy the change. After all, change keeps us vibrant and alive. Don’t become too set in your ways. Be open to new experiences, new traditions…even new toasters and new beach towels!
Does compromise become tougher as we get older? Are we more set in our ways? What do you think?
My latest for HuffPost!
“No kids tonight … Is it wrong that we high-fived in the kitchen this morning?” - Facebook post
“Absolutely not,” I wanted to scream at my laptop, “Enjoy your night – just the two of you — alone! No guilt!”
An old friend (one of those people that you knew in high school, haven’t talked to in decades, and reconnected with on Facebook) posted the above status on her Facebook page last week. While we haven’t spoken in decades, it’s clear that we share a similar story. She married, she had children, she divorced, she fell in love again, she remarried, and now she is blissfully happy.
She and her new husband are the modern-day version of the Brady Bunch. They both brought kids to the marriage, and have a full house when they are all together. While they love their kids dearly, we can all relate to the excitement of having a “free” night to just enjoy each other. But, there is a bit of guilt that tends to creep in when we get a smile on our faces at the idea of a kid-free night. Enough of the guilt. No, it absolutely not wrong to high-five in the kitchen at the prospect of a kid-free night.
I love my kids with all my heart, and love being their mom with all the daily responsibilities that come along with being an engaged parent. And, I have learned to appreciate the times when they are at their dad’s house. I found it tough at first. I felt like something was missing. I didn’t appreciate the time away from them. I wasn’t sure what to do with that time. Boy, how things have changed!
I quickly realized that this time was a gift. When I was first married, I often wished for a quiet night (or weekend) to myself to do things that I needed to do, or wanted to do, just for me! Read a book and take a bath with a glass of wine – uninterrupted. Clean out my closet. Learn how to ballroom dance (OK – not really!). Restore old furniture. Go for really long walks. Have a “Breaking Bad” marathon – and watch an entire season in one sitting. Sleep in … ’til after noon. Go on a date … and another one after that. All things I had hoped to do, but never had the time when the kids were around. When they were little, I couldn’t leave them alone uninterrupted. As they got older, I needed to drive them to this or that sporting practice or extracurricular event. Sure, I could hire a babysitter, but that gets expensive.
After I remarried, I learned to relish the quiet time even more. Again, there was some guilt as I wanted to create new experiences as a family every weekend, not just every other weekend. We learned to adjust. We learned to schedule “adults only” social activities on the weekends when we didn’t have the kids, and keep weekends with the kids focused on doing activities as a family. And, we started to look forward to those “every-other-weekend-it’s-like-we-just-got-married-and-have-no-kids” weekends! You know what that means, right? When the cat’s away, the mice will play!
I have often said that I think more first marriages would survive if parents would continue to invest time in “their” relationship so that once the kids are grown and gone, they can enjoy spending time with each other vs. looking for a new partner.
Our lives are hectic and fast-paced – work and social activities overlap with kids’ school activities, community commitments, and more. We often feel pulled in different directions. Isn’t that true for most couples with active families? The nice thing is that we know that every other weekend we will be able to reconnect and focus on each other. We can have a romantic candle-lit dinner at home, we can make love in the middle of the day without worrying about anyone walking in, we can choose to go kayaking or antiquing all day, and not have to worry about getting home to shuttle anyone to an activity or prepare a meal. In fact, if it weren’t for our two dogs, we wouldn’t even need to go home!
To my Facebook friend in Michigan, I say, “Have fun! I hope you high-five your husband again next weekend too, and two weeks after that! Enjoy your time alone just as much as you enjoy your time with your kids. Give your full attention to both situations and learn to value and relish them for what they bring to you.”
What about you? Have you learned to get rid of the guilt and relish your kid-free time?
by: Monique Honaman, JD
Your: [yoor, yawr, yohr; unstressed yer] pronoun 1. one’s (used to indicate that one belonging to oneself or to any person): As you go down the hill, the library is on your left.
Ever notice how when a couple is married they tend to refer to each other as “Mom” or “Dad” with their kids? If Joan asks if she can go out on Friday night, her mom might say, “I’m OK with that, but check with Dad.”
Or as John walks out the door to school, Mom says,“John, don’t forget Dad is going to take you to baseball tonight.”
Ever notice how once a couple is divorced, the pronoun “your” suddenly become so important? We hear things like,“Your dad will come get you at 5:00,” or “You need to ask your mom about that.” Why does that change? Why do we change the way we speak?
I don’t like it. Never have. Never will. I think it’s rude. I’m still Mom. He’s still Dad. When talking, we clearly aren’t referring to other moms or dads where the distinction needs to be clear that we are speaking of your mom or dad. It’s not as if we tell little Johnny, “There will be a dad taking you to baseball tonight … not sure who … it could be any dad … no, actually, it will be YOUR dad.” We don’t do that. We just say, “Dad is taking you to baseball tonight.”
I think putting “your” in front of it makes it less personal to the person doing the speaking. It’s not my mom or dad, it’s yours! Yes, but then again it was never your mom or dad to begin with, but rather it was your spouse, who as time went on and you became parents together, you began to lovingly refer to as Mom or Dad as it related to your kids. Adding “your” creates a wall or a barrier.
My latest for Hope After Divorce:
It’s yours, not mine, not ours. It screams, “I have no part in this.” Now that “Mom” or “Dad” is no longer wife or husband, but rather ex-wife or ex-husband, the “your” gets added, in part, I believe to remove the familiarity and the relationship that you once held.
The impact, however unintended, can be hurtful, I believe. It conveys a sense of “I’m having nothing to do with that woman … she’s YOUR mom.” Or, “I don’t know that man, he’s YOUR dad.” I think it can be odd for kids to hear, especially when they aren’t used to hearing parents speak that way. It creates that distance and re-emphasizes a less than familiar arrangement. It brings walls and structure to what should continue to be an informal Mom and Dad relationship. Yes, the titles of “Husband” and “Wife” changed, but the titles “Mom” and “Dad” didn’t.
Pre-divorce, if I called our home, spoke with my husband, then asked to speak with the kids, I would hear, “Sonso, mom’s on the phone. Pick up the phone in the bedroom!”
Now, post-divorce, if I call my ex-husband, and then ask to speak with my kids, I hear, “Sonso, your mom is on the phone.” Subtle, but it conveys a formality that makes it different in both message and interpretation.I try not to fall into that trap and use “your” when it’s not needed. I prefer my kids to know the familiarity still exists, that while we may not be a united husband and wife anymore, we are still a united dad and mom.
Have you thought about how YOUR speech patterns may have changed? Is it just me that this rankles? Have you ever thought about it? What other things change like this? I would love YOUR insight!