Sunday, June 28, 2009

On Marriage....

You all know I am a common sense girl. I'm more a black and white, logical mind (although, being hyper-analytical, I often throw in the gray just because I like to do things the hard way!). So I read this article, called "On Marriage: Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." It's an interesting read and you should probably read it before I proceed.....go on....yes, right now!.....I'll wait.....I need time to gear up my inner feminist anyway.....go on!!, she makes some interesting points (most notably about living parallel lives without intersection and men not having any emotional ambiguity about work and children) but she also fails to do one thing: she makes no attempt to find balance. She bemoans having too many things to do to have the energy to work on her marriage. Um, WTF?? She sounds as if she was inflexible (she hesitates to hire a nanny because she works from home, but why not someone just a few mornings a week then? or, if you have guilt about that, how about hiring a cleaner?? if you have the income, get some damn help!), she didn't communicate with her husband (whenever I feel like Charming and I are starting to drift apart, I say something...and no, it's not always flowery and pretty, I just say, "I wanna go to dinner," or HE will say, "Let's go to the movies." You can't play games. They don't read minds.) and when she couldn't juggle all the balls, she just let them all drop. She sounded like she resented what was culturally expected of her and blamed the idea of the ideal mom on her inability to participate in her marriage. When in reality, she just chose not to participate. And rather than dropping balls labeled "cleaning" or "socializing" or "working overtime" or "24/7 child care," she chose to drop her marriage.

I don't think that bashing marriage is a feminist idea at all. If anything, feminism can be furthered one man at a time; start with your husband. My husband is starting spaghetti sauce, letting the dogs in and helping Optimus with a computer game as I type....on the couch....with my feet up and a cup of tea. Now, granted, I'm pregnant. And his expectations of my level of activity has dropped. He participates more. And magically, he has begun to read my mind. I think the idea that a man pitching in without being asked is like foreplay for a woman is totally true. We take on too much. I now have a laissez-faire attitude about many things. I may work like nobody's business on my house for a whole morning or for several days in a row until the futility of spending hours straightening or cleaning hits me, when it's all gonna be a mess again once the kids hit it and then I drop what I'm doing, and do whatever I feel like: writing, emailing, online shopping, tea and chocolate, make a phone call, READ. I think that's a better example of how to prioritize for my kids then working like a crazy person and screaming about the cleanliness level of the house. Besides that, I have only one life to live and I'm not gonna spend it cleaning toilets for no pay, thank you very much. Once a week is enough!!

Additionally, I am training all co-inhabitants to clean up after their damn selves. I don't clean the playroom anymore. My boys do. I don't give in. I badger. I withold food. Seriously. When they whine about how hungry they are, I jump on it and tell them no lunch til I can see the playroom floor. This just means, straighten up. I'm not asking them to vacuum or dust or plump the pillows. Simply put the toys away. By the time they're done, lunch is usually ready. This serves 2 purposes: I get a cleaned up room and they aren't hovering and whining while I'm fixing a meal.

Now, I'm not saying these approaches guarantee a marriage. What I am saying is, it can help guarantee the sanity of a woman with too many expectations on her. And THAT can save a marriage. Screw the expectations. I prioritize like this: what do my kids need today (if that's clean laundry, I do it, if not, it can wait another day!) and then what do I most need today? It may be time to write. It may be to clean a filthy room that's been driving me crazy cuz I haven't had time to clean. It may just saying "screw it all, I'm gonna read!!" Another thing: take it one day at a time. I know that was both a TV show with Valerie Bertinelli and a slogan for AA, but it's the truth. We get mentally bogged down with not only what we have to do today, but what is happening tomorrow and what needs to be done by the end of the week and what our kids are begging for and what our husbands are trying to slide onto our plates. So here's my deal:

1. JUST SAY NO!! Say no to your kids, say no to your husband, say no to laundry. Go ahead. You may have to practice in order to get up the courage to break the cycle. Encourage your children to find something to do to distract themselves while you complete a task to minimize child whining and badgering. Tell your husbands they are grown men and they are going to have to take care of (fill in the blank) themselves. This also includes those times they are thoughtless and say things like, "Hon, I'm hungry, what's for dinner??" or "Have you seen my favorite t-shirt? I put it in the wash I swear 2 weeks and haven't seen it since!" (my husband knows better than to suggest such things nowadays!) Husbands actually function better when they are encouraged to be mature adults who are a necessary part of the running of the household, rather than as just another energy drain for you. He is an adult. You do not need to take care of his every little need or whim just because he works outside the house. Things need to be split 50/50. Trust me, the guilt disappears after a while. Just say NO!!

2. Lose the guilt. Your kids don't notice a lot of things and quite frankly, they'll need to learn to handle disappointment anyway. I don't mean that in a depressed, "the whole world sucks" kind of way, but if you hand your kids everything without making them earn anything? They will expect that througout their childhoods from every adult around them, including you. And when they are about 8 and it's getting annoying, just think how unbearable it will be when they're 16 and asking for bigger things!! Teachers and other adults around them will be telling them "No" periodically and they'll need to know how to handle that! Guilt is never good. It drags you down. It makes you realize you should have said "no" in the first place! Aoid the guilt!! Say no!! It serves no purpose in my life. If I feel tremendous guilt and regret over something, I make amends or I let it go. Guilt slows me down and I have much to do in this life! Guilt encourages you stay where you are. Guilt doesn't allow you to do things for yourself or to re-charge, both of which are necessary. Guilt is a chain our culture has used a lot to keep women in place: guilt about how we raise our children, the choices we make about how much of ourselves we give to others and a plethora of other things!! Daily, we will inevitably come across guilt, great or small, that we either indulge in or brush aside. "oh, I didn't finish that laundry....," "those dishes are still sitting there...," "I didn't bathe the kids, perhaps I should have...," and it's neverending! It's time to break free!

3. Be purposeful. If you don't like how something is going in your life, make an active change. Good things are not going to magically drift to you. Your children will not magically straighten up and be obedient all on their own. Your husband will not pay you more attention unless you ask for it. Don't complain when you make no effort to change your situation; in that case, you're looking for sympathy and are thriving on your own negativity and don't look to me to be a sympathizer! I'll tell ya like it is!!

4. Ask yourself, "what am I getting out of this situation?" A "poor me" complex? Sympathy? Pity? Self-righteousness rearing it's ugly head? Self-declared martyrdom (or perhaps, waiting for someone else to notice what a martyr you are?). I tell you what, success, fulfilling a personal goal, feeling a sense of spiritual fulfillment, looking on your life and thinking "it's good!" are all ten times more energizing than anything else!! You will only keep yourself dragged down with any situation that causes you to constantly complain. Think, "how do I want to feel about myself? about my life? why don't I feel that way? what is a concrete action I can take today to move towards that?" People that have lofty goals---and achieve them---are always planning, moving forward, forgetting past failures and using obstacles as a means of promoting problem-solving and brain-storming new approaches.

5. Read. Research. If you are having problems with your kid's behavior and it's dragging you down, search the library's catalog for books, current books, on behavior modification. Talk to a child therapist. Talk to your child's teacher. DO something but if you don't know, FIND OUT!! If you're having marriage problems, go online, find a support group, read, read, read with a grain of salt and a heavy dose of common sense. Don't take any one guru's line for it, read from a multitude of perspectives then pursue the course that makes the most sense to you. But don't just give up. That's wussing out. And too many woman are afraid they will come across as "the bitch," or that the world will crash down around their heads if they tell someone how something really makes them angry or uncomfortable or whatever. Knowledge is power and the more comfortable you feel and the more knowledgeable you feel, the more confident you'll feel. And then you can tackle anything! Women have lost their confidence in their ability to make good choices for themselves. They listen to their friends, their mothers, their favorite magazine, even if the advice doesn't ring true with them or make them feel inspired. Our instincts aren't dead, they just don't have enough options in front of them. When the right option is presented, they will light right up!!

6. Communicate, communicate, communicate!!! When I was preparing for our wedding at the tender age of 20, one of my co-workers, a 40-something on her second marriage with 4 kids, said to me: "Lara, think of the hardest job you can think of.....ok? Now multiply that by 10. That's how hard marriage is!" I have thought of that very often and she was totally right. I've also learned the hard way that a.) men are NOT mind readers, no matter how much we want them to be!!! b.) they DO want to please us and for us to be happy, but they aren't going to get very far with the "hit and miss" approach!! If you want flowers, tell him. When you get them, be very very pleased. He'll get the hint and do it again! It's very easy. Why do we make it so stinkin hard?? If you're aggravated, compose your thoughts, then tell him. Tell him why, tell him what you wished he had done, tell him where you admittedly went wrong, tell him everything. If he isn't open to this kind of communication, THEN tell him why IT'S necessary or there's always the option of kicking him to the curb! :)

And now, I'm starving and going to go eat some hubby-made spaghetti. And then do the dishes (hey, fair's fair!) and then I'll help put the kids to bed so we can watch a movie. And use the new puzzle board my hubby cut and I glued. And I know that sounds so....I don't know, domestically blissed out, but it's true! Keep in mind, we've been together over 13 years. We've had major obstacles and only one thing has kept us together: We were determined not to be separated. We were determined to be together. Sometimes only one of us at a time felt that way, but that was the glue that kept us together! So we've hashed things out, we've faced a few big ugly ideas and obstacles and came out the other side holding hands and walking into the sunset. It's doable. It's challenging, it can be painful, but it's totally doable. And totally worth it!!

So....go do it....right now....*sigh*...yeah, I'll wait!

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