Tag Archives: marriage

marital efficiencies

I haven’t been getting any rest on the weekends lately. That’s because when my children are home, they’re running me ragged. And when they’re not, a certain special guy has been keeping me up at night.

We sat on a park bench one day a while back, both of us stifling yawns as we proposed big, wild ideas for the evening, of which none stood any real chance of actual implementation, because we were both far too tired. I teased him about keeping me up all night and translated that into what could be a future state, whether with me or another, in the wonderful, blissful drudgery of married life and parenting:  “All that caressing and foreplay and loving gets squeezed into the daily routine of life, with children in the next room and narrow windows of opportunity, and what we now do until all hours of the morning gets condensed into a very functional 13 minutes.”

I think that’s a pretty real example of something that happens in many marriages with children. And I don’t think it’s really such a bad thing when it does. Work lives, logistics, spit up, diapers, play dates, hobbies, the gym, sports, other activities, chauffeur duties and more enter back into a humdrum stream of days. The romance and excitement make way for everyday life. Love, which was once demonstrated with flowers and kisses, takes on new meaning, like cleaning up the toddler’s vomit.

I mean, you still have to take time for one another, keep the magic alive…but, as I’ve written before, I was totally cool with married sex…it was efficient in a very satisfying way. There are other opportunities for intimacy and loving acts and I guess my point is that sex can’t really take center stage forever in a relationship. A certain equilibrium or balance or something takes over… Life can be beautifully, exquisitely, satisfyingly routinized — almost boring — without ever getting remotely dull.

How did my guy respond to this whole train of thought? He laughed and gave me a big ol’ “Hell no!”

And does that mean I want to trade sleep for being kept up late loving and caressing? Nah, I kinda dig this stuff, too.

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about the children

The other night, I held my phone out at arm’s length and snapped a photo of me and my daughter enjoying dinner out. I posted this photo on Facebook, checking in at the restaurant we frequent. Then I messaged the photo to my guy. I didn’t think twice about it.

I’ve had my guy over to my house, he’s seen photos of my children and listened to my stories about them. But that was the first time I’d sent him a photo that included one of my children. And it kicked off (again) the whole discussion about when it’s appropriate for him to meet the children. Sure, we’ve talked about it…

Early on in a relationship, most responsible women don’t introduce men to their children for several reasons, which (just off the top of my head) include these:

  • They barely know the guy and want to be sure — let’s be honest about this — that he’s not some creepy pedophile who’s going to prey on her children.
  • They don’t want their children to see a revolving door of men coming in and out of their lives.
  • They want to step into the fantasy world of dating without children.

While the first of these needs no explanation nor commentary (and I’m confident my guy is a pure soul), let’s further explore these other reasons.

I’d hate to allow my children to become attached to a man who I’m not certain will be in my life for good. Divorce, I’m sure, was hard enough and I’d hate for them to go through something like that again.

Then again, I’m pretty open with my children. I’ve talked to them about dating, and they know I have a boyfriend. We’ve talked about whether they should meet him, and they know I haven’t decided yet whether to introduce them anytime soon. You see, I think it’s important that my children know that decision-making is a process, that I don’t always or automatically know the right answer, that some things are worth deliberation and discussion. An early conversation included these observations:

Eight-year-old:  “He should like to play football and go sledding.”

Ten-year-old:  “I’m going to give him a quiz, like his favorite food and color and stuff. And preferably he won’t be blond.”

Another of our conversations went something like this:

Me:  “I’d hate for you to get attached to someone I’m seeing, because then what if we broke up?”

Eight-year-old:  “Well, maybe he could come and play with us sometimes anyway.”

Ten-year-old:  “That would be awkward.”

Conventional wisdom says that we shouldn’t introduce a man to our children until we know it’s going to grow into commitment. If not, they’ll see a “revolving door” of men and develop beliefs about that — e.g. men leave, or Mom gets tired of men and kicks them out, or some such. Furthermore, in the event that things don’t work out, I don’t want the breakup to be harder than it might otherwise be, because he’s attached to my children or they’re attached to him.

I recently read a book (by a man) who suggested the opposite is the proper approach for men. He opined that women should introduce a man to her children early on, because a man needs to see the whole package so that he can envision himself as a provider and man of the family before deciding whether to stick around.

My children are resilient and, while I want to spare them heartache and pain in every possible way, I genuinely believe they can handle meeting someone with whom I’m spending time, as long as it’s in a casual environment, their meetings are few and far between, and we keep the dialogue going. But there’s more to the decision than that:

Right now, I get to date and spend time with my guy on weekends when my children are with their father. At those times, it’s almost as though I’m young and single — it’s romantic and exciting and fun. How will that change if I introduce the children? When he comes over to pick me up for a date, will they try to persuade him (us) to stay home and play a board game instead? Would he be tempted to relent to their pressure to win them over? In other words, for purely selfish reasons, I’d like to prolong this “just the two of us” period. I’m not sure how the dynamic might change if my children meet my boyfriend, I’m only certain that it will.

So, while I’d love to include my beau in my family’s holiday activities — that would definitely give him a view to what he’d be getting in to — we’ve decided to wait to introduce him to the children until we figure out our own relationship first.


kid gloves

I feel friggin’ awesome! I love life! Yet it would be a total crock if I were to try and convince anyone that I weren’t still healing from my failed relationship. For example, I occasionally catch myself behaving in ways that suggest I’m reacting — seeking qualities that are opposite those of my ex or placing inordinate emphasis on things that might otherwise not draw my focus.

By this age, I’d say the same about the men I’ve met. Most are in some stage of healing or another…which got me thinking:  I’ve vowed that I won’t treat a man nor relationship as a project. I’ve vowed to be firm, direct and absolutely myself. I’ve vowed to be clear about my high expectations. And I’m not going to treat any man with kid gloves. So how do I maintain the balance between treating another with care vs. being careful?

And that’s when I realized that it’s all in the delivery. I can be conscious and kind, and still communicate what I want and need. Because there’s a difference between acknowledging that we may still be healing and treating each other as fragile, inferior beings.


what a wife wants

I hear my guy throw “I’m a bachelor” often in response to the way he takes care of himself — e.g. lots of take-out food, cigars, etc. I wouldn’t say there’s any issue with these behaviors, but the “I’m a bachelor” default could become a worrisome habit if we were to enter a more serious stage of our relationship. I often find myself wanting to coach or prep him for what a wife wants, whether that woman is me or some another lucky lady. But it’s hard to balance my commitment to not making a project of him with keeping up habits of excellent communication. I’d rather see what he has to offer than try to train him to be something I want…a husband who…

Plans for an abundant future, both financially and physically:

  • Takes care of home and property.
  • Saves for retirement.
  • Eats right, exercises, has healthy habits.
  • Releases what is no longer needed.

Pitches in around the house:

  • Can prepare a healthy meal for the family.
  • Can make a bed, do laundry, fold clothes, etc.
  • Can clean or, in lieu of cleaning, votes for hiring a housekeeper.

Keeps his own friends and interests:

  • We all need time alone and other healthy relationships.

Has good habits / manners:

  • Puts the toilet seat down.
  • Picks up after himself.
  • Keeps his stuff organized.

Is loving:

  • Prioritizes to make time to stay connected.
  • Plans the occasional surprise.
  • Learns my love language(s).

Knows:

  • That where there are children involved, your time is not your own, and you must simply surrender to the present needs of the family.
  • How to fix a thing or two around the house, and when to call in the experts, instead.

we were married to the same man

Over the past two years or more, I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “Sounds like we were married to the same man!” I found women at work, women at the salon, and friends I’ve known for years who all expressed the same sentiment.

I guess what it comes down to is that there are a finite number of reasons that relationships don’t work out. And, as it happens, I’ve found several women who share a story not entirely unlike mine. Several, it seemed, had some sort of midlife crisis and then…

In one particular example, a high-end builder with an exclusive clientele just decided he didn’t want to do that sort of thing anymore. After bumbling about for a few years, taking some classes and trying to figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up, he ended up in retail. Because he was more mature than the high-schoolers reporting to him and had a bit of know-how, he was quickly promoted to supervisor. Cheers to the family dental plan…and a couple of hundred dollars a week in income! Sure, it was a contribution, but nothing like supporting a family with the income to which they’d become accustomed.

His wife was a trooper throughout this transition, but finally opened herself to the possibility that she didn’t have to be responsible for him financially or emotionally or otherwise. He had become another child to a woman weary of parenting.

Another woman’s husband spent much of his time lying about on the sofa watching the television when he was meant to be looking for a job. He racked up credit card debt and lied about money issues.

Here’s where the relationship rubber hits the road. We’re here to love and support one another in ways, as long as we agree to what those ways are. (Most, but not all of us, know what we’re getting into before we marry.) We’re not here to parent our spouses or support behaviors that don’t nurture us or our commitments. We’re not on this Earth for another lesson in co-dependence.

Long (years) after I’d asked my wasband to go back to work, he was still protesting that “we’d agreed that he would stay home with the children.” In truth, we’d “agreed” because he’d lost his job and it seemed like our best option at the time. Like a toddler on the verge of a decade-long tantrum, he’d dug in his heels and was not about to budge from his position. He changed his internal script to, “I gave up my career to be home with my children.” And he seemed to believe it!

Relationships must change and evolve. They require communication. Agreements made must often be renegotiated. And it takes two committed adults to embark on that sort of work.


Mack Truck logic

While in a committed relationship, decisions must be made, compromises reached, peace kept, etc. Standard methods of give and take don’t always work, especially when both parties feel particularly strong about something…permanent birth control, for example.

I’d given birth twice, didn’t want to be on the pill and wasn’t in to the idea of having some sort of surgery to prevent another pregnancy. He didn’t want his junk messed with.

We had several civilized discussions, including with friends and neighbors, about the topic… one of them went like this:  A girlfriend stood in our front yard and gestured with her hands while saying, “Oh, come on! She’s pushed a head the size of a cantaloupe out a hole this big — twice! — and you can’t even have a minor outpatient procedure?!”

I thought we had reached agreement…yet the appointment was never scheduled. So I resorted to Mack Truck logic, which goes something like this:  “Look, you have older children and ours. If I get hit by a Mack Truck tomorrow, regardless of whether you re-marry, you’re done having children. If you get hit by a Mack Truck tomorrow, I might meet someone and want to have more children.”

Fast forward to dinner at another couple’s home weeks later. The other gentleman is talking about his vasectomy:

My husband:  “So did you have to shave yourself?”

Me:  “Oh my god, is that what this is about?! You’re afraid of shaving?!”

The next day I scheduled an appointment for him with a urologist by the name of Dr. Hackett. Poetic, no?

I’m not sure Mack Truck logic will work with every man or in every situation. But it made sense to me!

Try it. Let me know how it goes.


fair warning

For all of my potential beaus out there, I think it’s only fair that I warn you:  I told my daughter she could get a puppy when I get married.

It wasn’t a promise, really, more like a “when pigs fly” sort of statement…at least at the time.

Yet, somehow, the possibility seems not so far-fetched any longer…