Our First Date

I haven’t felt this giddy in a while. I made a new friend today.

During a casual business meeting over lunch with someone I’ve been working with for the past few months, our conversation quickly shifted to more personal matters.

Suddenly I found myself talking about marriage (after divorce), step-kids, birth control and whether or not she or I would find ourselves pregnant anytime soon. [Consensus - NO.]

Turns out her boyfriend has a house right down the street from where my husband and I live. We started talking about the area and how much there is to do around here – with or without the kids.

My imagination went wild and I found myself picturing their family and mine playing at the beach together. How cool would that be?

We finished our lunch, said goodbye, but then I accidentally sent her a text on my way home that was meant for my husband (something about being stuck in traffic). Awkward. At least that’s what I thought until we exchanged a few more texts.

She was taking the drive north along the coast. Past the house that her boyfriend owns. And then she suggested going on a double date sometime this summer.

I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my husband about our new friends and our double date and that’s when I realized what’s been missing from our lives.

When my husband moved to San Diego, I was 7 months pregnant. He started his new job right away and life with a new baby began along with the day-to-day school and work stuff.

Our son is 18 months old now and there are no other couples that my husband and I spend time with. Every once in a while I’ll head out to meet my girlfriends for dinner and drinks or he’ll go out with his friend from work.

My husband moved across the country for us. Said goodbye to his entire family and all his friends. He gave that all up for me.

And I know that having another couple to spend time with is important for us. Good for our marriage. It’s healthy to have outside relationships, ones that we can both experience, together.

I realized something else after lunch. The face-to-face, get to know you better, conversation that this woman and I had was something I had not experienced in quite some time. For the past several years, I’ve been getting to know people from connections I’ve made online first. We may, or may not, ever spend time together in the same room but  when we do, there’s typically a large group of people gathered together for socializing and small talk, something I’m afraid I’ve gotten quite good at.

I’m feeling giddy after having lunch with a new friend. While we ate and talked, neither one of us looked at our phones or seemed to care what time it was and had forgotten about our parking meters that needed to be filled with coins.

I like making new friends. I had forgotten what it was like to go out without checking-in, sharing a photo of my food or tweeting about our conversation. I need to do that more often. Even if its just me and my husband.

How to Stay Married Forever

A few weeks ago, my husband told me of his plans to go on a ski trip this winter. Without me.

Last year, I was pregnant and both of us missed out on ski season. The few years prior to that, well, I just didn’t have the resources to go snowboarding and now that we’ve adjusted to married life and life with a new baby, I was really looking forward to heading up to the mountains this winter for the first time together.

You can imagine how jealous I felt when he told me about this trip. He’s gone with his dad on ski trips in the past, just about every year, so I know how much this means to them both. I bit my tongue while he let me know he would be resuming this annual trip because my first reaction was to selfishly respond with an immature, whiny version of, “what about me?”

But then I thought about my time as a single mom, those every other weekend gatherings with my girlfriends, the trips we took to Vegas, the moments that helped me regain some much needed energy and excitement and really reflect on my role as a mom.

My husband and I have been married for over a year now and not once have we spent longer than 24 hours away from each other. This upcoming ski trip will be a much-needed break for both of us, and according to Iris Krasnow, just one of the things that will help our marriage last.

In her new book, The Secret Lives of Wives, Krasnow interviewed over 200 women to come up with answers to a question that many individuals and couples have been searching for their entire lives: What is the secret to a lasting relationship?

While you may not agree with every idea on this list, I have to admit they all sound like great ways to keep yourself focused on the end goal – not losing yourself when you become lifelong partners with someone, and growing old together.

In The Secret Lives of Wives, women of various ages and backgrounds confess what keeps their relationship going, along with regrets from women who ended their marriage, along with how they would have done things differently if they could.

Inspired by this book, here are 8 tips on how to stay married forever:

  1. It’s ok, even healthy, to have secrets: No one knows what’s really going on in a marriage except the two people in it. That gives each of us the freedom to write our own rules and keep our own secrets.
  2. You don’t get it all in one place: If you depend on one person in one house to sustain you until death do you part, that’s a ticket to divorce.
  3. Resurrect childhood passions: Those hobbies and sports you loved to do, and excelled at, as a child, bring raw primal energy and invigorated self-esteem. Getting back out there brings on a rebirth of youthful optimism and vigor.
  4. Hang out with outrageous girlfriends: The wives with the highest marital satisfaction have a tight circle of wild and warm women friends with whom to drink, travel, and vent.
  5. Take separate vacations – or separate summers: Couples who allow each other to grow separately are the ones with the best chance of growing together and staying together.
  6. Indulge in boy-best-friendships: Women who love the company of men shouldn’t have to eliminate male friends from their lives. Platonic friendships are a sexy pick-me-up without the complications of adultery.
  7. Lower your expectations: Marital bliss is possible if each partner is blissful without the other.
  8. Be grateful: Remember to love the guy you’re with – kiss him hello and goodbye, and make time for conversation and intimacy, no matter what.

The Secret Lives of Wives reveals that ultimately, having interests, hobbies and passions outside of one’s marriage and family keep couples together, and of course, encouraging each other to take advantage of these opportunities to spend a little time apart is required to make it all work.

So, start planning your next girlfriend getaway now!

If you’d like to check out this book yourself, or share it someone you love, you can enter our book giveaway by leaving a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these tips and suggestions for making your marriage last forever. Just be sure to include an email address so I can follow up with you if you win. One random winner will be chosen on October 28th.

Happy Healthy Hip Parenting

Getting Down & Dirty with My Husband

Last night my husband and I watched the first episode in the 3-part series of This Emotional Life.

Through case studies and discussions with couples at different stages of their lives, this episode focuses on family, friends and lovers and how strong, healthy bonds with other people directly relate to happiness and marital satisfaction.

Over many years and following many couples, these experts determined that one of the main ingredients to a successful, long-term relationship is keeping the excitement alive.

Another key factor was partnership and after several experiments using physical challenges couples needed to complete, they determined that partners who worked together to successfully complete a task were more satisfied with their relationship, and were happier individuals.

It was right after watching this that I mentioned the Del Mar Mud Run to my husband. It’s a 5K obstacle course that is meant to be both challenging and fun. When I told him I was interested in participating, he jumped right in to say he’d join me.

Even though we only have a month to train, I know that this will be much more exciting for us than any road race we could compete in. We’re both looking forward to this event, especially knowing that this is just another adventure for us to enjoy together.

After listening to the couples in This Emotional Life discuss their marriages and the ups and downs they faced throughout their relationships, it’s easy to compare a long-term relationship to a marathon, complete with obstacles and muddy terrain.

My husband and I are prepared. There are many hills for us to climb and there will be times we will struggle more than others, but we’re a great team and we will continue to support each other and cheer one another on, through every leg of the race, all the way to the finish line.

Happy Healthy Hip Parenting

This is the first day of the rest of my life

My friend, Becky, included me in her end of the year post and I loved this idea of reflecting on what has happened in the last twelve months. Since it was my birthday last week, I figured now would be a good time to finally answer these questions since this is when my new year really begins.

1. What did you do in the last year that you’d never done before? I gave birth naturally, without any pain meds.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I didn’t make any last year but this year, I resolve to save and invest money for my boys.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Me, Becky, one of my cousins and several other friends.

4. Did anyone close to you die? My paternal grandmother passed away in May.

5. What countries did you visit? None.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? I would like more time with my family.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? July 18 – when Mr. Right and I got married, November 1st – when our long-distance relationship “ended,” and December 24 – the day our little baby was born.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Staying sane when my pregnancy and our long-distance relationship overlapped.

9. What was your biggest failure? Spending too much time worrying and not enough time enjoying the moment.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? No.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Nothing comes to mind…

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My son behaved perfectly during our wedding ceremony. It was the perfect day and he made it even more special by being such a big part of it.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? He, whose name should not be mentioned here.

14. Where did most of your money go? Medical expenses during my pregnancy.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Starting our new life together as husband and wife.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010? First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Much, much happier.

– thinner or fatter? Fatter, but can I blame it on the baby weight still?!

– richer or poorer? Richer, financially and otherwise.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Laugh.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Cry.

20. How did you spend Christmas? I spent the morning in the hospital staring at our new baby and in the late afternoon, admiring all three of my boys and feeling so blessed.

21. Did you fall in love in 2010? Yes, several times.

22. What was your favorite TV program? Parenthood on NBC.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I don’t hate anyone. It’s a waste of energy.

24. What was the best book you read? Settling for Mr. Right.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? Trainwreck Riders, Adele, and Citizen Cope.

26. What did you want and get by year’s end? A healthy baby.

27. What did you want and not get by year’s end? Can’t think of anything…

28. What was your favorite film of this year? The Kids Are All Right

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 34 last Friday, and I spent the day with my boys.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? More days in the year?!

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010? Fashionable Maternity clothes!

32. What kept you sane? Laughing and playing with my son.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Sandra Bullock

34. Who was the best new person you met? My new baby.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010. Plan for surprises. They’re often the best things to happen to you.

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. “I ain’t never had nobody like you.” – M. Ward

Happy Healthy Hip Parenting
Peace Begins in the Home

Merging: Marriage and Money

Thank you to TurboTax for sponsoring my writing about household finances. Learn more about how TurboTax can help you find every tax deduction you deserve. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

When you get married or move in with your significant other, you merge more than just your finances, but the discussion about money is something that every couple should sit down and have, prior to tying the knot or signing a lease together.

When my husband and I first talked about marriage, we were practical before romantic and talked about our finances in detail. We shared with one another how much money we made and joked about how much debt we were bringing into the relationship.

One of the first things we did before getting married, was put together a spreadsheet with our income and expenses. Both of us created our own, separately, shared them with each other and then thoughtfully came up with one spreadsheet based on our combined income and expenses. We started speaking in terms of “we” and “us,” focusing on how to reduce our bills and working together to come up with a budget that was both realistic and fair.

Since we got married, I’ve taken over the responsibility of paying our bills, mostly because having one person manage the money seems to make the most sense for us. While we do have separate accounts still we have pulled all of our info together into a joint account at Mint.com which easily keeps track of what we’re spending and manages our budget for us.

Major purchases are always discussed ahead of time so we know what to set aside and how much we can truly afford. The only downside to having easy access to all of this information is that neither of us can surprise the other with a gift since every penny is tracked and organized into specific categories. Of course, that’s what cash is for.

While there are many important details to discuss prior to the wedding day, couples should recognize that money matters are nearly always a point of disagreement when not discussed in advance. Schedule a time to sit down with your partner to talk about who will pay the bills, how much you plan on saving, investing, and spending. You’ll be glad you did.

Happy Healthy Hip Parenting
Peace Begins in the Home

Emptying the Nest

While I have been busy dealing with the expansion of our family unit, others moms in my circle have been preparing for the empty nest phase. I can’t imagine another transition that comes with more stress or emotion.

Today’s young people are growing up at such a fast pace. Parents are having to educate themselves on how to best prepare their offspring for life in the “real world,” even as the world evolves faster than most of us can comprehend.

As a Parent Educator, I work with parents of young children, for the most part. Their main concerns are trying to help their kids become more responsible and respectful, hoping to instill these qualities at a young age so that when the time comes for their kids to head out on their own, they’ll be perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and dealing with issues as an independent adult.

It’s certainly not easy.

Dr. Brad Sachs, a psychologist and father of three young adults, has written a book on Emptying the Nest, a book that is meant to reach parents before their children are launched into the world, unprepared.

In his clinical practice, Dr. Sachs realized that it was fairly common for young adults to unsuccessfully make the transition to independent life and his book serves to encourage parents to help their tweens and teens become more competent and resilient.

In analyzing this cultural phenomena through his own case studies, Dr. Sachs discusses the role of smaller family size, suggesting it may result in more helicopter parents:

Raising fewer children more easily creates the possibility of focusing too intently on those children, which in turn makes their eventual emancipation more involved and emotionally fraught for everyone involved.

These type of parents show uncertainty and ambivalence when it comes to striking the optimal balance between support and enabling, between care and overprotectiveness.

Modern technology is a contributing factor as well:

These perpetual electronic umbilical cords [instant messaging, text messages, email, video chat] can work against the process of separation…particularly when the young adult is feeling insecure about his capacity to strike out on his own.

Financial independence is also a challenge for many young adults, especially with the economy taking a turn for the worse over the last few years. “Tough economy or not…young people have simply not been expected to practice financial self-sufficiency and restraint during their adolescence, which hobbles their capacity to do so as young adults.”

Dr. Sachs goes on to discuss the developmental stages of letting go and exactly how parents can help prepare their young adults for true independence.

We see our children at various points in their development through the lens of how we remember ourselves when we were their age. And we nurture them according to how we were raised when we were at that stage.

I strongly advise parents to think back on their early adulthood with as much accuracy and objectivity as they can so that they operate with as much flexibility as possible, rather than unconsciously repeating old patterns, or reflexively opposing them.

In addition, it is worthwhile to consider being more honest with your young adult regarding what your life was like when you were his age.

He devotes an entire chapter on the relationship between mom and dad at this stage of their children’s lives:

While we tend, as mothers and fathers, to pay very careful attention to how our child-rearing behaviors affect our children’s development, we tend to minimize or even ignore how our marital behaviors affect our children’s development and the interaction between our lives as couples and as parents.

The relationship between a husband and wife can have an enormously positive or negative impact on a young adult’s efforts to separate and become self-sufficient.

With each stage of our children’s lives comes new challenges but I’m excited to know that there are great resources available for parents at every one of them. And knowing that focusing on my relationship with my husband will benefit all of us is even more encouraging.

I’m scheduling our monthly Date Night now just to keep us on track for the long – and exciting – journey ahead.

Happy Healthy Hip Parenting
Peace Begins in the Home