Tag Archives: relationships

Marriage, Pandemic Style

Ever wished your partner would spend more time with you? How quaint! This is the universe’s way of testing our relationships. And if the data from China is any indication, we’ll be seeing a wave of divorces once people can get to their lawyers.

Not me, though; one nasty divorce was enough for a lifetime. But since 24-hour togetherness  can strain any partnership, I’m trying to follow a few rules.

  1. Spend time apart.  Encourage separate activities to create some alone time; for instance, I’ll bake or write while my husband paints or works on his computer.  And if you live in a studio apartment, try to at least identify separate work spaces. With luck, this will give each of you something to talk about every evening besides the virus.
  2. Share a laugh: a book, video, joke, photo or film. We’ve just gone through all three Cage Aux Folles movies (note: the subtitled versions are funnier than the dubbed ones).
  3. Plan things to look forward to once life returns to normal — a trip, dinner at a special restaurant, going out with friends, etc.  Fantasizing encouraged.
  4. Connect with others.  We enjoyed a Zoom cocktail hour with two of our favorite couples the other night and are going to make this a regular routine.  Cheers!
  5. Make a big bowl of popcorn and find something fun on TV.  We’ve been watching old Nick and Nora movies from the ’30’s and adventure films such as the James Bond, Kingsman and Indiana Jones franchises.  Pretty much anything that bears no resemblance to today’s world is a good choice.
  6. Stop obsessing over the news.  It helps nothing and makes both parties depressed, which isn’t conducive to a happy home.  Being informed is one thing; worrying about anything outside your own control is counterproductive.
  7. Go for a walk.  It’s reassuring to see the flowers blooming and hear the birds chirping as if the whole world weren’t going to hell in a handbasket.
  8. Take deep breaths whenever your beloved is getting on your last nerve.

My mantra: “Whatever doesn’t make you want to kill your partner makes you stronger.”

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Pants On Fire

When I was a child, lying came as naturally as breathing because it was an easy way to avoid punishment. As a young adult, it also served a useful purpose: to tell someone what they wanted to hear, grease the social wheels, escape an uncomfortable situation.

It wasn’t until I realized I’d married a pathological liar that I finally decided honesty really is the best policy, even when the truth is scary (e.g., telling your kids that their father has wiped out their college funds). But first, I needed to keep up pretenses until I had my ducks in a row (divorce attorney, exit plan, safe deposit box) and could salvage what was left of my savings.

This week, I read a great piece on how to spot a liar. Wish I’d known these tips back then, and am passing it along as a public service to any of you who have — or suspect you have — liars in your personal or professional lives.

It may also come in handy as you watch the news.

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S.W.A.K.*

Happy Valentine’s Day! What do I love, besides my husband, children, friends, and you, my dear readers? This week’s find: Clinique’s Chubby Stick in my-lips-but-better Fuller Fig, a rosy brown. (If you have less pink you might like the Curviest Caramel shade.)

The product has been around for years but somehow I never tried it. The moisturizing lip balm gives a subtle wash of color and feels light, not gloppy.  Won’t feather like lipstick or run like a gloss.

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Basic, and yet rather elegant in its functionality.

Hope you have a wonderful day and celebrate the one who loves you best: yourself!

The FOUE Effect

My colonoscopy last week prompts me to address a phenomenon I call “FOUE”, a common issue in modern life.

FOUE, pronounced “phooey” is an acronym for Fear of Unpleasant Experiences. Most of us suffer from this condition at one time or another, especially if an outcome is potentially scary:

  • Putting off a doctor visit or mammogram
  • Noticing our waistband is tight but not getting on the scale to see how bad it is (ignorance is temporary bliss)
  • Having a sinking feeling that our boss isn’t happy with us, but not asking directly
  • Avoiding confrontations with our nearest and dearest
  • Not opening a bill we know will be high, or a letter from the revenue service

As the sages say, knowledge is power.  If we confront the thing we’re worried about, we will at least know where things stand and be able to take action.

So, back to the colonoscopy and why people avoid them. If you’ve had one, you know it’s generally unpleasant — not the actual procedure, because you sleep through it, but the prep in which you drink gallons of liquid, take laxatives, and spend a day or two in the bathroom.  (Hint to you over-50’s: buy some diaper rash cream before your prep. You know what I’m talking about.)

Happily, there’s a newer option that makes this a little less icky.  Called HygIEacare, the process lets you avoid drinking the nasty prep liquid and instead have your insides flushed with warm water to make sure everything is nice and clean.

You sit in a sort of bathtub, with a pillow to lean back on, for about an hour, and can read and relax (more or less) while water flows into your tush and which you then expel whenever you feel the urge, as it were.  I won’t say it’s delightful, but it’s definitely an improvement. Highly recommended if it’s an option where you are, although it’s pricey ($245 in Austin) and not covered by insurance.

(Above, before the event: the water system, tub, me trying to relax)

The upshot: everything went well, which I attribute to taking a daily probiotic and eating more fiber than I had the previous time (five years ago).

Coincidentally, last Friday was also the 15th anniversary of my divorce from my first husband, a real a*hole. All in all, a shitty day … in a good way!

Realistic Fantasies

It’s a subtle change.

One minute, our dream partner is rich/brilliant/gorgeous/could make a porn star blush. A few decades later, and our idea of what’s hot has undergone a seismic shift.

Must be nature’s way of ensuring we don’t all throw ourselves under a bus after age 40.

SEXY THEN                                      SEXY NOW

A full head of hair                           Any hair

All night sex                                     All night sleep

Hot car                                              Hot chauffeur

Six-pack abs                                     Puts six pack in recycling bin

Good listener                                   Selective hearing

Valuable possessions                     Values

Nice smile                                        Has most of his original teeth

Great in bed                                    Makes the bed

Smart                                                Wise

Erotic talk                                        Knows when to shut up

Heavy breathing                            Still breathing

 

Here’s to the imperfectly perfect people we love! xx, Alisa

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A Punch List for Relationships

If you’ve ever been through a renovation or built a new house, you know that after 99% of the work is done, there are little lingering issues someone needs to come back and fix.

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Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com

Wouldn’t it be great if we could similarly correct all of our partner’s flaws, foibles, and idiosyncrasies? Then they’d be perfect, right?

Wrong! In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s remember that we don’t need to “fix” either ourselves or our partners — unless there’s something really egregious going on.

grey metal hammer

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Imperfection keeps life interesting.

But I’d sure like our contractor to repaint the places where door locks had to be moved, repair the dent in the kitchen sink, and replace the wonky floorboard and kitchen cabinet door.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and those you love!

three red heart balloons

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In Praise of Like

As a preteen, “liking” a boy was the highest form of attachment. Somewhere along the way, though, like was deemed second best to “love”. If you liked someone, that meant you were (only) friends but if you loved them, well, that was the romantic ideal.

I’ve been thinking lately that we shortchange ourselves when love supersedes like.

Shouldn’t our romantic partners/spouses etc. also be our close friends? People whom we respect, admire, enjoy and actually like? If those who set our hearts a-flutter are also good company, doesn’t that have more staying power?

Something else I liked this week: some hints on motivation.

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We usually know what we ought to be doing at any given moment – begin a project, get out and exercise, etc. — but feeling motivated enough to start may be more of a challenge.

So when I read this trick to outsmart your brain, it caught my attention.

A woman named Mel Robbins started researching the science behind motivation and discovered that our brains have an innate need to protect us. When we’re stressed, afraid, or in pain, our mind will keep us from doing the uncomfortable activity by communicating, “It’s ok, you don’t need to do that; do this instead”.

It’s not necessarily a lack of willpower or commitment that keeps us from pursuing what we ought to; it seems to be an innate response we can train ourselves to override.

Ms. Robbins has given talks and written a book about her 5-second rule and how to use it in every area of your life. It’s quite simple: when you find yourself procrastinating, count backward from 5 and then begin the activity. Apparently, it’s a form of metacognition that interrupts the excuses. Here’s more detail if you’re interested.

This sounds very cool and I’m going to use it right now to make myself pull some pesky weeds.

Or maybe after lunch….

10 Habits That Lower Your HQ (Happiness Quotient)

You feel it in your gut when things are going well. And it’s equally gut wrenching when they aren’t. We’re often told that happiness is a choice, which can seem banal at best and downright condescending at worst. Who are these Pollyannas prattling on about looking on the bright side? Makes you want to swat them upside the head!

But although there will be times in our lives when stress, loss or illness make it understandably difficult to stay positive, some daily habits can either cause us to be miserable or reinforce our sense of gratitude, accomplishment, laughter and love.

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1. CLINGING TO TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS

While it’s easy to ignore many people we truly can’t stand – an obnoxious co-worker, for instance – it’s often harder to walk away from a friend, romantic partner or family member.

Relationships should be a two-way street based on mutual respect and the recognition that compromise is necessary when you each have different needs or desires. If you sense that some of your relationships are unbalanced, and you feel that you consistently give more than you get or that most encounters leave you feeling drained, it’s probably time to re-evaluate.

A frank conversation may put things back on track, or you may find that a time out leads to a lasting sense of relief when they’re not around to push your buttons.

2. TAKING EVERYTHING PERSONALLY

The bitter truth: Not everything is about you. If someone is rude it could be because they’re having a crappy day. The waiter didn’t screw up your order to punish you. When an opportunity falls through it’s not because you “always” have bad luck. Habitually casting ourselves as a victim inevitably makes us unhappy.

3. SECOND GUESSING

It’s a fact of life that not everyone will agree with your every decision. Take an honest look at your actions. When you do your best and act honorably you can feel secure in your choices, even if you don’t do or say what somebody else wants to hear.

4. BELIEVING IN “MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY”

You may the hero of your own story, but inflexibility won’t do you any favors. While it’s great to be confident, feeling overly entitled is sure to bite you in the ass at some point.

5. SAYING YES WHEN YOU MEAN NO

Don’t let anyone “guilt” you into doing stuff you don’t want to do. You’ll resent every minute! Guilt is a major happiness time-suck.

6. PUTTING YOURSELF DOWN

While endlessly bragging about (or exaggerating) your achievements is rude and boring, it’s equally important not to beat up on yourself. Be your own best cheerleader, celebrate your successes, and forgive yourself for the legitimate mistakes you make.

7. REINFORCING THE NEGATIVE

Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes we’re irritated with our partners. Sometimes our kids drive us nuts. But although we may feel vindicated after an occasional bitch session, constant complaining is likely to leave us feeling angry and dissatisfied.

Instead of focusing on the negative, especially petty annoyances, seek out friends and partners who reinforce what’s going right, encourage your goals and are truly happy – not jealous – when life goes well for you.

And when you DO need to work through a troubling problem, try to envision a positive outcome rather than dwelling on what can go wrong.

8. ENDLESSLY WAITING

“I’ll move when I find the right job.” “I’ll travel when I have more money.” “I’ll dump him after (fill in the life event).” Putting things off until the “perfect” moment is b.s. Because, guess what, no such moment exists.

Start small. Read about that exotic destination or acquire a new skill. Put aside some money a little at a time. Whatever you can do to move forward today puts you one step closer than you were yesterday. Anything’s better than standing still, and…

9. GIVING IN TO FEAR

We may obsess over past failures, hold on to worries, or be terrified of change. But taking risks is part of life and rarely occurs without discomfort.

Don’t waste energy feeding your fears. Challenges help us learn, grow, and discover how strong and resilient we are.

10. COMPARING

Chances are, someone else is (smarter), (prettier), (richer), (more accomplished) than you are. After all, look at their perfect Instagrams.

Wait a second; those images are all highly curated! The truth is, comparisons only add value to your life when they inspire you. Envying a friend’s happy marriage? Start dating. Wish you had that guy’s career? Learn more about it.

IN CONCLUSION

One foolproof way to boost your HQ? Take time to appreciate the small stuff: your good hair day; that beautiful sunset; a hot bath; the fact that you still have (almost) all your own teeth.

And it never hurts to eat dessert first.

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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.

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