Friday, March 6, 2015

What If ...

A couple of months ago my SM and I got into a little tiff big, rip-roaring argument.  I honestly can’t remember what on earth started this one, but it ended with SM saying something to the effect that it really ticked him off that I wasn’t the kind of woman who went around picking up after herself at home even though I am that kind of woman at work.

Well, that was enough to make me see red AND spots…and to make me take a little drive to cool off so I wouldn’t say something equally as inconsiderate in retaliation self-defense.  As I was driving around some random neighborhood, my thought processes went something like this:
“I am just not THAT kind of woman.  I am the kind of woman who gets it done, just not always right away because there is always something more important that needs to be done right away.  I am the kind of woman who does the important things and catches up with the ‘picking up’ later when the important stuff is finished.  I can’t help it that I’m just not THAT kind of woman.  If he wanted THAT kind of woman, than he should have married some solid, hyper-organized girl instead of this flighty, creative-minded one!  I HAVE to be that kind of woman at work to keep things running smoothly, but when I get home I want to just be me.  To be chill and get the important, creative stuff done and just leave the picking up until later if I so choose.  Can’t I just let my hair down at home???  I’m just NOT THAT KIND OF WOMAN!!!”

Almost immediately a still, quiet voice spoke to my agitated soul, “What if you WERE that kind of woman?”

I had to pull off the road into some stranger’s driveway to give my full attention to this disturbing thought.  What if I WERE that kind of woman?  What if I WERE the kind of woman who picked up the stray leaf on the mudroom floor as soon as she saw it?  What if I WERE the kind of woman who immediately washed her coffee cup when she finished the last drop?  What if I WERE the kind of woman who put a half-finished project neatly away when she was finished with it for the time being?  What if I were THAT kind of woman? 

This was quite a revolutionary train of thought for me.  I wish I could tell you I rushed home immediately, ignoring traffic signals, stop signs and cross-walking pedestrians in my hurry to apologize to my SM and promise him that I would never again leave the unfinished Sunday crossword puzzle on the coffee table for days until I could get to it later.  I wish I could tell you we straightaway patched things up with a kiss and a hug and a cuddle and I miraculously metamorphosed into THAT kind of woman.  But alas, reality rarely lives up to what the Pretty Woman version would be.  Instead, I waved cheerily at the perplexed stranger whose driveway I was invading, and because I was still miffed at SM (for whatever started the argument that I can’t even remember now) I went home and crawled into bed, feeling almost as bad as when I left the house for my therapeutic drive.   We didn’t actually patch this one up until days later (and, yes, I know what Ephesians has to say on that subject). 

But I did continue to quietly ponder that revolutionary thought:  What if I WERE that kind of woman?  Without saying anything to SM, I started to ask myself that question on a regular basis.  As I waited for the blender to churn out the perfect morning smoothie, I would ask myself, “What if I were the kind of woman who wiped the counters down while the blender is working its magic?”  And then I did it.  Or, “What if I were the kind of woman who washed the love bug guts off the car as soon as she got home?”  And then I did it.  Gradually SM began to pick up on the little things that were getting “picked up” and I can assure you he is one grateful man, which translates to a kiss and a hug and a cuddle.  But even more importantly, I am one grateful woman—grateful that even after 45 years of being one way, I can still learn and grow and improve and become a totally different way. 

So, what is your “What if…?” moment? 

Monday, February 16, 2015

25 Things I Wish I Could Have Told My 25-Year-Old Self About Marriage and Relationships

My heart breaks as I watch my extremely sensitive younger daughter struggle in a relationship with a really nice guy who reminds me in many ways of my Jeff, Since their struggles are so similar to things Jeff and I went through early in our marriage, I got to thinking about all the things I wish I could go back and tell my 25-year-old self:

1.  Your man will not be able to read your mind--not now, not tomorrow, not in some distant idyllic future.  If you want or need something from him, you have to be able to tell him.

2.  That means you need to truly know what you want from him.  Vague statements of, "I need you to show me I am the most important thing in your world" don't help you or him.  Examine yourself. Make sure you know what that looks like.  Maybe for you that means "I need to you to tell me I'm beautiful" or "I need you to hold me more" or " I need you to plan dates/gifts for me that you know I would like because you have paid attention to me and you have noticed what I like."  But maybe right now it means "I need you to take this crying, screaming baby for at least half an hour the minute you walk in the door so I can get out of my yoga pants and spit up stained t-shirt and take a quick shower and try to feel just the slightest bit human."  If you don't understand exactly how you need to be shown love, how will you ever be able to communicate what you need to him in a way that he'll understand?

3.  Give him specifics, not vague hints or even pointed hints or even hints that basically are the same thing as hitting him over the head with baseball bat.  Men, at least when it comes to relationships, tend to be concrete thinkers and they need concrete examples of what you are wanting from them in the relationship. Let me reiterate:  HINTS DO NOT WORK.

4.  Stop thinking, "But it's not romantic to have to tell him what I want."  It's much more romantic to spend a wonderful evening having an intimate conversation about what you need out of your relationship than it is to spend an awful evening having the same argument you've already had 50 times before.

5.  Don't try to start the above mentioned intimate conversation AFTER you've already started having the same argument you've already had 50 times before.

6.  You will argue...but when you do, argue with respect.  DON'T be spiteful and say condemning things to your man.  DO use neutral sentence starters like "I feel like you ..."

7.  Not every argument has to end in an immediate resolution.  You do NOT have to hash out every issue right now.  If you find the disagreement is getting too heated or emotional or in danger of becoming disrespectful or if he has just completely shut down, agree to disagree and take a time out to cool off.  You can come back to the discussion when you both are able to address it more clearly.

8.  But don't go to bed angry with one another.  Say to him, "I still don't feel like we've resolved the issue and this is something we still need to talk about, but I love you.  This argument doesn't keep me from loving you and I want to fall asleep in your arms tonight."

9.  Don't play games. Don't manipulate.  Even if you kind of get what you want in the short term, you will end up hurting your relationship in the long term.  It's just not worth it.

10. People generally see the thing they are looking for so always look for the positive.  Start every day thinking of three positive things about your man.  Write them down and meditate on them throughout the day. You will be more likely to notice all the things he is doing right instead the few things he is doing wrong.  And when you do notice them, tell him.  Better yet, praise him!  Of course, the inverse is true.  If you are looking for the negative, that is most likely all you'll see.

11. Read and truly understand 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7..."Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  it does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."

12. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable.  Don't be afraid to show him that you need him even if that makes you feel weak.  In a relationship you shouldn't be worried about who is "getting the upper hand".  Sometimes he needs to be needed.

13. Don't smother him with your neediness.

14. Be real. Don't try to be what you think he wants or expects you to be.  Take time to get to really know yourself and be that person.

15. Don't be afraid to be the first one to say "I'm sorry."  Don't let stubbornness or pride or fear of seeming weak keep you from taking the first step.

16. Read The 5 Love Languages or listen to it on audio.  Take the test.  Figure out how you give and receive love.  Figure out how he gives and receives love.  Work together to learn each other's language.

17. Try not to doubt his love for you if it doesn't seem like he works as hard at the relationship as you do.  Women are just more relationship minded than men.  That's not sexist, that's science.  Study after study has shown that women are relationship oriented while men are results oriented.  Understanding that he is different from you and will approach the relationship differently from you simply because he is a man and you are a woman is a huge step toward happiness.

18. Opposites do tend to attract...for a very good reason.  He will tend to be strong in areas where you are weak and you will tend to be strong in areas where he is weak.  You can complete each other because of this or you can clash with each other because of this.  The choice is yours.

19. Celebrate your differences.  Find ways to fill in the gaps he has and allow him to fill in yours.

20. Don't try to change him.  Even if there are areas where he needs to change.  Be the best self that you can be in the relationship.  Express what you need from him in the relationship.  But only he can change him.

21. Trust him.  No matter how hard it is to trust, trust him.  Even when you know what conniving witches all those other women out there in the world are, trust him.  Even when you've been hurt in the past by some other man's crap, trust him.  More often than not, your trust - or lack of it - will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

22. You will get in ruts. Sometimes you will need to claw your way out of them by shaking up your interactions with one another.  But sometimes, you will need to trudge along in them for a while, hand in hand, until the ruts even out and the way is smooth again.

23. Sometimes it will feel like your feelings or needs or wants aren't being validated by him.  Explain this to him in a way that he'll understand:  "What if I just stopped having sex with you and I felt like it was okay to do that?  Would that be alright with you?  No?  Well, that's how strongly I feel about you telling me you love me/spending quality time with me/saying I'm beautiful ..."

24. Relationships are W. O. R. K.  Fairytales do not exist.  Prince Charming is not going to sweep you off your feet to live happily ever after without a care in the world.  You both have to work at loving each other, respecting each other, meeting each other's needs, being each other's rock, communicating with each other ... basically making it WORK.

25. It is so worth it.