Category Archives: Observations

How To Be A Happier Couple

We’re off to Italy tomorrow — (see #1 below). Since I won’t be posting while we’re traveling I wanted to share the following thought-provoking article with all of you.

(Shared from WhoWhatWear):

According to the app Happify, the most blissed-out couples have been married for under five years and have no children. If you’re among that demographic, congrats! If you’re not, or if you foresee yourself crossing over into a long-term partnership or having a family at one point, fret not, as there’s still good news—happiness in relationships, just like individual happiness, is something you can work to achieve. Here, eight research-backed methods for becoming one of those happy couples of whom everyone is jealous (and not just on Instagram, but in actual life).

1. BE ADVENTUROUS

According to the New York Times, “New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner.” So while butterflies inevitably fade, studies show you can inject new energy into your relationship by regularly trying new things with your partner. Try date night activities that are outside of your comfort zone, rather than spending another night in watching Netflix or simply walking over to your favorite neighborhood restaurant. It’s fine to continue with these beloved activities (after all, fall TV!), but if you want to keep the flame alive, it’s advisable to mix things up every once in a while.

2. MAKE AFFIRMATIONS A DAILY OCCURRENCE

According to research conducted by Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and author of the book Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship, one of the biggest learnings from her divorced clients was that they wished they had been more affectionate toward their spouse, or that their spouse had been more affectionate to them. Dr. Orbuch recommends performing one small act of kindness for your partner each day, be it a verbal affirmation (something focused on a positive attribute they possess or a positive feeling you have about them) or a physical action (like folding their clothes, giving them a hug). Taking specific note of the small things your significant other says and does to make you feel loved is important, too, as negative interactions are more naturally notable to our brains than are positive ones.

3. TALK ABOUT THINGS OTHER THAN MONEY, WORK ETC.

Dr. Orbuch’s research also revealed that the happiest couples made time to talk about things you might talk to your boyfriend about in the early stages of dating—dreams, values and goals. She recommends you commit to spending 10 minutes per day discussing with your significant other something that does not concern your job or other practical life demands. Ask your partner questions about their past (“What’s your favorite memory from childhood?”) and encourage them to share their bolder visions for the future (“What would you do tomorrow if money was no object?”).

4. FIGHT MORE BUT BETTER

Communication is key in relationships, and because you are two separate people, with separate world views, perspectives and goals, chances are that communication sometimes manifests as an argument. If you’re fighting small fights, often, this can be healthy, as it means neither partner is letting resentments build up. That said, the key to a “good” fight is to really listen to your partner’s point of view from a non-defensive place, and to try to look at the situation not just from their perspective, but from a non-partial, third party perspective. Also, it’s important to remember that you likely suffer from a closeness-communication bias, which means that you think you’re communicating your perspective to the people with whom you’re most intimate better than you actually are.

5. MAKE UP MORE

Apparently, being intimate one time per week is enough to increase happiness levels for couples, according to one study, and that going from one time per month to one time per week creates a happiness boost equivalent to that of a $50,000 raise. Though the same study also shows that intimacy more frequent than one time per week does not improve happiness levels, we don’t really believe that you can over-do it on this one.

6. LAUGH A LOT

Couples who laugh together, stay together, according to one study. Apparently, remembering times in which you shared a giggle in the past helps increase happiness within a relationship, as well.

7. MAKE OTHER PEOPLE A PRIORITY

This one has a few caveats. In news that’s sad for discarded single friends everywhere, it turns out that couples who hang out with other couples feel closer to one anotheras a result. More sad news, for divorced people, is that hanging out with friends who have split makes couples 75% more likely to divorce.

Generally speaking, though, it’s assumed to be healthy for any relationship for couples to spend time apart, with friends and family who are outside of the relationship bubble. This way, you’re not putting all of your expectations and needs onto one person—author Bella DePaulo articulates the dangers of doing exactly that here.

On another note, couples who prioritized others in the sense of parading their relationship for them online are not happier than couples who keep it a little more low-key. Read more about this fascinating phenomenon here.

8. DRINK TOGETHER… or don’t

Consuming a similar amount of alcohol as your partner increases the odds of success in a relationship; however, if you and your significant other do not have similar boozing habits, there could be trouble down the line.

Car Wars

I’ve written before about my theory/belief/fear that inanimate objects, such as the house you left behind while you swanned about on vacation, have a way of punishing you.

This week, it’s my car.

The palladium princess had been hooked up to a battery charger all summer and was running like a top (whatever that means) upon arrival, so off I went on Monday to get it/her inspected and renew my registration before it expired and some random cop desperate to make quota could pull me over.

With a passing grade under our belts, PP and I set off for a day of errands and adventures and looked forward to more of the same: Physical! Haircut! Dentist! Flu shot! – I’m telling you, life doesn’t get more exciting than cramming 4 months’ worth of overdue appointments into less than two weeks.

Tuesday I head to the garage and – oh joy – my newly inspected steel maiden will not start. Argh! Quickly borrowing my husband’s car so as not to miss Critical Appointment Of The Day (eyebrow shaping and lash lift), we leave her hooked up to the battery charger.

Which does nothing. Or, to be more precise, creates a charge just long enough to drive back to the car inspectors and get a diagnosis.

To no one’s surprise, PP needs a new battery… or, the universe needs $200+ to leave my wallet. Yippee.

Wednesday: The car is running smoothly so off we go to the dermatologist for a little “upkeep” in the form of microneedling. I have some extra time so I stop at CVS on the way, being careful to park away from other vehicles.

However… NOT careful to park far enough away from the Bane of Urban Existence, the parking barrier. Can I just say that I do not understand the need for these concrete logs to be approximately the same height as the low-slung carriage of any car smaller than an urban assault vehicle?

I back out and hear that sickening crunching sound that tells me I’ve scraped the undercarriage. Which would have been bad enough except that’s not what I did. The damn barrier must have gotten lodged under the front bumper because it’s been dragged and is now separated from the rest of the car. Crap and double crap, although at least PP is drivable. Small miracles.

Thursday. First order of business is to call the insurance company – always a super way to start the day. Then the body shop, where Very Nice Person Nick makes an appointment with me for Monday and suggests I stop by earlier so he can order any necessary parts.

Which, of course, turns out to be the entire goddamn bumper. Because the universe obviously requires another 500 bucks to exit my wallet.

Today: The day is young. If I stay home, what can happen? Don’t even ask.

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I Vant To Be Alone (Sort Of)

Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extravert? For me, it’s a frequent tug of war. While I love spending time with our family and friends, I’m basically shy and easily exhausted/overwhelmed by constant conversation. At the same time, I’d find it depressing to be a total recluse. Call me a closet introvert — or perhaps more accurately, a “schizovert” (a description I like better than ambivert, which sounds as though you have mixed feelings about standing upright.)

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Are you outgoing, a homebody, or a bit of both?

11 Signs You’re a Schizovert

  1. You dread parties but have fun once you’ve settled in.
  2. Your big presentation went well; now you need a nap.
  3. A lot of people think you’re salt-of-the-earth; just as many think you’re an asshole.
  4. You can whip up something for dinner when the kids bring unexpected friends over… but you’d rather they didn’t.
  5. At any gathering, you’re the last to arrive and the first to exit. (It’s not personal, I promise. We schizoverts just have a short social-attention span!)
  6. When your significant other is away, you leave the TV on to keep you company.
  7. You’re equally spontaneous and rigid.
  8. Going to the hairdresser and doctor qualify as social engagements.
  9. The busier you get, the more you want to take your phone off the hook.
  10. Your ideal number of pets is 0-1.
  11. You enjoy coming home from vacation as much as you enjoy leaving home.

Ironically, as I was writing this, I was invited to something — a result of making some wonderful new friends this summer. Note to P: I really would go if I could.

xo, AG

 

The Eclipse is Coming, the Eclipse is Coming!

Panic in Otter Rock! 100,000 extra visitors are expected to swarm the Oregon coast next weekend where we’ll be Visibility Central. We have one main thoroughfare, which is sure to be bumper-to-bumper, so locals (we summer residents included) have been warned to stay indoors for the duration of the long weekend. Good times.

One worried resident recommends that we padlock the gate between our little development and the neighboring hotel. As if that would deter any would-be miscreants who want to sneak into a community full of retirees.

I’m not sure exactly why she thinks the unwashed hordes are about to descend. To do what? Crash a canasta game? Knock down geezers on their morning walkabout? Trample the brambles? The sky goes dark every day, ‘ya know. Get a grip, people.

To be on the safe side, though, we’re stocking up on necessities: gas, batteries, brie and chocolate. This will require fighting for provisions along with the toothless crackheads who frequent our local grocery store– unless they’re too stoned to know about the Big Event. Luckily we have enough pinot noir to sit out several months of siege.

But what if it’s cloudy/foggy that morning, as it so often is? People who are paying $100 for a parking space are going to be pissed off big time.

Then what?? Riots in the streets? Tacky tee shirts ripped from their hangers? Mugs with “I heart Oregon” smashed to the curbs? Local hazelnuts hurled at the windshields of unsuspecting motorists? Tourists pelted with saltwater taffy? Maybe I should be less blasé.

Still. We’ve got eclipse goggles. We’ve got candles. We’ve got vodka. We can do this.

Just pray for sun.

 

 

 

 

Stayin’ Sane

Most days, the political news makes me want to pull the covers over my head and stay in bed for the next several years.

Take transgender military personnel. These brave folks are dodging bullets and land mines – are we seriously worried about whether they pee standing up or sitting down?

But, in the struggle to feel optimistic, I have a simple suggestion: buy wine. Not to drink, although drinking is to be encouraged in these fraught times, but to save.

This occurred to me yesterday, after stopping at one of our favorite wineries, Yamhill Valley Vineyards and buying a case of wine that won’t mature until 2020 or beyond. (Dare I suggest that we have a better chance with pinot than with our current president maturing by 2020?)

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Think about it: You buy a bottle that is drinkable now but is going to be so much better if you have the patience to wait a few years. (This may be the only area in which I am patient. Just ask my Long Suffering Husband.)

Your wine can be a little time capsule. You could wrap it in a current newspaper and hope that 6-8 years from now the news will seem quaint and vaguely amusing. You can put it away somewhere cool and comfortable and just visit it occasionally to make sure it’s doing ok. You can start collecting recipes of yummy food that will be perfect to eat with your special bottle. Be creative! Have fun!

Our friend Linda, the tasting manager at Yamhill, is taking this whole optimism thing to a new level. She has found a new love, lost over 100 pounds, and looks gorgeously, radiantly happy as her wedding approaches. What’s more of a leap of faith than marriage, right?

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Let’s all check in with each other in 2020, open our bottles, and toast our collective survival. Good times ahead! xx, Alisa

[Unsponsored post. All photos from Pixabay.com.]

Mystery and Myth: We All Need Some.

I was reading this morning about a fashion show fixture whose name wasn’t familiar to me. A quick jump to the link provided and — voilà — another half hour down the rabbit hole of pseudo-celebrity and one of its more bizarre denizens. It’s a great story.

This got me thinking about mystery, reinvention and reality as it applies to the rest of us “mere” mortals.

We’re on Facebook or Instagram over-sharing the minutiae of our lives. We volunteer intimate details to strangers and acquaintances. We embroider, embellish and gloss over the unseemly bits. We seem uncomfortable with just “being”.

Of course we all need approval. But isn’t there a middle ground between “I vant to be alone” aloofness and Kardashian-level accessibility?

A little mystery is always appreciated. I don’t want to know everything about you in our first hour of conversation, and vice versa. I’d like our secrets to unfold with time and trust.

On the other hand, creating a mythological existence out of whole cloth is pretty extreme. The authentic self is fascinating enough, regardless of one’s connections or accomplishments. We shouldn’t need to pretzel our life stories, manufacture drama or keep people guessing about our origins in order to seem interesting.

At Wednesday’s exercise class, a woman I hadn’t seen in nearly a year came over to introduce herself. Thanks to my current longer hair, a few less pounds and contacts replacing my usual glasses, she hadn’t recognized me.

For a fraction of a second I was tempted to invent a whole new persona. I could be anyone!! But then, the other ladies started laughing and told her who I was.

I’ll never be as enigmatic as Amanda Lear. But it’s quite nice to be known by a select few. As for full-on mysteries… make mine Dorothy Sayers.

Desire, Anticipation, Realization

Remember the old Heinz commercial with the Carly Simon soundtrack? Anticipation has been motivating people long before it was an advertising theme. I’ll bet Mrs. Caveman found saber tooth stew more appealing after waiting all day for Mr. C to bring home the goodies. (Imagine how a little ketchup would have helped!)caveman-159964_640

I’m not a patient person. But I love pre-planning vacations: reading about my destination; researching places to explore and eat; making and revising endless lists of what to bring and wear; creating a wish list of possible purchases. Anticipation extends the trip well beyond the actual time away if I start enjoying it months in advance.

I also find anticipation half the fun of baking – the long, slow rise of the bread or waiting for some delicious dessert to come out of the oven. And what’s nicer than looking forward to a hot cup of tea or coffee after being outside on a cold, rainy day – or a frosty beer after a blisteringly hot one?

Although it can be frustrating, time-consuming or confusing, anticipation is especially useful when purchasing something expensive. When’s the last time you bought a car or house on impulse before taking the time to decide exactly what you wanted? (If you did, you have far more disposable income than I do; please buy me a Bentley!)

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Psychologists tell us that desiring something is more satisfying than actually acquiring it (scientists call this “habituation”). There’s often a letdown after getting the object, which is why prolonging the process can be so enjoyable. (Check out a fascinating article on this topic in The Atlantic.)

I’ve been thinking about this since arriving at our summer house 20 lbs. lighter than last year and discovering that “I have nothing to wear” wasn’t hyperbole. I had exactly one pair of jeans and three sweaters that fit; everything else down to my underwear needed to be replaced.

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The surprise, for a dedicated shopper like myself, is that mass acquisition isn’t much fun. I’ve pretty much had to blitz-shop online (hello, The Outnet) to compile an instant wardrobe. As a result, I’ve been denied the pleasures of anticipation, window-shopping, weighing pros and cons, etc. as part of the experience.

Years ago, on a trip to Milan, my husband and I watched a group of young women return to our hotel laden with shopping bags from every high end store you can imagine (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior etc.) woman-1329790_640

I’ve often wondered: Did those girls really appreciate everything they bought, after the shopping high wore off? If you could acquire anything you desire without a second’s thought, would it be special?

What do you think — is anticipation more satisfying than acquisition? And what about delayed gratification… does something have more value to you when you’ve saved up for it? Are there things you bought that you love as much — or more — now that you have them?

In other words, does the “high” always fade?