In Defense of Marriage


Let me just preface this post by saying that this is NOT a post in favor of “traditional marriage” & against gay/lesbian marriage, in case anyone reads the title, assumes so, & thus decides to forego the rest of what I have to say.  I’ve made it quite clear on this blog that I100% support gay/lesbian marriage & have no problem with “alternative” sexualities (homosexuality, transgender, bisexual, etc).

Now that that’s out of the way, I can get to the meat of the subject at hand: marriage.  My husband & I just got back from vacationing in Asheville, NC where we celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary.  I guess four years really isn’t that much, but when you consider that we were together for almost a decade prior to marriage, I think you can understand why we feel like we’ve been married for a lot longer than “just” four years.

Our wedding rings with my bouquet . . . Photo credit to Emily Sibitzky of Triskay Photography

Our wedding rings with my bouquet . . . Photo credit to Emily Sibitzky of Triskay Photography

In any case, it’s occurred to me many times in my life, but especially so lately, that modern society has some pretty warped ideas about marriage.  Actually, I think that’s probably always been the case.  After all, if there’s one thing I resent in life, it’s people who go around proclaiming that the world is “going to hell in a handbasket” & everything is so much worse than it used to be.  Not only do I think that’s BS, even if it were true, whining about it isn’t changing a damn thing.

ANYWAY, what I’m trying to say is that I’m not surprised that a number of people of my generation have a lot of qualms about marriage.  Between many of us growing up with parents who ended up divorced (or in some cases with parents who probably would have been better off divorced) & the multitude of negative depictions of marriage showcased in the media, it’s really no wonder that some of us have a very skeptical view on marriage.real act of marriage

I’ve read recently that the statistics aren’t as bad as we’ve been told for years now, but consider that the divorce rate in the US is generally accepted to be hovering somewhere around 50%.  Then consider that the media (everything from TV shows to commercials to movies) often depicts marriage as a milestone that magically causes women to gain 50 lbs, stop having sex, & become psychotically obsessed with having a perfect house while men become disgusting Neanderthals who can’t be bothered to lift a finger around the house or generally be anything more than overgrown teenagers.

No, no, no!!  It doesn't have to be like this.  It SHOULDN'T be like this.

No, no, no!! It doesn’t have to be like this. It SHOULDN’T be like this.

This negative portrayal of marriage in the media is not a new phenomenon.  Going back as far as the 1950s, marriage has often been portrayed in less than stellar fashion, usually for the sake of laughs of course.  Consider the classic I Love Lucy in which Lucy & Ethel, but especially Lucy, are depicted as incapable of balancing a checkbook & generally in need of a man to watch over their every move, meanwhile Ricky & Fred are buffoons who couldn’t iron a pair of pants or cook a pot of rice to save their lives.  Negative jokes about marriage were a regular part of the show’s routine, & I seriously doubt that the average viewer found this unusual or offensive.  It was just standard operating procedure.  And frankly I don’t think a hell of a lot has changed.  For example, a year or so ago I tried to watch a modern TV show (can’t remember the name right now) about which I’d heard a lot of good things.  However, I never made it past the first episode in which a recently engaged couple suddenly morphed into these bizarrely different versions of each other.  I just couldn’t take it.

I know a lot of people probably think “Oh, it’s all in good fun” but I think such depictions of marriage reveal a more sinister problem.  Or at least perpetuate negative stereotypes that, while sometimes reflected in real life, certainly are not inevitable consequences of marriage.ML BS

As a side note, it boggles my mind when I hear people say they’re so shocked that a celebrity couple like Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton are getting divorced.  I’m not surprised at all.  Hell, I’m a lot more shocked when such celebrity couples DON’T get divorced!  Why is it surprising that two people with a lot of money/fame/power who spend a lot of time on the road away from each other would not achieve lifetime marital bliss?  Get real, people.

I just finished reading Corey Taylor’s latest book, as I mentioned in last week’s blog post, & I’ve been inspired by his bluntness to be a bit more blunt myself.  Now remember I’m not some relationship guru or expert, & I’m under no illusions that I’m Jesus or Buddha or some kind of divine messenger or any such nonsense, so you can take everything I say with a lump of salt.  I’m just a 26 year old woman with an opinion & the desire to share it.  So you can like it or lump it as far as I’m concerned.wedding-spoons

With that disclaimer in mind, allow me to put it this way:

If getting engaged means your partner takes this as a license to become obsessed with every detail of the wedding to the point that you don’t even feel like he/she is the same person anymore . . . you’re doing it wrong.

If getting married means you no longer have sex on a regular basis . . .  you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re legitimately surprised that your fiancé proposed to you . . . you’re doing it wrong, & you probably shouldn’t be getting married because if you’ve never even discussed marriage before, you obviously have crappy communication skills.alimony

If getting married means you think you’re entitled to that person’s money for the rest of your life, even if you get divorced . . . you’re doing it wrong.  Allow me to go on a short rant here: alimony makes absolutely zero sense to me.  The whole idea of having access to another person’s money/time/body/life is dependent on the fact that you’re married to that person.  So if you get divorced & are thus no longer married, what makes you think you’re entitled to his/her money anymore?  Argh.  Feminism takes a step backwards every time a woman accepts an alimony check.  To be fair, if a recent divorcee is a stay-at-home mom (or dad), I can see how she might need a year or two to get back on her feet & into the workforce & able to support herself.  But there’s got to be a limit on these things.  Otherwise, how can we claim to be equal partners in marriage?  We can’t have it both ways, ladies. 

I understand that people change as they grow & mature, but if marriage means you don’t even recognize your spouse anymore . . . you’re doing it wrong.long-lasting-marriage

If marriage means you think you have a free license to gain a ton of weight or generally no longer care about your appearance at all . . . you’re doing it wrong!  Here’s another rant: nobody wants to be the a$$hole who says it, but just because you love someone that doesn’t mean you’re going to be sexually attracted to them if they morph into some completely different creature than the person with whom you fell in love & married.  You can call me whatever horrible names you like, but I think it’s just part of having self-respect, not to mention respect for your partner, that you continue to keep up your physical appearance no matter how long you’ve been together.  Trust me, I’m not saying we all need to traipse around the house in lingerie 24/7 or that every man has to have a 6-pack or he’s failing in life . . . I’m just saying let’s have some common sense & stay attractive, not to mention healthy, for our mates as best we can.  End rant.

One of my inspirations in life

One of my inspirations in life

In conclusion, I understand that not every marriage is going to work out.  But I do think a lot of divorces are precipitated by the fact that many couples have less than stellar communication skills, not to mention the fact that many couples rush into marriage for a variety of reasons.  And to be perfectly honest I don’t think getting divorced should be viewed as some kind of grand failure in life.  It happens.  It’s just a part of life like everything else.

Also, let me be clear in saying that I understand there are some couples who are fully committed to each other but have no desire to actually get legally married.  And I have no problem with that.

T-shirts like this, & the message they send, make me so angry!  It doesn't have to be this way!!

T-shirts like this, & the message they send, make me so angry! It doesn’t have to be this way!!

What really bothers me is seeing marriage portrayed as some kind of trap or the “end of the party.”  I can’t remember who has said this to me, but more than once in my life I’ve had people ask me how I could possibly get married so young (22, which isn’t even that young in my family/culture) & didn’t I feel like I was missing out on a lot of fun.  Aside from the fact that I find such questions incredibly rude, it saddens me that so many people think of marriage as an inevitable damper on life. 

Perhaps the best way to sum it up is this: yes, life is hard & even the best relationships aren’t always a cake-walk, but if your marriage doesn’t add to the quality of your life, if it doesn’t make you a better, happier, more fulfilled person . . . you guessed it, you’re doing it wrong!

Real Life Romance Is Better Than Fairy Tales


This past weekend I watched a British film called I Give It a Year which centered on a subject I’ve been pondering a lot lately: why some marriages/relationships last while others don’t.  A common theme I’ve come across in this regard is that real life ruins romance, that the nitty-gritty grind of daily life leaves even the most passionate relationships tasting stale after a couple of years.  The movie dealt with this very topic (quite good by the way, if you appreciate British humor).

Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I’m no relationship genius . . . I don’t suppose anyone is really, but least of all someone under thirty.  But I have been with my husband for over a decade (married three years at the end of this month) & I can honestly say that our relationship has only gotten better over the years.

Sure, real life has changed our relationship over time, but we haven’t lost our passion because the foundation of our relationship (our friendship) has only grown stronger over time.  For example, yes, my husband doesn’t bring me flowers quite as often as he used to . . . But he doesn’t work at a florist anymore either!  And he still buys them for me on special occasions or even randomly when he knows I’ve had a bad day & just need a happy surprise to make me feel special.  (This happened recently when I woke up with a headache & broke the blender & he knew that I was upset by this turn of events.)  More importantly we both still take the time to do the simple little day-to-day things that show each other we really care & are invested in this relationship.

Living together does indeed open up a whole new can of worms so to speak.  For example, yes, my husband leaves empty toilet paper rolls in the bathroom all the time, & yes, there is a part of me that wants to scream “How hard is it to just change the roll?!”  But then I remember that I do little things that annoy him too . . . And he doesn’t scream at me about those things because we both have the presence of mind to realize that life is far too short to get angry over things that are of no real consequence.  So instead of getting angry, we just laugh, roll our eyes, & move on with life.  To us this is just the logical way to handle the everyday frustrations of life.

Some of my husband's gorgeous landscaping.  He's so talented!

Some of my husband’s gorgeous landscaping. He’s so talented!

This is not to say we don’t have arguments . . .  And, yes, they are usually in the car because we are both very strong-willed & proud & think we’re always right about everything  (I’m kidding . . . sort of), especially directions!  And, yes, there are definitely times when stress from work spills over into our relationship.  But when that happens we call each other out on it & we work to fix it quickly.  Furthermore, we’ve always had a “no holds barred” policy in which we can say anything & everything to each other.  Perhaps this means we say “mean things” to each other more often than we “should,” but it also means there is never an opportunity for resentment or bitterness to arise between us.  To put it simply, I don’t expect him to read my mind, nor does he expect that of me.  If something is bothering us, we don’t mince words; we just say it.  As my husband recently stated “If you can’t tell your partner to buzz off every once in a while, what kind of relationship is that?”  I heartily agree.  The important thing is that you get over it quickly & that the underlying anger/frustration isn’t allowed to fester & build into an explosion.

My husband & I definitely talk to each other like this sometimes.  It makes for a lot of laughs!  :)

My husband & I definitely talk to each other like this sometimes. It makes for a lot of laughs! 🙂

Certainly real life can make romance a bit more “work.”  Sometimes my husband & I go days without having any real time together, especially since I work night shift & thus we can literally go days without even seeing each other sometimes . . . But instead of resenting each other for this, we allow the time apart to help us appreciate our time together all the more.  And we make the best of the time we do have.  We prioritize spending quality time together, knowing that nothing in our lives is more important than our relationship with each other.  We take care of each other in various ways, not so much because either of us is incapable of doing things for ourselves but because we realize that life is better together, & thus we take care of each other out of mutual love & affection.  We do not view each other as filling certain “roles,” rather we view each other as intellectual equals in a romantic friendship (otherwise known as marriage), each of us having unique but complementing traits.  Because we have such a comfort zone together, yes, sometimes we do become the worst version of ourselves around each other . . . But we also see the best version of each other a lot of times too.  And the best times are definitely worth all of the worst times.

I guess what I’m trying to say is we never went into our relationship (& thus our marriage, which is really just an extension of the relationship we had prior to marriage) with any fairy tale ideas.  Marriage isn’t a fairy tale because LIFE isn’t a fairy tale.  It never has been; it never will be.  Real life is mundane, stressful, & sometimes even dull.  But it’s also full of beauty, joy, & meaning if we look for it in the right places.  As someone who grew up watching Disney fairy tales over & over & over, amazingly enough I’ve always had the foresight to understand that no relationship is ever perfect.  Everyone fights at times.  I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: if I can’t fight (I prefer the term argue actually) passionately with someone, I probably can’t do anything else passionately with them either.

cinderella marriage

[As an aside, I also think a lot of people have an unrealistic idea of what romance actually is.  A lot of people seem to confuse attraction, lust, or passing interest with romance when true romance is so much more.  Furthermore, I’ll be so bold as to say that romance isn’t having the proverbial butterflies in your stomach.  Real romantic relationships are built around a solid friendship, & real happiness is found with that person who makes you feel comfortable & “at home” when everyone else makes you feel nervous, afraid, or worse yet bored.  To me this is just logical & makes perfect sense but apparently it’s a bit more complicated because a lot of the world obviously hasn’t figured it out.]

I hope I haven’t come across as self-righteous or as if I think I have the perfect marriage.  I’m just trying to make sense of what I see in the world & to share a message of hope that real life doesn’t have to ruin romance.  I know a lot of people say my generation is clueless when it comes to relationships & that we don’t know how to handle marriage, but I want to prove those people wrong.  (And I like to think I’m off to a pretty good start.)

true love chickens

From the things I’ve observed in life thus far, I’ve deduced that a lot of people go into relationships & then marriage with the idea that everything is going to be perfect.  When real life creeps up on them & they realize that reality isn’t matching up with the fairy tale they imagined, suddenly they think they’ve failed.  I don’t know who or what is to blame for this phenomenon . . . I’m sure movies & TV feed into this scenario somehow.  But even as a kid I knew that the things I saw on TV weren’t real.  As adults we need to grow up & realize that real life is the nitty-gritty day-to-day grind & there’s no reason why that should spoil our fun.  I’m not at all suggesting anyone settle for someone with whom they don’t share real passion in all aspects of a mature relationship.  What I am saying is that real passion doesn’t have to be worn down by every-day life.

This is why I’m a huge proponent of living together before marriage because it allows you the opportunity to experience day-to-day life together.  In so doing, you can figure out whether seeing each other at both your best & worst, with all of the bad habits & general grossness that encompass everyday life, ruins the romance or whether it only makes it grow stronger.  (On the other hand I do not encourage rushing into moving in with a new significant other.  I am only talking about serious, long-term, committed relationships.)  It’s been my experience that when you have the basic ingredients for a sound relationship, a solid friendship combined with physical/romantic attraction, the daily grind of life will not ruin the romance at all.  It will only grease the wheels.

irritating love cartoon

**As an afterthought, I should disclose that my husband & I do not have kids yet so I have no idea how that tremendous variable will affect our marriage someday.  I can only hope that if we approach our relationship in the same logical but loving way we have for years now that the romance will continue to blossom despite the challenges that I know children can bring into a relationship.

***Here’s a great article that I believe explains what the ultimate relationship should look like.  Notice I said ULTIMATE, not perfect.  I believe if you have the qualities listed here, the romance & passion will NOT die over time; they will only grow stronger.  http://jamesmsama.com/2014/07/09/10-qualities-of-the-ultimate-relationship/

I Am Not Mrs. John Doe


Twice in the past week or so I have received mail from my alma mater (as in my college) addressed to me in the following format: Mrs. My Husband’s Name, e.g. Mrs. John Doe.  (I don’t like using my or my husband’s full name on this blog so I’ll just stick with the John/Jane Doe format for the purposes of this blog post.)  Receiving mail in such a format from family members wouldn’t be too surprising.  But I for one found it odd that my college addressed mail to me using my husband’s name.  Being the analytical sort, this turn of events led me to think about what it means to be referred to as Mrs. John Doe & why this entire idea has always struck me as a bit odd.

To preface, it would behoove me to address the first issue: taking my husband’s last name.  When I got married, I was at first quite determined not to change my last name.  I wasn’t doing it out of “feminist protest” or anything as dramatic as all that.  I just frankly didn’t want to deal with the hassle of the paperwork involved in changing my name especially since I had just received my nursing license a mere two months (probably less) before the wedding.  In all honesty, I just didn’t feel like dealing with it.  My husband being the wonderful supportive man that he is left the decision entirely up to me.  He confessed that he would be flattered if I chose to take his last name & we both agreed that for the sake of simplicity, especially if we had children in the future, it would probably be wise to have the same last name.  But he felt that this was a decision I should make on my own & he told me many times that he would not be offended if I waited a few months or years to take his name or even if I chose to never take it at all.  My husband isn’t the type to say things just to please or appease me (I couldn’t abide a man who did) so I knew he absolutely meant it when he said he’d support me in any decision I made regarding the name change.  That meant the world to me then & still does.

Wedding Cartoon Name Change

For months I pondered the idea, trying to decide if the hassle was worth it & if taking my husband’s last name was indeed some kind of surrender to the patriarchy.  Eventually after about four or five months I decided to go ahead & adopt my husband’s last name, one reason being I really liked the flow of how my name sounded with my original middle name dropped & my maiden name substituted as my new middle name.  I thought it sounded more professional & succinct.  On a less superficial level, I decided that as my husband had so wisely pointed out, this decisions is an individual one for every couple.  Essentially it means different things to different people.  To me taking on his last name was not giving up an important part of my identity, so in the end I decided that FOR ME adopting his last name was NOT surrendering to the patriarchy.  It was simply me admitting that I don’t want to give our future children a hyphenated name that will become even more ridiculous if they get married & try to combine it with their spouse’s name some day.  Could you argue that my husband could just as simply have taken my last name?  Sure.  Is it sexist that I know he wouldn’t have considered that?  Maybe.  But at the end of the day I think we have MUCH more important issues to worry about, so that’s a post for another day, if ever.

What I am trying to say is I think it is each woman’s (or man’s) individual decision if she wants to change her name or not when getting married.  No one should be judged based solely on their decision to adopt or not adopt their husband’s (or wife’s) last name.  I fully understand that some women see changing their name as an affront to their identity & humanity & I respect that completely.  I also realize that there are plenty of women who are/were so incredibly excited to take on their husband’s name that the idea of not doing so has either never crossed their minds or strikes them as totally ludicrous.  I respect that mindset as well even though I admittedly do not understand it.  The point is society should be open to & tolerant of both choices as well as the  more radical choice that a husband take his wife’s name if he so chooses.

woman+deciding

 

All of this brings me to the point of this entire post.  Though it took me some time & thorough deliberation to actually change my name, I do not mind having my husband’s last name.  In fact I rather enjoy it now.  HOWEVER, long before I even met my husband, when I was just a child, I always found it odd that women could be referred to as Mrs. John Doe.  Even as a child I understood the subtle implications of such references.  Referring to a woman as Mrs. John Does implies that her only, or at least greatest, identity is in being John’s wife.  Furthermore it implies that a wife is interchangeable because Mrs. John Doe could be anyone, literally ANY WOMAN ON THE PLANET.  I take no issue with Mrs. Jane Doe because it is specific to me & thus addresses my own unique identity.  But Mrs. John Doe annoys me greatly for the reasons I’ve just listed.

marraige name change

If you’re a family member or friend reading this & you’ve ever addressed mail to me as Mrs. John Doe or know that you may do so in the future, please don’t worry.  I won’t write you off or be PERSONALLY offended in any way.  Trust me.  I am just interested in questioning the status quo & why as a society we still find it ok to address women in this fashion.  (I find it particularly ironic that my COLLEGE has addressed mail to me in this manner.  Anyone else find that a bit odd?)  I’m sure some people reading this will think I’m wasting my breath going on about issues that don’t amount to a hill of beans.  (Which is a countrified way of saying they don’t matter, if you’re unfamiliar with that phraseology.  I have to show my roots every once in a while, right?)  I know there are far more important “women’s issues” on the table today.  But this is a subject that I’ve pondered for literally years.  As previously stated, even as a child I found the Mrs. John Doe concept to be a bit disconcerting.  Keep in mind I was a child who played with globes, maps, & encyclopedias for fun, but nonetheless it begs the question that if even a child can see that something is a bit off with this terminology, perhaps we ought to at least question it a little?

question marks

To the ladies out there who are reading this (married or not), how do you feel about this matter?  Does being referred to as Mrs. John Doe bother you?  (If you’re not married, does the idea of it bother you?)  Why or why not?  To the males reading this, what do you think about this subject?  If you think I’m an incontrovertible bore for writing about such matters, that might be fair enough but I think this is something worth at least discussing.  (Hint: sarcasm.  I could never be boring, don’t you know?)  And I’d love to hear my readers’ opinions on the matter.

10 Ways to Know He’s “The One”


First off, I promise this post is not as juvenile & inane as the title implies.  Obviously relationships are not something one can approach with a “check-list” in hand.  At least not exactly.  Anyhow . . .

Tonight my husband & I were lying in bed & I started laughing about something.  I don’t remember what it was, but my husband responded by telling me I have “an unsophisticated, semi-masculine laugh,” “kind of a barroom laugh.”  He proceeded to say that after he hears me laugh he half expects me to follow it up with “Hey, ya want another beer?” or “You wanna go fishing?”  This is not because these are things I actually say (I’ve only been fishing once in my whole life, for the record) but simply because of how my laugh sounds.  He went on to clarify that he actually loves my laugh because high-pitched ultra-feminine laughs annoy him.

A lot of wives probably wouldn’t be too fond of this scenario but my response was to laugh uncontrollably for about 5 minutes straight because I found the whole thing so damn hilarious.  This situation prompted me to think about how much I love our relationship & the brutal honesty we’ve always had with each other.  We’ve been together for over 10 years now (married for almost 3 years), but even when we were just teenagers we were always blatantly honest with each other.  It is one of the greatest building blocks of our relationship & I can’t imagine it any other way.  The fact that we felt so comfortable with each other so quickly & seemed to know almost instantly that we COULD be so honest with each other was, I believe, one of the main reasons we were attracted to each other & how we knew, even at a very young age, that we were onto something special.

he's the one

Quite often in life people have asked me “How do you know if he (or she) is the one?”  Obviously there is no REAL answer to that question as it’s not something that can be objectively or scientifically measured.  But if there is an answer it’s probably something like this: When you’re comfortable enough with someone to be 100% honest with him & can tease each other incessantly & have fun doing even the most mundane things, well, maybe then he (or she) is the one.  Or maybe there is no “one” person but a range of people who could be right for you.  But when you find one of those people, hold on because it’s so worth it.  (You can read more about this idea here:  https://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2014/01/24/10-ways-to-simplify-relationships/)

This leads me to my next point.  A common theme I hear today is that relationships grow stale over time.  The passion dies out, real life wears people down, chemistry fizzles, & divorce or break-up begin to seem inevitable.  While this is certainly a realistic picture of how many relationships work, I don’t believe it HAS to be this way.  If you have the raw ingredients right, I think people can be in love & keep up the passion & chemistry for a life-time.  (I’ve seen it done.)

I haven’t lived that life-time yet, so I make no claim to be some kind of relationship guru or genius.  But I will say that after over a decade together my husband & I are still very much in love.  Yes, our relationship may be a bit more predictable now, but a lot of that is just due to growing up & getting older.  But the passion isn’t gone.  The chemistry is still there.  We can still tease each other about our respective “faults:” my big forehead, his gigantic skull; my unsophisticated laugh, his countrified way of saying certain words (ok that last one applies to me too but for different words).  And we can still make each other laugh over & over again.

marriage annoy

Trust me, we do fight.  But I firmly believe that it’s healthy to fight, as long as you know how & when to make up.  I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: getting married doesn’t mean you turn in your humanityIf you love someone, & especially if you live with them, you will fight occasionally.  That is just human nature & it’s no big deal.  Consider that you have probably fought with any previous roommates you’ve had, be they siblings or college friends, because any two (or more) people who live together long enough will eventually get on each other’s nerves at times.  Some fights will be about really stupid mundane things like why one of you left a bunch of dirty dishes in the sink.  And some will be over more legitimate issues.  It’s just life.  I’ve always felt that if I couldn’t argue passionately with someone I couldn’t be passionate with them in any other ways either.

I don’t know why I’m writing this tonight.  Honestly my mind has been filled with all kinds of ideas lately & relationships have not been among those ideas at all.  But this is what came to mind tonight & for some reason I felt compelled to write it.  I feel so incredibly blessed to have met my life partner at such a young age & to have somehow managed to stay with him all these years, through high school & college & now into young adulthood.  I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging because I’m not.  I just want to give people hope that love really can last a long time.  And despite a lot of portrayals in the media to the contrary, relationships really can stay interesting over time.

I have no idea how kids might affect our relationship & to be honest that is one reason I’m inclined to hold off on parenthood for quite a while longer.  I know everyone tells me “you’ll never be truly ready to be a mom” & I know they’re right.  Anyway, I’m straying from the point.  I’m not even sure exactly what my point is here but maybe it goes something like this:  Every person is different so naturally every relationship is different.  Thus there is no ONE prescription for success in relationships or marriage & no 100% sure-fire way to know when you’ve met “the one.”

But here are a few good pointers:

  1. When he calls you beautiful AND sexy
  2. When he kisses you on the lips AND the forehead
  3. When he thinks you’re as gorgeous when you first wake up as when you’re all dressed up & ready to go out on a date  (Or better yet when going out on a date means just staying home together)
  4. When you can discuss anything & everything together & never feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.  And when you can be together & say absolutely nothing at all & be comfortable with that too.
  5. When even the most mundane things like grocery shopping become fun just because you’re doing them together
  6. When he can tell you your outfit is atrocious & you can laugh, thank him for his input, & continue to wear it proudly (This scenario applies in reverse too (me to him), for the record.)
  7. When you realize that you will never be 100% CERTAIN that he’s “the one” & that you’ll never REALLY KNOW if you’ll live the perennial “happily ever after,” but you’re willing to take the chance anyway
  8. When he supports your dreams & goals in life & pushes you to be the best you can be at everything you do
  9. When he values your brain as much as your body & your body as much as your brain
  10. When he calls your laugh unsophisticated & semi-masculine & you find this truly hilarious because you know he is probably right & you’re so glad he loves you for this silly trait   🙂

That’s all, folks.  I realize this isn’t my most profound or articulate post ever.  Nonetheless I hope the sincerity behind my words has translated to you tonight & perhaps made you laugh somewhere along the way as well.

*P.S. I think you could replace he with she in the above list & they would still apply.

 

Why 30 Is Not the New 20


I originally wrote this post in May of last year but I was re-reading it last night & realized how relevant it still is, so I thought I’d share it here where it might garner a larger audience.  Additionally I’ve added in a few new thoughts here & there.

This morning I logged onto Facebook & saw that one of my friends had posted a link to a Ted talk by a psychologist named Meg Jay.  The topic of the talk was “Why 30 Is Not the New 20.”  Intrigued, I clicked the link, saw that it was a 14 minute video, & almost said “Nah, not worth my time.”  Thankfully I decided to give it a listen because it turned out to be one of the most motivational talks I have ever heard.  In fact I loved her message so much that I found myself taking notes so that I could summarize it & share it with my friends, some of whom might be more inclined to read a synopsis rather than watch the video.  Below I have listed Meg’s three main points & described them as best as I can, inserting my own thoughts here & there.  Anything in quotes is directly from Meg’s talk.

meg jay

1. “Forget about having an identity crisis & invest in identity capital.”  Kind of like good deeds beget good deeds, “identity capital begets identity capital.”  Identity capital is something that defines you & helps you accomplish the career, dream, or goal you want to achieve.    Identity capital can be volunteering in your community, taking on a challenging internship, going back to school, or a million other things.  The point is that if you want to achieve your goals in life (which by the way you SHOULD have actual goals), you HAVE to take specific steps to make them happen.  Nobody becomes a doctor or a rock star or an NFL player just by talent or luck.  Every dream takes hard work & intentional steps to make it a reality.  Small steps, no matter how inconsequential they may seem, are better than doing nothing at all & ending up in your 40’s or 50’s & wondering “what if?”

(Since writing this original post, I’ve taken the step of starting this blog so I can chase my dream of becoming a writer someday.)

2. Don’t limit your circle of friends to people just like you.  New jobs & opportunities & even significant others can be met through “weak ties.”  Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to your friends’ parents or your neighbors or to hang out with people of a different generation.  Quite often you can learn a lot from these people & you just never know where that crucial connection will be made.  If you only hang around people of your own age & social “class,” for lack of a better term, you will never challenge yourself & may very well end up stuck in the same old rut forever.

I know I met some of my best friends in college through other lesser friends or just by saying hi to someone who sat near me in class.  Additionally some of my best friends in Raleigh are 30 years older than me, but I feel as close to them as I do to many of my friends my own age.

3. Here’s the one that resonates the most with me.  “The time to start picking your family is now.”  It has often been said “You can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends.”  As a child & teenager this is true.  But when you become an adult you DO choose your family.  In modern America anyway, we no longer have arranged marriages so, yes, we actually DO have the privilege & responsibility of choosing our own families.  How awesome is that?  Just remember, “grabbing whoever you’re living with or sleeping with at the time just because everyone on Facebook is walking down the aisle is NOT progress.”  “The best time to start working on your marriage is before you have one.  Be as intentional with love as you are with work.”  Don’t just “make it work or kill time” with whoever happens to be there at the time.  It has been said that “love in your 20’s is often like musical chairs, & when people hit 30 it seems like everyone is sitting down (read: settling down) so people just sit down with (read: marry) whatever ‘chair’ happens to be there at the moment.  WRONG!!”

I know I may have little room to talk since I have no idea what it is like to be 30 & single but common sense dictates that this is a bad idea.  So many girls (& guys) in their 20’s say “Well, no, I wouldn’t marry this person I’m dating right now but this relationship doesn’t count.  I’m only in my 20’s.  I’m nowhere near ready to settle down.”  On the surface this sounds ok but you have to realize that the patterns you are setting ARE patterns.  If you get in a habit of “just settling” for whoever happens to be around, how will you ever know when you really meet “the one?”  Consider that by cheapening your own standards, you may also cheapen yourself.  I hate to sound like an old fart, but it’s true.  This goes for both sexes, so don’t think I’m just talking to the ladies here.  Additionally, the behavior you put up with is the behavior you will get.  As I mentioned in my blog post last week, one of my favorite books, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, eloquently puts it like this: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”  If you accept bad behavior from yourself or others for long enough, it will become your norm & you won’t even realize you’re being mistreated.  If you truly want a serious relationship, have enough self-respect not to spend the most valuable thing you have, your time, on someone who doesn’t really care about you (or who you don’t even really care about).  After all none of us is promised tomorrow.  There is no guarantee any of us will make it to 30 or 40 or 80.  Thus, there is truly no such thing as “throwaway” years.

My wedding bouquet & our rings Triskay Photography

My wedding bouquet & our rings
Triskay Photography

To further expound on this point, may I interject a few personal stories & say that walking down the aisle in a fancy dress & saying “I do” does NOT change anything.  If you have serious problems in your relationship before you’re married, surprise, surprise: they do NOT just disappear.  Now I know from experience that in the weeks leading up to our wedding, my husband & I fought a lot more than usual because we were both stressed & worried about the wedding, not so much the marriage itself but just the wedding day.  Neither of us likes being the center of attention & we just had no idea what to expect because neither of us had even been to a wedding for almost four years, much less been closely involved with planning a wedding.  The whole experience was new to us so of course it was stressful, & naturally there were times when we took it out on each other.  However, as soon as the wedding was over, those fights disappeared because that source of stress was gone.  But the little every-day things that we do that annoy each other didn’t suddenly go away.  Of course not.  People don’t change just because there are rings on their fingers.  Duh.  But we were very happy together & very committed to each other long before we were actually married so very little really changed after we got married. And that is how we wanted it.  (In my mind you should have a marriage-like relationship before getting married or else you probably shouldn’t be making that kind of serious commitment anyway.  Just my opinion, I know, but I think there’s some wisdom behind it.)

The only major changes in our relationship after marriage were due to life events that really had nothing to do with being married.  First we had to deal with my brand new nursing career which was certainly stressful; then when I finally felt like I was on top of my game with that, my husband finished his master’s degree & we decided to move to a new state & into an urban environment with a totally different culture than anything we’d ever experienced.  A week after we moved, I started my new job which was pretty challenging at times, & then my husband was unemployed for four months while he searched for a job. He finally got his dream job & very shortly afterward we decided to buy a house.  Now THAT was a stressful experience but one we’re very glad we endured.  Throughout this past year we have also lost quite a few loved ones including my husband’s two remaining grandparents & a special uncle of mine.

Overall, most of the changes in our lives in the past two years since we got married, especially in the past year, have been good things, but change is still stressful, no matter what it is.  I don’t know that being married has necessarily made these changes easier or more difficult but if we’d had serious relationship problems, whether married or not, we likely wouldn’t have made it through all these things.  The point of all this is, just because all your friends are getting married or you start thinking about having a family, don’t just settle when it comes to choosing a partner & potential father/mother of your future kids.  Whether you end up getting married or just deciding to be life partners without the formal marriage designation (which, by the way, I really don’t think is a bad thing), you are going to face a lot of challenges & changes in life, & you definitely need to be with the right person or it’s going to be hell.  I can’t imagine marrying someone who wasn’t my best friend.

Listening to Meg’s talk made me realize how proud I am of myself for making such good use of my 20’s, what she calls quite accurately “the defining decade.”  I know a lot of my success is rooted in having great parents who pushed me to do well in school, have a successful career, & always do my best at everything I attempt in life.  I also know that to a certain extent I got “lucky” in meeting my husband at such a young age & by getting a full scholarship to college.  But I didn’t get that scholarship without working really hard in high school to qualify for it, & I certainly didn’t graduate college with a 4.0 by just being smart.  I worked my butt off for that.  (Sometimes I wish I’d focused less on grades but that’s a post for another day.)  My husband and I also haven’t maintained our relationship over all these years without a lot of effort from both of us.  I love the fact that our relationship has always felt so natural, not at all forced, but at the same time life is hard & relationships are work at times.  You get out of life what you put into it & the same is true for relationships of course.  So, yes, I have a lot of people to thank for contributing to my success in life, but I also know that a lot of it is due to the decisions I have made.  Life IS what you make it & I’m very proud of myself for being a mid 20’s RN, wife, & homeowner.  I do NOT mean to imply that you aren’t successful if you don’t have a great career, aren’t married, or don’t own a house at this point in your life.  OF COURSE NOT.  Everyone’s timeline is different, as well it should be.  But I do encourage everyone who is in their 20’s to make good use of this time in your life.  Don’t wait till you’re 30 to be serious about chasing your dreams & start making good decisions.  

 I am also proud to say that when I think about my close friends, they are all making good use of their 20’s also.  Some of them have accomplished amazing things that I can’t imagine ever doing.  Wow, I really know some awesome people who inspire me daily.  You guys know who you are & you rock!

 If this came off as preachy or condescending, forgive me.  That is not how I meant it at all.  I’ve just talked about my own experiences because that is all I have to go on.  I found this talk so inspiring & I wanted to share it with my friends so that you too may be inspired to make good use of your 20’s (or whatever decade you’re in).  It’s never too late to chase your dreams, but it’s a whole lot easier if you start young.

Here’s the link to Meg’s talk if you want to listen to it: http://www.ted.com/talks/meg_jay_why_30_is_not_the_new_20.html?source=facebook#.UaLw1lonQoU.facebook

10 Ways to Simplify Relationships


Perhaps it’s because my husband is traveling for his job but I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about relationships & how people tend to make them way more complicated than they need to be.  May I be the first to admit this includes myself sometimes, lest I should sound like I’m implying that I’m some kind of relationship guru which I clearly am not?  I’m not even sure such a thing exists.  Anyhow, I’ve been slacking off on my blog posts this week, which might seem like a sign that I’ve run out of ideas, but what it actually means is that I’ve been overwhelmed by ideas, yet haven’t been able to light on any of them.  In any case I’ve decided to compile a list of ways to simplify relationships & thus simplify life.  Here we go.

  1. Be honest about what you want out of a relationship from the very beginning.  If you want a friends with benefits type of arrangement, say so.  If someone tells you that’s what they want & you aren’t truly in agreement, for the love of YOURSELF, say so.  Don’t pretend to be ok with something you aren’t & then be surprised when it doesn’t work out later.  On the other hand if you’re serious about a relationship, say so.  I’m not advocating proposing marriage on a first date, but don’t be afraid to say you’re serious.  And don’t be afraid to say no to someone who is serious about you if you truly don’t reciprocate.  Again, pretending never ends well.  Have enough self-respect to be honest about your feelings & goals from square one.  This leads right into number two.
  2. Give respect.  Get respect.  It really is that simple.  Don’t play mind games with anyone.  Don’t “test” someone by asking to spend time with an ex or some childish prank like that, just to see how they react.  Just be forthright and respectful.  Treat the other person the way you want to be treated.  Don’t expect special treatment because of your gender or anything else.  Be an adult.
  3. Don’t place unrealistic expectations on your partner (or yourself).  Getting married or being in any serious relationship doesn’t mean you sign away your humanity.  Regardless of your gender, you will inevitably still be attracted to other people, & that doesn’t lessen the love you feel for your partner.  It’s just part of being a human being.  Just be cognizant of it & know your limits.  Don’t be one of those childish people who expects their partner to suddenly think they are the only sexy person on planet Earth.  That just screams of insecurity.  Just let out all of your sexual energy on each other & you’ll be just fine.
  4. Never stop getting to know your partner.  After you’ve been together a long time, it’s so easy to think you’ve already figured someone out & to stop putting in the time to really understand each other because you think you already know it all.  Trust me, I know.  My husband & I had been together almost a decade by the time we got married.  But I’m still pleasantly surprised to find out that we don’t know everything about each other.  There is always more to learn & that’s part of what makes a relationship fun.  As an addendum, if your relationship is right, marriage shouldn’t change things very much because the relationship was already there.
  5. Don’t make someone a priority who doesn’t do the same for you.  If a guy likes you, he WILL call you back.  And vice versa.  Someone who cares for you & respects you WILL make time for you, WILL get to know you, & will even make time for your friends & family because they know those people are important to you.  They WILL support your dreams & goals in life & will in fact expect you to have dreams & goals.
  6. Don’t over-analyze or make up excuses for bad behavior.  If someone treats you poorly, do yourself the justice of walking awayThe Perks of Being a Wallflower got it right: we accept the love we think we deserve.  If you find that your partners are always treating you badly, think about what that says about how you view yourself.  I’m not excusing bad behavior.  I’m just saying don’t expect someone to change.  If they really love you, they’ll treat you right from the beginning.  Where’s the motivation to change for the better if you’re always there “rewarding” them even when they treat you like crap?  Sorry if that’s blunt, but relationships can be messy.  It’s all this silly beating around the bush nonsense that makes them so much more complicated than they need to be.
  7. Realize that deep down we are all still pretty primal.  This is why no matter how unfair it is women are judged much more harshly for their sexual decisions than men.  Is it fair?  No.  But biologically it actually DOES make sense.  (We’re the ones who can get pregnant so it makes sense that biologically we’d be inclined to be a bit more discriminating about our partners.)  No matter how enlightened & empowered we are, we women ARE more sexually vulnerable whether we like it or not.  This doesn’t excuse bad behavior on the part of men.  No way.  I’m not saying we can’t rise above our “animal instincts.”  Men are perfectly capable of being committed & faithful, as are women.  I’m just saying that we need to realize why men think the way they do & why women think the way they do.
  8. This one is crucial but is really hard to put into words.  Look for the guy or girl who is good in all the right ways & bad in all the right ways.  I don’t know how to write this out, but you probably know what I mean.  As with everything in life, it’s all about balance & moderation.  James M Sama wrote a fabulous blog post about this idea, & there is no way I can say it as well as he did so I’m just going to leave you the link to his brilliant article: http://jamesmsama.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/the-difference-between-a-bad-boy-and-a-jerk/
  9. Don’t feel the need to spend every single second together.  A truly great relationship will give you the confidence to be alone sometimes.  Or to be apart & know that things are still going to be ok.  If your partner wants a day or two to spend with their friends or family without you, let them.  Couples who really trust each other don’t feel the need to be together 24/7.  You were a person before you met your partner & you’re still your own person even with them.  Don’t forget that.
  10. This one is a big one & might cause some controversy but I’m going to write it anyway because I truly believe it . . . Give up on the idea that there is only ONE RIGHT PERSON for you.  The older I get the more I believe that there is a right TYPE for everyone & that you may very well meet several people in your life with whom you could be very happy in a relationship.  Notice I didn’t say anyone will be PERFECT for you.  There is no Mr. or Mrs. Perfect because human beings are inherently flawed.  But there are plenty of great people out there, a few of whom might be wonderful matches for you.  When you find one, be smart enough to go after them.  When you’ve got one, hold onto them.  Someone else may cross your path who might also be a great match but don’t ruin what you’ve already got on a chance at something else.  I’m a big believer in science & logic so I wish I could say there was a scientific way to KNOW when you’ve met one of these RIGHT people, but there isn’t.  You just know.  I always remember hearing that as a kid & thinking it was ridiculous.  But it’s so true.  You know when you meet a friend & you just know right off that you really “click” & that this person is going to be a friend for life?  It’s very much like that.  As I’ve said many times before, relationships are really just friendships with a bit of amplification so to speak.

Well, I hope you have found this list intriguing.  As I said, I’m no relationship guru or expert by any means.  I’m just trying to spread a little logic & wisdom into the very chaotic world of relationships that exists in our society.  I’m by no means 100% faithful to all of these tenets at all times, but I do try my best & in writing this I have renewed my devotion to putting these ideas into place in my own marriage.  I hope perhaps you too have found a little inspiration.  I truly believe simplifying relationships can actually make them deeper & more fulfilling.  The simple life really is the best.  Cheers!

The Greatest Expression of Love (It’s Not a Ring!!)


Today while reading an article online I came across a link to another article entitled “Five Ways to Get the Engagement Ring You Want.”  I think something inside of me died when I read that.  Actually maybe I should say something came alive, a part of me that was so angry & disappointed in our culture that seeing that article made me want to hurl my computer across the room.  I don’t know about y’all, but my brain is still a bit miffed at the fact that people are writing such articles, & not only that, but professional newspapers are publishing these articles!  Good lord, if we as women want to be viewed as the intellectual equals of men, may I suggest that we stop pandering to such ridiculous ideas of what being a woman means?  If we want to be seen as equal partners in marriage (or just relationships in general), maybe focusing less on what kind of ring we’re going to wear would be a great place to start

Kim Kardashian's ridiculous engagement ring . . . for a marriage that lasted less than 90 days . . .

Kim Kardashian’s ridiculous engagement ring . . . for a marriage that lasted less than 90 days . . .

On a slightly different topic, lately I’ve been seeing a link shared on Facebook about some kind of really sweet proposal story.  I haven’t watched it because I’m not a hopeless romantic & such things just don’t interest me.  I’ve also never seen or read The Notebook or any of the other popular Nicholas Sparks movies/books.  In fact that entire genre makes me want to puke.  Then there are the inevitable posts in magazines about the gigantic (& just plain gaudy) engagement rings that celebrities wear (see the above picture!).  Lest you should think I am a grump, please let me explain why these things are anathema to me.

I’ve never been enticed by the idea of public or over-the-top marriage proposals.  One of my biggest goals in life is to not be judgmental so I won’t go so far as to say I think these things are wrong.  Of course not.  But I just don’t see the appeal.  To me, getting married (or having any type of serious long-term relationship) is all about sharing real life with someone.  It’s about understanding that real life isn’t always exciting or even super interesting.  It’s sharing all of the little day-to-day events of life, like going to the grocery store, cleaning up after the dog, & vacuuming the carpets.  Lots of people can have fun together at concerts or the beach or on vacation in the Caribbean.  It’s when you can have fun with someone doing all the mundane little things than make up real life, that you know you’re onto something special.  Maybe it’s because I am at heart a bit of an introvert, but the idea of being asked to marry someone in front of thousands of people at a baseball game or some other such public event makes me cringe.  To me, a proposal is an intimate thing to be shared with your lover & no one else.  In any case, my point is that a proposal that isn’t public or elaborately planned out isn’t any less romantic at all.

When I got engaged I remember the inevitable questions about how it happened, & part of me regretted that I didn’t have a better “story” to share, but deep down I was so glad I didn’t.  I’m still so glad that my husband proposed to me in a very casual way without even having bought a ring yet.  I love that so much because it implies that the decision was very much something we arrived at together & he’ll never have to feel like he “bought me” with a ring.

Coming back to the ring discussion, my husband & I were “engaged” in our hearts for a long time before we actually got engaged.  We knew for years that we wanted to get married but we didn’t want to officially get engaged till we were much closer to graduating from college & coming close to a time at which we could realistically get married.  Naturally we had discussed the issue of an engagement ring long before he actually proposed & part of me hated the idea of a ring altogether.  It just feels like some sort of ancient tradition that labels me as property, & therefore part of me wanted to skip it altogether.  But I also recognized that this is such an established cultural tradition that skipping it would cause people to say & think all kinds of horrible things about us, so in the end we decided it wasn’t worth that risk.  So we discussed the kinds of rings we liked & discovered that we had very different ideas about what makes a pretty ring (I didn’t even want a diamond because I much prefer green or blue stones but we decided not to buck that tradition too).  I refused to let my husband spend more than a certain amount on the ring because I knew that we had more important things to spend money on than a piece of jewelry that realistically I knew I wouldn’t even wear that often (as a nurse, there is too much risk of losing it at work or worse yet of carrying germs on the ring).  In the end it worked out perfectly that my husband proposed to me on Black Friday (three years ago tomorrow!!) because we were able to pick out a ring together that we both really liked & that would have ordinarily been way out of our price range (he swears he didn’t plan that on purpose & as little as he thinks about shopping, I believe him).  Some people think it’s very odd that we picked out the ring together but I loved doing it that way.  To me, it represents the way we try to make all important (& sometimes even not so important) decisions in our relationship.  We discuss the pros & cons of various actions & then arrive at a decision that we feel to be mutually beneficial.

In summary, what I’m trying to say is that the focus on rings & other such “symbols” of love is absurd.  Some people are horrified when I say that my husband & I rarely wear our wedding rings (ok, actually, he never wears his & I wear mine once or twice a week when I’m not at work & remember to put them on), but my response is always this: a ring is just a symbol & what it stands for is FAR more important than the ring itself.  I hope this post hasn’t come across as arrogant or as if I’m trying to say that my relationship is perfect.  Of course it isn’t.  There is no such thing as a perfect relationship because people, like life, aren’t perfect.  It just horrifies me to think that enough women are so obsessed with getting “the perfect ring” that entire articles are written to help them in this quest.  How ludicrous!  If we as women want men to see us as more than superficial brats, we have got to realize that obsessing over engagement rings needs to stop.  The deeper message here is that we must realize that expensive gifts are not the greatest expressions of love.  The greatest expression of love involves spending the greatest gift any of us can ever give to anyone: time, the one gift we can never get back.  The greatest way to prove your love to someone, regardless of gender, is to spend time with them even when they are sick, sad, depressed, or generally not at their best.  (This applies to romantic or non-romantic relationships alike.)  Engagement rings are just a symbol of the eternal nature of that love.  Nothing more, nothing less.  As a society, I think we would do well to understand this.