Relationships

The Love Dare – Day One – My Experience

(This post was originally published 5-17-09).

This post is about my personal experience with The Love Dare. If you would like to learn more about The Love Dare, go here.

Love Dare at writefromkaren.com

Day One: Love is patient – The first part of this dare is fairly simple. Although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often reflect the condition of our heart. For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It’s better to hold your tongue than to say something you’ll regret.


From The Love Dare book:

¤¤¤ Love works. It is life’s most powerful motivator and has far greater depth and meaning than most people realize. It always does what is best for others and can empower us to face the greatest of problems. We are born with a lifelong thirst for love. Our hearts desperately need it like our lungs need oxygen. Love changes our motivation for living. Relationships become meaningful with it. No marriage is successful without it.

Love is built on two pillars that best define what it is. Those pillars are patience and kindness. All other characteristics of love are extensions of these two attributes. And that’s where your dare will begin. With patience.

Anger is usually caused when the strong desire for something is mixed with disappointment or grief. You don’t get what you want and you start heating up inside. It is often an emotional reaction that flows out of our own selfishness, foolishness, or evil motives.

Patience, however, makes us wise. It doesn’t rush to judgment but listens to what the other person is saying. … Patience helps you give your spouse permission to be human. It understands that everyone fails.

This Love Dare journey is a process, and the first thing you must resolve to possess is patience. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. But it’s a race worth running.¤¤¤

***My Experience***

 

This one was a fairly easy one for me.

Well, it’s easy now, it wasn’t always easy.

I have learned, through some pretty ugly moments and humiliating outbursts, to keep my fat trap shut. I had the tendency to just say the first thing that popped into my head and you know what? I didn’t give a rat’s behind if I hurt Kevin’s feelings or not. After all, it’s a woman’s prerogative to speak her mind, right?

Not exactly.

It’s a woman’s prerogative to speak her mind IF what she has to say actually helps, and not hinders, the situation. Just because I feel it, doesn’t give me the right to say it.

Once again, my marriage is not about ME, it’s about US.

But I think I have an unfair advantage for you see, I took a communications class in college and through that class I learned how to speak to someone in a non-threatening way. For example, never use the word YOU, but always refer to the situation, people in general, or turn the situation around and explain how the situation makes ME feel as opposed to what that person is doing wrong.

Wrong: YOU really irritate me when you don’t unload the dishwasher.

The person you’re talking to? Only hears the “YOU really irritate me” part. They tune the rest of it out.

Right: We’re a team, right? I’d really appreciate it if we could take turns unloading the dishwasher.

I can honestly say that communications class curbed my selfish tendencies. It taught me to stop, turn the situation around (think Matrix effect here) and look at it from the other person’s perspective.

(In fact, I’ve been diligently searching for the communications textbook that I used in college because I’d love to post a series about how to effectively communicate with people).

So, this challenge was easy for me because I had already trained myself to reword my irritations and annoyances in various ways so that it wouldn’t come across as bitchy or unreasonable.

But still, there are moments that Kevin gets on my nerves and I open my big mouth and POW – hello foot, nom nom.

And that’s what it takes to successfully communicate with your spouse – it takes a willingness on your part to STOP, THINK, and RETRAIN your reactions because being rash and impulsive really is a dangerous combination, especially when tempers flare.

There are times when Kevin calls me “sassy.” Which is really code for bitchy. And when I stop and think about it, he’s right. I do find myself nagging him sometimes and the man can NOT do anything right. I’m constantly berating him and it’s during those time periods that I force myself to stop and pay attention to what I’m saying to him.

And I end up apologizing to him for treating him so bad. Upon further examination, the reason I even get to that bitchy level is because I’m tired, or hormonal, or frustrated with something other than him, or blahblahblah. The reason really doesn’t matter WHY I’m acting that way, what’s important is to NOT take it out on him.

How is that fair?

So, I’ve learned to be more open with how I’m feeling. “I’m sorry honey, I’m feeling on edge tonight. It has nothing to do with you. I think I need to be alone for a while and work off my bad mood.”

Now keep in mind, I’m not the only bad guy here. But women have more of a tendency to blow things out of proportion so it’s more of a challenge for us to maintain an even keel. But I have found, that by forcing myself to be more patient with Kevin, it teaches him, either consciously or subconsciously, to have more patience with me and to give me the same respect that I give him.

See? Give and take – lead by example. SOMEONE has to take that first step. Why not you?

And by telling him what is going on in my head, it helps him understand, and be more tolerant, of my behavior.

Men can’t read our minds, ladies. Please don’t make them try.

Relationships

Daring to Love: How to Repair, or Sustain, a Marriage

(This post was originally published 3-9-09 – wow, time flies).

Want to know how to make your marriage stronger? The answer is not for the weak-minded – it takes strength, courage and determination. Are you up to the challenge? Read on …

THE SCRIPTURES SAY that God designed and created marriage as a good thing. It is a beautiful, priceless gift. He uses marriage to help us eliminate loneliness, multiply our effectiveness, establish families, raise children, enjoy life, and bless us with relational intimacy. But beyond this, marriage also shows us our need to grow and deal with our own issues and self-centeredness through the help of a lifelong partner. If we are teachable, we will learn to do the one thing that is most important in marriage—to love. This powerful union provides the path for you to learn how to love another imperfect person unconditionally. It is wonderful. It is difficult. It is life changing.

(Love is) about learning and daring to live a life filled with loving relationships. And this journey begins with the person who is closest to you: your spouse. May God bless you as you begin this adventure.

But be sure of this: it will take courage. If you accept this dare, you must take the view that instead of following your heart, you are choosing to lead it. The world says to follow your heart, but if you are not leading it, then someone or something else is. The Bible says that “the heart is more deceitful than all else” (Jeremiah 17:9), and it will always pursue that which feels right at the moment.

We dare you to think differently—choosing instead to lead your heart toward that which is best in the long run. This is a key to lasting, fulfilling relationships.

The Love Dare journey is not a process of trying to change your spouse to be the person you want them to be. You’ve no doubt already discovered that efforts to change your husband or wife have ended in failure and frustration. Rather, this is a journey of exploring and demonstrating genuine love, even when your desire is dry and your motives are low. The truth is, love is a decision and not just a feeling. It is selfless, sacrificial, and transformational. (emphasis added) And when love is truly demonstrated as it was intended, your relationship is more likely to change for the better.

Remember, you have the responsibility to protect and guide your heart. Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. Resolve to lead your heart and to make it through to the end. Learning to truly love is one of the most important things you will ever do.

Powerful stuff, right? This excerpt is from the introduction of “The Love Dare” and I think it epitomizes the essence of marriage. Love is about so much more than just feelings – it’s about sacrifices, humility, giving, it’s about tolerance, compromise … geez, the list just goes on and on.

What is The Love Dare? Let’s find out …

Too many marriages end when someone says “I’ve fallen out of love with you” or “I don’t love you anymore.” In reality, such statements reveal a lack of understanding about the fundamental nature of true love.

The Love Dare, as featured in the new movie Fireproof (starring Kirk Cameron and from the team that brought us the #1 best selling DVD Facing the Giants), is a forty-day guided devotional experience that will lead your heart back to truly loving your spouse while learning more about the design, nature, and source of true love.

Each day’s entry discusses a unique aspect of love, presents a specific “dare” to do for your spouse (some will be very easy, others very challenging), and gives you a journaling area to chart the progress that you will be making.

It’s time to learn the keys to finding true intimacy and developing a dynamic marriage. Take the dare!

I first watched Fireproof by myself and on the treadmill. I could barely maintain my speed because I was crying so hard. It’s a touching, Christian-based movie about the courage it takes to keep a marriage intact. And I think with so many marriages ending in divorce nowadays, it’s more crucial than ever to help and teach people to love – we all have preconceived notions of what love is, but I would like to boldly state that most of us don’t truly understand what it is to love someone else, not really.

Myself included. But I’m learning.

I told Kevin about the movie and we sat and watched it together. By the end of the movie, he even had tears in his eyes. The reason the movie is so emotional is because it dares us to explore our most secret, carefully guarded hearts. It challenges us to look honestly at ourselves, and to re-evaluate our behaviors and expectations about relationships.

Even though my marriage to Kevin is stronger than it has ever been, I think I’m still going to go out and buy this book because I think the lessons it teaches is a good reminder, to me specifically, about how important my relationship with Kevin truly is.

Here are the first five days’ assignments:

Day One: Love is patient. Love works. It is life’s most powerful motivator and has far greater depth and meaning than most people realize. It always does what is best for others and can empower us to face the greatest of problems. We are born with a lifelong thirst for love. Our hearts desperately need it like our lungs need oxygen. Love changes our motivation for living. Relationships become meaningful with it. No marriage is successful without it.

Love is built on two pillars that best define what it is. Those pillars are patience and kindness. All other characteristics of love are extensions of these two attributes. And that’s where your dare will begin. With patience.

The dare asks participants to refrain from saying anything negative to one’s spouse for the entire day – that it’s best to hold one’s tongue and say nothing as opposed to saying something one will regret later on. It’s taken me YEARS to learn this lesson, but I learned it, and I apply it today and it really does work wonders.

Day Two: Love is kind. Kindness is love in action. If patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative circumstance, kindness is how love acts to maximize a positive circumstance. Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventive, the other proactive. These two sides of love are the cornerstones on which many of the other attributes we will discuss are built.

Love makes you kind. And kindness makes you likeable. When you’re kind, people want to be around you. They see you as being good to them and good for them.

The dare asks that one do at least one unexpected gesture – and I’m assuming this doesn’t mean buying gifts but rather, fold the laundry, or wash dishes, or take out the trash, or cook dinner, all without being asked and all without expecting a “reward” for doing so. I think this lesson might be harder for the men because women naturally NOTICE that these little things need to be done. Men often times simply don’t notice these things. Patience ladies. 🙂

Day Three: Love is not selfish. We live in a world that is enamored with “self.” The culture around us teaches us to focus on our appearance, feelings, and personal desires as the top priority. The goal, it seems, is to chase the highest level of happiness possible. The danger from this kind of thinking, however, becomes painfully apparent once inside a marriage relationship.

If there were ever a word that basically means the opposite of love, it is selfishness. Unfortunately it is something that is ingrained into every person from birth. You can see it in the way young children act, and often in the way adults mistreat one another. Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves. Yet you cannot point out the many ways your spouse is selfish without admitting that you can be selfish too. That would be hypocritical.

Why do we have such low standards for ourselves but high expectations for our mate? The answer is a painful pill to swallow. We are all selfish.

If you’re not invested in something, you naturally won’t care about it as much. The dare asks one to buy a little something-something for the spouse. Again, nothing too expensive. Maybe just a lone flower. Or a thoughtful card. Or a gift certificate to his/her favorite store. I often put goodies into Kevin’s lunch, without him knowing it, so when he opens his bag at work, there’s my materialistic reminder that I love him and I’m thinking about him.

Day Four: Love is thoughtful. Love thinks. It’s not a mindless feeling that rides on waves of emotion and falls asleep mentally. It keeps busy in thought, knowing that loving thoughts precede loving actions.

When you first fell in love, being thoughtful came quite naturally. You spent hours dreaming of what your loved one looked like, wondering what he or she was doing, rehearsing impressive things to say, then enjoying sweet memories of the time you spent together. You honestly confessed, “I can’t stop thinking about you.”

But for most couples, things begin to change after marriage. The wife finally has her man; the husband has his trophy. The hunt is over and the pursuing done. Sparks of romance slowly burn into grey embers, and the motivation for thoughtfulness cools. You drift into focusing on your job, your friends, your problems, your personal desires, yourself. After a while, you unintentionally begin to ignore the needs of your mate.

The dare asks one to contact his/her spouse during the day, with no agenda other than asking if he/she is okay and if he/she can do anything for the spouse. Kevin and I email silly little nothings back and forth a lot of days. I’ve learned that he’s quite funny and he’s learned that I can be quite the flirt. *wink*

Day Five: Love is not rude. Nothing irritates others as quickly as being rude. Rudeness is unnecessarily saying or doing things that are unpleasant for another person to be around. To be rude is to act unbecoming, embarrassing, or irritating. In marriage, this could be a foul mouth, poor table manners, or a habit of making sarcastic quips. However you look at it, no one enjoys being around a rude person. Rude behavior may seem insignificant to the person doing it, but it’s unpleasant to those on the receiving end.

As always, love has something to say about this. When a man is driven by love, he intentionally behaves in a way that’s more pleasant for his wife to be around. If she desires to love him, she purposefully avoids things that frustrate him or cause him discomfort.

The bottom line is that genuine love minds its manners.

Man, can I relate to this one. I have such a mouth on me – Kevin calls it “sassy.’ He hates it when I get sassy. I hate it when I get sassy. I know I’m doing it, and yet, I keep right on being mouthy and stupid. I’m usually sassy when I’m feeling cranky, or tired, or frustrated, or hurt or … heck, I’m sassy pretty much all the time. I’ve learned, through some pretty hefty fights, that I need to just shut up and stop taking my feelings out on my husband. Most times, it’s not even his fault I’m feeling a certain way. It’s not fair and it’s selfish.

Reading over those first five days makes me want to know what the other 35 days say.

I was drawn to this idea from the very beginning. I mean, how many times have you heard someone lament over the fact that there’s not a parenting manual, or a marriage manual, etc. out there? Well guess what, there’s a marital manual out there and I think it would be a shame to just ignore it or not even take a look at what it suggests, don’t you?

Love is a state of mind. It’s about acting, not just about feeling.

Good luck and don’t give up. I truly mean that.

Relationships

DARE to Build a Better Relationship

I’ve met and worked with a lot of people in my life. One of the consistent people in my life right now is the nurse I work with. If I had had a daughter, I would have wanted her to be like this nurse. She’s kind, compassionate, funny, friendly, smart and has a good head on her shoulders.

But she’s young. She’s a young mother with two small (and VERY ADORABLE girls) and I remember what it was like trying to navigate trying to be a wife and a mother while not losing myself in the meantime and I know – IT’S HARD.

There comes a time when you have to think outside of yourself: life is no longer about you, it’s about your husband and your children.

In that order.

Again, maintaining that precarious hold on yourself is also important but that’s a whole different topic – this is about finding that balance working on your marriage so that you have a solid foundation to raise your children. Because if your marriage isn’t strong, then your parenting skills will not be strong enough.

Too many times, people get married, have children and suddenly, the spouse becomes an after thought. It’s all about the children. It’s all about how tired I am and trying to find myself again in the (normal) chaos that is my life now.

What about your spouse? He/she gets left out, he/she feels left out and suddenly, problems start developing. Which only makes it worse because WE HAVE CHILDREN, and I’M TOO TIRED TO DEAL WITH YOU RIGHT NOW.

News flash: that’s the wrong attitude. It’s a human response, sure, and to curb that natural response is hard, but it’s necessary and rewarding if you push past the internal dialogue and rewire your brain to think differently.

I too went through this. And I think it was especially hard for me because I’m fiercely independent and selfish with my time. But I was motivated to rethink my reactions and emotions and analyze myself a little deeper to understand WHY I was reacting a certain way or WHY I felt angry and tense when I was a young mother.

I mean, it’s normal to feel these emotions, you are, after all, a YOUNG person. You don’t have the life experience to objectively analyze yourself and we all know there is no such thing as a parenting manual, we all do the best we can, but the point is, when you’re a wife and mother, husband and father, your life is not all about you anymore.

It’s just a fact.

This nurse and I talk about relationships and she often asks for my advice when it comes to marriage and children. I’m actually quite honored that she thinks I have anything valuable to share, but I do have quite a bit of life experience under my belt and like many young couples, Kevin and I went through a pretty serious rocky patch in our marriage when the boys were young, SO I GET IT.

Which leads me to the reason behind this post.

It’s February, love is in the air. Which, honestly people, why do we put so much stock in ONE day of the year where we have to scramble to come up with ways to SHOW our significant other that we love him/her?

Shouldn’t we be striving to do this every day? Shouldn’t every day be Valentine’s Day? There are more than one way to express love, you know. Love goes WAY beyond a box of chocolates and a useless stuffed animal.

And that’s where the Love Dare comes in.

It teaches people to think, and act, outside of themselves. It teaches people that love can be expressed in many different ways. It’s just that we are so focused on ourselves, partly because we’re in survival mode because for the love of God, I JUST WANT UNDISTURBED SLEEP, and partly because society has drummed into our heads that WE ARE THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE that we have lost sight of how to love outside ourselves.

Anyway, I’m going to re-post the Love Dare challenges not only for my daughter from another  mother but for you, dear reader. Perhaps you’re currently going through marital issues and this hits home for you. I feel like February is a month that highlights our own love lives and sometimes shining a light on an otherwise dark corner of our relationship is healthy.

Caveat: if you are truly wanting to make changes, you have to start internally. You have to examine AND BE HONEST with yourself and your shortcomings. How can you fix something externally if it’s broken internally? You will need to approach these challenges with humility and with honesty. You will need to examine your own emotions, reactions and agendas before you can hope to fix your marriage.

And your partner is going to have to make a solid effort to meet you halfway, as well. It takes two to fix this particular problem and that’s a conversation only you can have with your partner. But someone has to blink, someone has to be the first one to give a little and be more patient because if no one offers the olive branch, then your family will always struggle to find peace.

The Love Dare was inspired by the movie, “Fireproof.” That movie was a GAME CHANGER for me. I cried FOR HOURS after watching it and let me tell you, I’m not a crier. But the movie really opened my eyes to MY behavior and showed me what I was doing wrong and what I could do better.

 

I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend watching this movie. Yes, it’s a Christian-based movie and faith is a large part of this process, but ultimately, the fundamental message can, and should, be applied to all serious, long-term relationships.

So put your big boy/girl pants on and let’s get honest.

Good luck.

Camp NaNoWriMo, Relationships

10,585 Days Together, but Who’s Counting

Kevin and I celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary in May.

us6

We didn’t do anything spectacular, we went out to dinner at Outback.

We’ve actually been together for longer than 10,585 days – we were together two years before getting married.

We were one of those couples that traditionalist turned their noses up at – we lived together for two years before getting married.

I don’t know, it just felt right at the time. You don’t truly know someone until you live with them. You can only be on your best behavior for so long when you live with someone and until the facade wears thing.

I figured, if Kevin could put with me at my worst, then we should be okay.

(Side note: I will encourage our boys to live with their future spouses, too. But put a timer on it – if something is not happening, or it’s not working out after a year, go your separate ways. No sense in wasting years with someone who doesn’t want to commit, you know?)

I will be the first to admit, I have not been the easiest person to be married to. I had sort of a mid-thirties crisis where I was just a bitch to be around. No sense in sugar coating it, it’s the truth. I don’t know, I was trying to find myself, I guess. I was a wife, a mother … I lost Karen in there somewhere. It didn’t help that Kevin tried to make me into something he wanted, or thought he wanted. He thought I should have been more like his mom, which I suppose is pretty typical for men. I wonder if our boys will try and find someone like me.

Gah, I hope not.

My brother told me once that his wife reminded him a lot of me. I guess I’m just that awesome. ha!

At any rate, I don’t know why Kevin stuck around, but I’m so glad he did. Our relationship was really tested about seven years into our marriage. A seven-year itch, I suppose. We almost split up and probably should have seen a marriage counselor but I’m going to be honest here, (actually, when am I not), the thought of spilling our guts to a third party who may, or may not, have our best interests at heart did not appeal to me AT ALL. I figured, we were two intelligent adults, surely we could work this out. It was hard, and there was a lot of very truthful, uncomfortable, conversations, but we muddled through and we’re stronger for it now.

Marriage is tough. You have to be willing to take a good, long, hard look at yourself and be willing to admit when you’re wrong and when you can do better.

And then do better.

Believe it or not, reading Dr. Laura’s “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands” really, REALLY helped me. It taught me to think outside myself. I’m a sympathetic/empathetic person, but since we’re keeping it real here, I’m a selfish person, too. I don’t like sharing my time. When I want to do something, I expect you to want to do the same thing RIGHT THEN. And I have a problem giving in and doing something when someone wants to do something that I don’t.

I still struggle with that. For example: Kevin knows to not rush me. He just goes off and does something else and patiently waits for me to be ready to go wherever we’re going. But when I’m ready to go, I’m READY TO GO and get quite impatient with Kevin when he doesn’t drop what he’s doing to be ready when I’m ready.

I realize this is a selfish attitude and I’m working on it. I didn’t even realize what I was doing until Kevin pointed it out to me. (You have to learn to take criticism – YOU MUST LEARN).

This book taught me to respect Kevin, our relationship and myself by making sacrifices. This is an especially hard concept nowadays because we live in a “me” and “instant gratification” society, but if you want a relationship to work, you have to be willing to compromise and sacrifice. Period.

Another thing that helped me see our relationship in a new light was the different love languages. This book taught me about how people perceive love, or more specifically, how Kevin and I perceived love. Love is about so much more than just saying the words I love you. The five love languages are:

  1. Quality time
  2. Words of Affirmation
  3. Acts of Service
  4. Receiving gifts
  5. Physical touch

For me, I feel most loved with acts of service. I truly know Kevin loves me because he is always so willing to drop what he’s doing and help me with something. My computer poops out, he comes over to fix it. Something goes wrong with the house, that is his number one project. He makes sure our lawn is mowed. That we are financially comfortable. He makes life easier for me. Because if life is easier, then I’m happier, and as a result, he’s happier.

I feel like Kevin’s love language is quality time. He likes doing things together – taking pictures, going for walks/bike rides, going on vacations together. But remember my problem with being selfish with my time? Yeah, that is something I’ve had to, and continue to, work on. Physical touch is another one of his love languages though I feel like that is a given for men. ha! But honestly, that is another area of marriage that takes a lot of work, compromise and understanding. TRUST ME.

Another thing that I did that helped me with our marriage was the Love Dare.

This “dare” fascinated me so much that I actually participated in the love dare and documented the whole process. I, yet again, faced a lot of ugly truths about myself doing this challenge, but I learned so much about myself, and our relationship, in the process that it was, well the humble medicine I was forced to swallow.

Is our marriage perfect? Of course not. No marriage is perfect because the participants aren’t perfect. But making an effort to learn more about how to make a relationship work did nothing but help us in the long run.

We are planning a cruise to the Mediterranean for our 30th wedding anniversary next year. Thirty years sounds like a big number and though it does feel like we’re always been married, it definitely doesn’t feel like it’s been nearly 30 years. In a lot of ways, I feel like our marriage is just getting started.

Here’s to another 30 years of adventures!

Post Thirteen
Relationships

Twenty-Six Years of Married Bliss and Counting

We celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary on May 26th. Actually, we didn’t celebrate it, we were both too busy working to really acknowledge the actual day, but we did go out and eat at Outback Steakhouse the day after our anniversary.

(Side note: We took a  cruise around the Hawaiian Islands last year for our 25th wedding anniversary – no, I haven’t written about that time yet … stop nagging).

And we used half of the gift card that the doctor I work for gave me for Christmas two years ago. (I had actually forgotten I had it. We used half of it so it would give us an excuse to go back a second time – we smart!)

It was a great dinner. I had steak tips and Kevin had a Ribeye, I think. We talked about possibly going somewhere for vacation this year  but I think I have him convinced to just keep it low key this time, stay home, save some money, pay off our homequity loan. This is going to make me sound spoiled, and I guess, since we’re being honest here, I AM spoiled, but I’m burned out on cruises. We’ve taken a cruise for the past seven (?) years straight – I need a break. Let’s stay on land for a bit.

I’m not going to say our marriage is perfect, how nauseating would that be, but we have a pretty great relationship. He spoils me and in exchange, I pretty much let him do anything he wants. Now that he has Roy to hang out with and who never tells him no, (and who worships the ground he walks on), he has a buddy to go do things with – go to garage sales, fix things around the house, projects, go fishing … everything that I hate to do. lol

In return, I get to do what I want to do on the weekends – keep myself company, read, write, take naps, it’s a win-win situation, to be honest.

Our wedding was pretty low key. Since neither one of us belong to a church, I shopped around for churches until I found a really pretty one and we rented it. We paid for our own wedding and we kept it cheap. (Side note: my mom made my dress – isn’t it pretty!?) But we couldn’t justify spending thousands of dollars on something that would last two hours and be over with. We preferred to save our money and spend it on the honeymoon (Cozumel Mexico).

A friend of mine did my makeup and hair, we drank punch out of  fancy paper cups and I wore ballet slippers because I didn’t want to be taller than Kevin. Kevin forgot to wear black socks with his tux so the photographer, (who nearly had a heart attack), had to put my bouquet of flowers in front of him to disguise his white basketball socks when he sat on the pew steps for pictures – good times.

I knew he was the one as soon as I met him. I didn’t think about marriage when I met him, but I knew what I felt for him was different than what I felt for any other guy. He made me laugh, he made me want to be a better person. He was frugal (he was going to school to be an accountant – DREAM MAN), resourceful, smart and sweet.

Our marriage has not been perfect, we’ve had our shares of ups and downs (7-year itch – that was a really tough, unpleasant year and that’s all I’ll say about that), but we grew, we changed, we adapted. I can honestly say we’re not the same people we were when we got married, we’re better.

What’s the secret to our successful marriage? Patience. Respect. Communication. Carving out time for each other. Really, what I’m telling you is nothing new. All of the marriage advice sites you read tips on are right – it’s about listening and appreciating each other and not taking each other for granted though I confess, we do that sometimes.

I can’t imagine sharing my life with anyone else. I have a very difficult time allowing anyone close to my heart, but I can honestly say that Kevin is near and dear to me and that scares me a bit. I was reading back when he had his motorcycle accident in 2010 and I can’t begin to describe to you the debilitating fear I felt when went to the hospital for the first time and saw him lying there so helpless – he’s the least helpless person I’ve ever known in my life. I think that accident also brought us closer – how can you not be drawn closer to a person when he relies on you to help him poop?

I think people regard marriage as throwaway events nowadays. “Well, if this doesn’t work out, we’ll just get divorced.” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people say that and it horrifies me. If you honestly think that, then do yourself, your partner, and any future children a favor, don’t get married. If you’re already looking for ways to get out of a serious commitment before it even begins, there’s your sign – don’t go down that road.

We made a pact, we would never mention the “D” word. And we haven’t, save for that patchy 7-year itch period of time. Any fights we had, we cooled down, we listened to each other, we owned up to our own shortcomings and assumptions and we compromised. You have to be willing to swallow a bitter humility pill once, twice, a hundred times, when you’re married for the long haul.

I found this interesting bit on how to have a successful relationship from Tech Insider. Watch, learn, absorb, practice.

 

Facebook Stories, Relationships

Commitment is Too Hard Nowadays

LOVE this article!! This was linked on Facebook and honestly, I don’t have much to add. It’s spot on. It perfectly describes the social media age.

And if you wonder why you can’t commit, or if someone you love can’t commit, consider this article. It might save your relationship and possibly teach you long-term happiness.

When we choose—if we commit—we are still one eye wandering at the options. We want the beautiful cut of filet mignon, but we’re too busy eyeing the mediocre buffet, because choice. Because choice. Our choices are killing us. We think choice means something. We think opportunity is good. We think the more chances we have, the better. But, it makes everything watered-down. Never mind actually feeling satisfied, we don’t even understand what satisfaction looks like, sounds like, feels like. We’re one foot out the door, because outside that door is more, more, more. We don’t see who’s right in front of our eyes asking to be loved, because no one is asking to be loved. We long for something that we still want to believe exists. Yet, we are looking for the next thrill, the next jolt of excitement, the next instant gratification.

We soothe ourselves and distract ourselves and, if we can’t even face the demons inside our own brain, how can we be expected to stick something out, to love someone even when it’s not easy to love them? We bail. We leave. We see a limitless world in a way that no generation before us has seen. We can open up a new tab, look at pictures of Portugal, pull out a Visa, and book a plane ticket. We don’t do this, but we can. The point is that we know we can, even if we don’t have the resources to do so. There are always other tantalizing options. Open up Instagram and see the lives of others, the life we could have. See the places we’re not traveling to. See the lives we’re not living. See the people we’re not dating. We bombard ourselves with stimuli, input, input, input, and we wonder why we’re miserable. We wonder why we’re dissatisfied. We wonder why nothing lasts and everything feels a little hopeless. Because, we have no idea how to see our lives for what they are, instead of what they aren’t.

Read more…

Relationships

I’m Too Busy to Pay Attention to You

I’m busy. Are you busy? It’s almost “cool” to admit we’re busy nowadays, don’t you think?

Case in point: Whenever I talk to my mother-in-law, her life is crazy busy. She never has time to read, or watch TV, or relax in any way. And okay, fine, maybe she doesn’t. But if she really wanted to do those things, then she would make the time. Something else would give in her life and she would make it happen.

Whenever I ask her if she’s read any good books, or has watched any movies lately, her response is always “I don’t have time for those things.” I get annoyed. Of course you have time for those things, she would just rather spend her time doing other things – she doesn’t WANT to do those things. I’m cool with that. It’s her time, she can do whatever she wants with that time. But be honest, why not just say, “I don’t really like to read or watch TV, I’d rather do X, Y, and Z.”

I’d have more respect for her answer if she were honest. Instead, it sounds cooler to simply say, “I don’t have time for that.”

And then, when I pin her down and make her break down her day to me, it astounds me how much time she actually wastes by mismanaging her day. For example: she wanted rocky road ice cream one day. Instead of going to the store and picking up a box of rocky road ice cream, she spent two hours driving around to different facilities looking for rocky road ice cream.

See what I mean?

Since my life is all about multi-tasking now, time is precious. I have learned to make the most of time and try very hard to make every second count. That’s why I’m utterly exhausted on the weekends – because I allow myself to relax and yet can’t, there are household chores that have to be tended to because there is no way in Hades they’re getting done during the week; I’m simply out of steam.

And then … there’s Kevin. He deserves attention. And I would rather give that time to him than to the house – the house can wait. This is not to say that we don’t ignore each other or we simply don’t have enough energy for each other, we don’t, but I think both of us are consciously aware that we don’t spend a lot of time with each other right now (Kevin is working seven days a week right now with this Intuit / Tax support gig. He doesn’t have to, but he chooses to and though I’m not thrilled that he’s working himself to death, it’s his choice), so we make the moments count.

And being intimate is a hard … chore (because let’s be real, sometimes it IS a chore) to fit in sometimes.

But it’s necessary. Not for me. I could care less (which is part of the problem, quite frankly), but I know HE cares and he’s SO MUCH MORE LIKABLE to be around whenever his physical needs have been met. So I meet them. I make an effort. I drink an extra cup of coffee, or down a Monster drink late in the day and I meet those needs for him. Not for me, because I’m good with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, but I know he’s not – so I consciously keep that need in mind and plan accordingly.

You have to. If you’re married, you have to do this. It’s just the way men and women are programmed. Men need the physical – there’s no way around that fact. And women need the emotional. The challenge is to meet those needs. THAT’S LOVE. That’s what makes marriage work; it’s being aware, and respecting, what your partner needs.

And then making every effort to meet those needs – whether WE feel like it or not.

We’ll have been married 23 years this upcoming May. Things are good. At least, I THINK they’re good. And even though I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time, I’m assuming I’m doing something right.

Meeting the physical (and emotional) needs of my partner is definitely a step in the right direction.

Relationships

Is Happiness a Moral Obligation?

“We are as happy as we decide to be.” – Abraham Lincoln

This quote implies that we are in control of our happiness. I believe that is true.

Moral obligation might be pushing it a bit, but I think we do owe our fellow human beings a pleasant demeanor and a happy face, even if, scratch that, ESPECIALLY WHEN we least feel like it.

Happiness is a state of mind. We can DECIDE to be happy or DECIDE to be unhappy. It’s all in how you view the world around you.

Bad things happen to everyone.

EVERYONE.

Regardless of race, sex, or bank balance. The key to life is how you handle the bad situation. And it’s not fair to take our bad mood, or crappy circumstances, out on the people around us. I preach that lesson to my boys all the time. It’s not MY fault that you woke up on the wrong side of the bed – get over it. And I don’t care how grumpy you feel, force yourself to smile at people. And you want to know the weird part? If you force yourself to be happy, guess what happens.

YOU FEEL HAPPIER.

Don’t believe me? Try it.

I dare you.

Happiness is not about ME, it’s about making OTHER people happy. It’s about what I can do for other people, not what can people do for me. (Sound familiar?)

Happiness is not about being selfish. Though it’s important to find things that make us happy, it’s equally, if not more so, as important to help other people feel happy, too.

Relationships

Is An Emotional Affair Cheating?

I’m not even sure calling it an “affair” is the correct term. Sure, it can turn into one, but I think the initial stage is more of a connection – an emotional connection with someone other than your spouse is a dangerous door to peek through.

This is my response to the following Momversation video, which, incidentally, you’ll have to click over to watch if you’re reading this via email or RSS feed. Sorry about that.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“I’m his wife, not his life.”

That line probably ranks as one of my favorite top-ten sayings. It packs such a punch, don’t you think? And I would have agree. Kevin and I are close, but I wouldn’t presume that his world revolves around mine, nor mine his. He is free to do things with his band buddies, and I’m free to pursue my own interests.

Within reason, of course.

I tell him everything, whether he wants to hear it or not. I know that a lot of what I tell him, my thoughts, feelings, hunches, and mundane details of everyday living goes in one ear and out the other. I can tell when he’s not really paying attention and only humoring me and I’m generally okay with his lack of interest – after all, it IS boring and a lot of times I’m spewing just to get it off my chest or I’m trying to work something out in my own head.

I tell him everything because he’s all I have. I don’t have a close girlfriend to confide in and sometimes I just need to clear my head or it will explode. And that’s NEVER a pretty sight, let me assure you.

I tell him everything because he’s my best friend. So I guess I have trouble understanding why a woman wouldn’t WANT to tell her husband everything because I have a hard time understanding why a woman would marry a man she didn’t at least consider a close friend.

And I’m talking emotionally, not physically.

Hey, I get it. Men are not emotional creatures. I don’t expect them to be, I wouldn’t WANT them to be. I like my men to be MEN, thank you very much. (Which loosely translates into a male who is confident with himself, with his opinions and beliefs and who isn’t wishy-washy or squeamish).

However, women are very much emotional creatures. Women connect first and foremost via emotions, so when a man attempts to connect with her on an emotional level, then that relationship is taken to a whole new level.

Whether you’re married or not.

I think we need to differentiate between what you would tell a friend and what you would tell a lover. I really like what Maggie said about there being a difference between “emotional sustenance” and “having an affair.” Women crave emotional sustenance. It’s how we’re programmed. The key to opening up any woman is to tap into her emotional needs. And by that I mean, listening to her, making her feel special, respecting her opinions, being playful with her (without being too sexual, at least initially, men have to build that bridge before crossing it), making her feel sexy and beautiful THEN, and only after THEN, can a woman fully respond to sexual advances.

Just like with orgasms, women take a while to reach that heightened pleasure because it’s not about physically teasing her, (though that certainly HELPS), but rather about emotionally teasing her first.

So when a woman feels like she can connect with a man on an emotional level, she’s instantly attracted to that man (and not necessarily physically, but on a deeper, more intimate level – remember, it’s about emotions for women, not physical), she has to be very careful how far she allows the attraction to advance. Especially if she’s committed to another person because it’s soooo easy to fall into an emotional trap – especially if the woman’s emotional needs aren’t being met at home.

(Which is a lesson for you men out there – fill your woman’s emotional cup up and you’re pretty much good to go on every other level).

When you have an emotional affair with someone, you’re allowing yourself to value that person’s feelings more than your spouse’s feelings. You begin to think about that person more than you think about your spouse. You begin to pay attention to your appearance because now that that emotional abyss has been crossed, the next step is a physical validation. You know that special someone is attracted to you emotionally, now let’s see if they’re physically attracted to you. You have reserved a spot in your heart for that special “friend” and before long, there is no longer any room in your heart for your spouse.

Here is a pretty good definition from About.com:

An emotional affair can lead to a physical affair
An emotional affair begins with the exchange of personal information. As the people involved get acquainted, the information becomes more personal. Some argue that an emotional affair is harmless because it is more of a casual relationship than traditional cheating; however, the intimate nature of the communication, plus the emotional investment made by the people involved, places an emotional affair on the same level or worse as traditional cheating.

It is much more dangerous for a marriage should your spouse connect with someone emotionally than physically. Anyone who finds himself or herself drawn to another person on an emotional level should consider the possible consequences of such an affair. Emotional affairs are just as likely to lead to divorce and physical affairs.

The danger of an emotional affair
While it is healthy and normal for people to have friendships outside the marriage with men and women, an emotional affair threatens the emotional bond between spouses. Friendships are based on attraction, in that we are drawn to various qualities of our friends. Healthy friendships and attractions don’t need to threaten a marriage at all, but add richness and enjoyment to life. When an attraction turns into an obsession or into an affair, it can become harmful to everyone involved and nothing is more harmful to a marriage than the breakdown of the emotional bond marital partners have for each other.

It really boils down to respect. I respect Kevin too much to put me, or him, in an emotionally charged situation. Hence the biggest reason I haven’t “friended” any old boyfriends on Facebook. That’s just not a door I’m not willing to, nor should, open. Ever. I expect the same from him. Once you’ve opened yourself up to another person, then it’s just too easy to go down that same road again.

It’s better just to block off that road altogether.

Keep friendships with the opposite sex platonic. If it feels like it’s crossing the platonic line, then cut it off, no matter how painful it might be. Your spouse deserves the chance to fill the same void that “friend” was filling. And that can only happen if you open the lines of communication. TALK to your spouse. Seek marriage counseling if the two of you can’t bridge the communication gap. All marriages deserve at least one fighting chance.

Think you might be heading toward an emotional affair? Here are some warning signs then build a relationship with a foundation of friendship and trust.

Here’s a comment from the momversation page that addresses Rebecca’s “I’m his wife, not his life,” comment.

The way I see it is if one shares feelings, secrets, and precious thoughts with someone else either than their spouse then the marriage is in trouble to begin with. I would be heart broken if I found out my husband did not think that we were at that intimate level and had to find someone else to share it with.

I completely agree.

We all crave a deep, emotional bond with other human beings – whether it’s a platonic connection (close friends) or a deep emotional connection (a serious relationship). I would propose that if one is not getting that deep, emotional connection with one’s spouse, then there might be some underlying problems that deserve further attention. I don’t think willingly having emotionally “satisfying” relationships outside of the marriage is exactly a wise decision.

Yet another argument to slow down and choose your life partner carefully. If there isn’t an emotional connection to begin with, then maybe that’s not the relationship for you.

Just food for thought.