Pieces of Advice for a Long Term Relationship.

rings

I read this article the other day (Top Ten Rules Every Marriage Should Live By. . . Gay or Straight). Being in a long term relationship myself, I love reading other’s so called rules and secrets about their relationships, finding congruencies and discrepancies with my own. I first loved that this title included gay and straight marriages, love is love man! I loved that this article didn’t try to pretty up the business of being in a relationship. It was real, gritty, and I could tell the author was in a happy marriage. I agreed with a lot of what it said; you have to try, have fun together, don’t yell at each other, but one phrase stood out to me, “Marriage is NOT about being in love.  It’s not about getting butterflies when your spouse walks in the door and giggling uncontrollably at their jokes in public.  Marriage is, above all things, about commitment.” This was part of the author’s explanation of their number 1 rule: Never threaten to leave or say divorce. Marriage is not about love? I’ve heard this before, but for some reason it was still jarring. After thinking about it, I honestly believe this to be the truth. Many marriages survive with happy people who don’t love each other because they are committed to making it work. You will need to rely on that commitment on late nights, when you can’t believe what is coming out of your partner’s mouth. You’ll need to rely on that commitment when you feel alone, scared, unsure if you’ve made the right decision to get married and by the way, EVERY married person who isn’t in a complete state of denial has thought this so you’re not crazy. You’ll need to rely on that commitment in the darkest, deepest moments of your marriage.

A marriage is not solely about being in love, I agree with the author on this one, but a marriage NEEDS love. Love is what fuels the commitment. Love gets you through the dark times. Love lets you enjoy all the times of light. Yes, at times you will think you lose the love. It will get hidden behind tangled vines of life, covered with the dirt and grime of work, bills, errands, But without love, marriage is simply a business agreement. I want my marriage to be more than that. When things are hard, when you drift apart, when life gets too much, you need to remember that yes, you are committed, but you are committed to loving that person across the room.

My husband and I started dating when I was 15. This makes our relationship much different and kind of weird. We grew up together so a lot of the typical “rules” and “secrets” don’t apply to us. I so enjoyed reading the above article, and all the thoughts it made my brain think, so I wanted to come up with my own list. The rules/secrets/things that make my marriage work. I’ll refer to them though as pieces of advice because every relationship is different, here are no hard-fast rules or secrets, but these are the most important things I’ve learned in my relationship, maybe they’ll help you.

1. My number one piece of advice that I always tell my newly engaged friends is Have Fun Together. I know, I know. This is a cliche. Everyone says this, but does everyone really do it? Everyone knows you need to have date nights, go on vacation, “have fun”. But what I mean is infuse fun and enjoyment every day, in a majority of moments. Part of what I love about my relationship is that we have so much fun together doing practically anything. We kayak, play fantasy football together, go “naturing”, go to comedy shows, try new restaurants. We can have fun playing board games with each other. We can have fun going out to a fancy dinner and a movie. We can have fun together going to Walmart, yes Walmart. Don’t allow fun to be something that is scheduled for Friday nights at 6. Life is short, make the most of it. Enjoy all the moments you get to enjoy with your partner and make it fun! Those moments of laughter at that weird soap shop downtown will become the bricks in your relationship’s foundation.

Beer

Beer and baseball love!

Mud

Mud on shoes is evidence of a great fun adventure!

2. My second piece of advice is much harder to accomplish than the first one. It’s Letting Your Partner Feel Feelings. Yeah, this is easy when they are happy, excited, all those “good” emotions. It is much harder when your partner is angry, frustrated, disappointed, apathetic, all those emotions deemed “bad” or “negative”. I can not tell you how many arguments blew up into shit storms when we were younger because I felt so uncomfortable allowing him to be upset. I wanted to fix it. I was afraid. If I was enough, why would he feel this way? Didn’t you just hear me say I’m sorry? Over the years, he started to hide his feelings, afraid of the argument that would follow. He’d say, “I’m fine,” if I asked him how he felt. It took us awhile to get away from this routine of behavior, sometimes it’s still a struggle. It will only be successful if I allow him to deeply feel his feelings without judgement. Allow him to be a full human being, experiencing all the intimacies of life. I have learned to give him time. Allow him to process his feelings with me if he wants, or on his own if he wants. I’ve learned to trust him when he says he loves me, that I am enough. I’ve learned to let him feel his feelings, even when they make me uncomfortable. What I get in return is a husband who is deeply connected and full.

3. My third piece of advice is Know Your Relationship Weaknesses, Accept Them, Then Work on Them. Now, if you are ever being physically or emotionally abused, get out. This rule only applies to safe relationships. What I mean is that no relationship is perfect. People are complicated and sometimes crazy creatures. If you are experiencing a deep and meaningful relationship, there will be things that are struggles for you and your partner. Maybe you simply just can not grocery shop with your partner. Maybe you struggle with showing how much you appreciate your partner. Maybe it’s hard for you to prioritize your relationship above your career. Our problem is communication. I’m not saying, “Accept that you struggle with ________ and never do anything about it!” What I am saying is that my husband and I accept that communication is a challenge for us and probably always will be. We continually work on this area of our relationship, but when we hit bumps we acknowledge the problem and forgive ourselves. When the SAME THING is causing problems in your relationship ten years later, it can be incredibly frustrating. You might question if you’re not meant to be, if the problem will ever be fixed. What we focus on instead in these moments is how far we’ve come (Remember when we use to stay up until 3 am yelling at each other? Thank goodness we’ve learned not to do this anymore!). We focus on how we can continually improve (Next time, let’s try not interrupting as much). We focus on our love and commitment to each other, how hard both of us are trying. We focus on all the good things and do not let this area of struggle consume and wreck our relationship.

4. My fourth piece of advice is Continually Show Gratitude, Appreciation, and Love. After a few years, it’s easy to forget telling your husband that you appreciate he carries in all the groceries. It’s easy to forget to tell you wife that you really like how she doesn’t kill the spiders in your home, but gently rescues them back to nature. To maintain a level of intimacy, it is so critical that you continue to tell your partner the things you love about them (There is no limit on how many times you can tell me you love my adventurous spirit), the things you are grateful your partner does (Thank goodness my husband is such a pro at doing dishes), and the things you appreciate (I appreciate he lets me sleep in and shows no judgement when I’m being lazy). Your partner will continue to interact with the world, receiving compliments and glances from coworkers, friends, and strangers. They need to know that you remain their number one fan. My husband tells me practically every day that I’m the best, that I’m awesome. He randomly texts me he loves me. I know, even when things get tricky, that he loves me more than anyone else ever could and I know this because he makes sure to frequently tell me.

My t-shirt for my husband's football themed 30th birthday

My t-shirt for my husband’s football themed 30th birthday

He made me "I <3 you" brownies, love it!

He made me “I love you brownies” Love it!

5. When you are with someone for a long time, you must accept the fact that people don’t remain the same year after year. An important piece of advice is to Allow Your Partner to Grow and Change. My husband was always such a goofy guy, carefree. We were teenagers when we started dating, still kids. When he was 25, he started to change. Part of him maturing was to be a bit more motivated, a bit more serious. He didn’t want to stay out super late with friends anymore. Jokes weren’t coming out of his mouth 99% of the time. This was scary to me. Oh no! If this changed, what else about him, and in turn our relationship, could change?! Was he less silly because he was unhappy with life? Was he losing his light? I was looking at this growth  in the wrong way though. We talked about it and he explained that he was just maturing, that he needed to take things a little more seriously if he was to become successful. He was still the same goofy, lovable guy, he just had a day job now. After a few months, I grew to see the beauty in this change. I admired him and was grateful. How brave it is for a person to grow and change and instead of being fearful, I embraced the newness. I realized that life is not a simple picture book, but one filled with many, many chapters and that each new chapter with my partner could be the best one yet.

Relationships are crazy. Love is crazy. Marriages are hard work and not for everyone (a societal myth), but for those that are in the right ones, they can be so beautiful. Do you have any pieces of relationship advice? I’d love to hear them 🙂

A 9 a.m. text from Hawaii: Losing my job and being totally okay with it

It all ended so weirdly. A Thursday morning in January. A 9 a.m. text from Hawaii. “Jennifer, I’ve heard you are interviewing for another job. Please leave and do not return.” In one month I went from a star student to a fired fish (I love alliteration). I had already decided by October that I needed to leave. The environment was toxic, draining, and no longer fulfilling as it once was. I was going to finish the year and then transition to public school. However, I quietly and slowly became more and more frustrated with decisions being made and the way people were being treated. The last straw came in the beginning of January. I was forced to change classroom assignments; to teach a grade I didn’t want to teach because I was, “the only one that was qualified.” The real reason, like most decisions made at that school, was based on money (Please see where the text firing me came from though, Hawaii, how ironic) They didn’t want to hire another teacher so they thought they could just do a little shuffling. Just move people around like pawns and hide it behind a guise of bullshit. I, however, was not the submissive little bird he thought I was. I instead was a qualified, confident, desirable teacher who did not need to put up with this kind of crap. I was a woman who knew who I was and what I deserved. I immediately began applying for newly posted public school jobs on the Tuesday following the classroom change. I got called for interviews Wednesday. Received the text from Hawaii on Thursday. Had 5 interviews the next two days; offered and accepted a job on Monday. Less than a week from the initial push, the whole thing had snowballed into a great chasm of change, empowerment, and general Fuck you-ness.

He fired me because he had the, “I’m going to break up with you before you break up with me” attitude. I made a perceived mistake telling my Head of School I was interviewing. My stepfather said this was a life lesson. She was my friend, I didn’t expect her to tell our CEO. I also was trying to show integrity and allow them time to find someone to replace me in the event I did leave. Revealing that I had interviews is what inevitably caused me to get fired, however I do not regret this. I acted with the utmost integrity and strength through the entire ordeal. My character shined while theirs faltered. My coworkers, all 7 of them, saw the way things unfolded. This made them angry and nervous, rightfully so. I had worked there for 5 years, was second in seniority, and yet was so easily discarded the second I didn’t fall in line. They discussed trying to stand up to our CEO about the decision. I felt loved and supported at that offer, but declined for two reasons. I didn’t want to be there anyway; I was now free and didn’t want the option to be sucked back in if he changed his mind. The other reason is more fucked up. He would have probably just fired everyone if they did this. He manages from a position of fear and need for power; he’d never keep a staff who disagreed with him on such a fundamental level.

I’ve never been fired from a job before. I have a perfectionist type personality and was surprised at my reaction to this news. If you would asked me a few months ago how I would react to getting fired, I would have said cry, for sure. Be depressed, wallow, but I surprised myself. I have not cried a single tear. I didn’t feel bad or fearful when I got the text, instead I felt relief. I felt empowerment. Some rich old guy tried to bully me and I stood up for myself; I could not control what he did out of his frustration and if standing up for myself caused me to get fired, then so be it. I was not happy and so I started the process to get out. I would not be a victim in a somewhat emotionally abusive situation. I am now free, no longer a caged bird. I am excited about the new possibility and proud of the way I handled everything.

I’m disappointed that that was the way it ended after all these years, but frankly I’m not surprised. I had seen this man treat many other teachers and parents this way. I feel slightly silly and stupid for believing he had good intentions all these years, I feel naive. But I learned a lot and did really enjoy the majority of my experience there, despite the craziness. I made life-long friends and developed deeply as a teacher. I matured and grew from a college graduate to a woman with the help of the women surrounding me. I will never forget those friendships or the lessons I learned from them. I could not imagine my life without a few of these women, know they will remain for years to come, and for that I am grateful.

It will be different. For 5 years, it’s been the same. Two years ago my husband’s life took a 360 (he lost his job, started college and a new career) and now mine is. I can feel the energy from God, the universe, karma, that what is meant to happen is happening. I feel peace, with a brush of anxious excitement. I feel that I was being tested for the past little bit and I passed the test. Change used to frighten me greatly, it still kind of does, but I am learning that there is no need to fear. That life is forever changing, we just have to ride the wave and enjoy the experience.

I’m currently in limbo; waiting for hr to process all my paperwork, hoping I can start my new job next week. I love reading quotes from really talented writers that are congruent with my much less sophisticated brain. I’ve always felt connected to birds. They seem so delicate, yet they are strong and free. The below quote from Monique Duval sums up perfectly my current state of mind. I encourage you to check out her book, “The Persistence of Yellow: A Book of Recipes for Life.”

http://www.amazon.com/Monique-Duval/e/B001K7YOGS

Hosting the Holidays

This year I decided to give my husband his greatest holiday wish, the wish he couldn’t help but gripe about each year. We hosted Thanksgiving AND Christmas at our home. That’s right folks, we cooked a turkey AND a ham in our very own oven with no help from the folks. They didn’t think we could do it, I knew we could.

Holidays were typically spent deciding whose family we’d dread less (typically mine), travelling to places we’d rather not go and eating food we’d rather not eat. He rarely, okay never, wanted to spend the holidays with his family (they are all little balls of hate and anger, Merry Fucking Christmas right?!) and I then felt an obligation to spend the holiday with my family if we weren’t spending it with his. It sounded crazy to not go to someone’s family’s house, who does that? Drug addicts, musicians, and people in prison must be the only ones who don’t go to the obligatory holiday dinner right? One Christmas we pulled out the big guns and lied (gasp) to each of our families saying we were with the other. That Christmas we enjoyed a great dinner at Sherri’s bar with our friends and few other secretly free souls. Each year he’d ask to just stay home, host dinner at our home, and each year I said no.

It’s not that I didn’t want to cook, we love cooking together. It’s not that I didn’t want to have people over, I love entertaining. Truthfully I’m not sure why I didn’t want to do it. Maybe I felt some pressure as to who to invite, no side of our families ever get together (his mom, my dad, my mom, three separate families). Maybe I didn’t feel grown up enough. Maybe I cared too much about what other people thought, I tend to do this. No matter the reason, I decided to give him his wish and we committed to hosting both big holidays. We invited all of our families to each event, went shopping for large hunks of meat to be put in the oven for an obnoxious amount of hours and then relaxed.

Hosting was less stressful and more fulfilling than I thought it would be. It was lovely to be in our home for the holidays, how comforting and enjoyable to no longer a guest in someone else’s house. It was even more lovely to eat deliciously prepared, real food instead of the frozen food my grandmother is akin to serving in her old age or the “ham” from the deli section of Walmart my mother says she enjoys. But what was most lovely was that I felt so much that I was celebrating with my family, my husband and myself and whoever else wanted to join. This was a great feeling and I’m glad I could feel this before we bring kiddos into this family. I’ve been becoming more and more of myself outside of my family (isn’t this one of the biggest achievements of your 20’s) and ripping off that holiday bandage was so freeing. I was reminded yet again, that I can do what I want, feel how I want, and enjoy life my way, no longer burdened by my past or family’s expectations.

It was also great to see the surprised look of relief on our families faces when they ate the food they had yet to believe we could actually cook well and although I learned lessons about independence, image of self, blah blah blah, the best part of hosting holidays is all the leftovers you get to keep and enjoy, haha!

How to Not be an Annoying, Fucking Intern

I am a teacher at a private school. Our model is much different than public school so we hire certified teachers as interns so that they can learn our model and the administration can see if they would be successful as a teacher at our school before they have the responsibility of having their own classroom. We started this program last year and I have had a few interns in my classroom. One of them I loved and is now a great teacher at our school. One was a crazy person who said they would give a student a tracheotomy with a pencil. For obvious reasons, she no longer works at our school. We currently have an intern and she is really fucking annoying. I have come up with the below list to help interns of any kind make sure their internship is successful and to help them prevent becoming an annoying, fucking intern.

1. You are an intern. Interns are generally hired to learn because they do not yet have the skill set to get a real job. Because you are an intern and are not yet a real employee, you should do as The Rock says;       

No one yet cares about your opinions. Do not argue with the person training you. They know more than you do and even if they don’t, they probably have the power to determine your fate at the company so shut up you stupid asshole.

2. Understand personal boundaries and prove you have manners. It would be wise to ask permission before just taking things off of other people’s desk. Manners were invited quite a while ago, probably like 100 years ago or something, but in case you missed the lecture on not touching other people’s shit, here is a public service announcement to help illustrate the point.

http://www.collegehumor.com/video/6415066/dont-touch-my-shit-with-leighton-meester

3. Try not to be so horribly awkward with your body movements. If you move like a weird dinosaur with joint problems and fling your head, neck, and limbs around like you don’t have bones, people will not want to work with you. In you are unsure of how to properly move your body, you should enroll in a Victorian etiquette class and practice walking with a book on your head or maybe watch some more Honey Boo Boo because those pageant girls sure are graceful. 

4. Know what career you have entered and discuss your life accordingly. For example, if you have decided to become a teacher, a job where your duties involve the safety and growth of children, it is unwise to share stories about how you leave your own child in the car for hours while grocery shopping and use Benadryl quite frequently to sedate your child who won’t stop wanting to play with you. Oh, it’s also not as hilarious as you think it is that your child has gotten kicked out of 5 preschools. Understand the skills required for your chosen career and try not to discuss how horrible you are at demonstrating those skills.

5. Take an IQ test and understand how smart you are. After the test, you will know if you are an idiot or not. If you are an idiot, it’s ok, idiots can be successful too. You just need to work really hard, understanding that most people are smarter than you, and trust those much smarter people to guide you. If you are not an idiot, congratulations!! You will probably go far in your chosen career path and will be chosen to help guide many stupid idiots. Way to go you!

 

Those are the top five things you should do if you do not want to be a annoying, fucking intern.

Hello There!

I have to apologize to anyone who has been reading my blog. As you probably noticed, I posted a few entries and then kind of just stopped. Well, I am back and am excited to get writing again. My favorite kind of writing is reflective writing about life and before I was a bit frightened to share my truest emotions, but now I am ready to put it all out there! I am really living as my “true self” and am ready to share enjoy!

Money, money, money. . . MONEY!!!

I hope you can hear the OJ’s song “For the love of money” when you read my title 🙂 You can watch them here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9O8gTib5rnw Anyway, back to my issues. I have emotional issues with money. The thought of paying the power bill stresses me out even though we can totally afford it. I think, like all my other mental gunk, that it stems from my childhood. Don’t all of our adult problems?! I grew up poor. I saw my family make silly mistakes. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, repossessions,  collection calls, going to bed hungry, not being able to be on the soccer team, all of these things were a part of my life growing up. Because of this I vowed to try harder, go to college, and be able to support myself as an adult. I got my first job before I turned 16 so that I could start working as soon as I was legal. I spent ages 16-17 living with my father, then a friend, then my mother. My parents did the best they could, but I wasn’t supported by my parents in the way that I needed and felt that I was solely responsible for my life, both at that moment and in the future. As a high-schooler, I paid for my own gas and groceries. I diligently applied for scholarships and received the most scholarships of anyone in my graduating class. Life was chaotic for me in those years and I was being asked to be an adult at a young age, but I was going to break the cycle and get out no matter what!

My husband and I moved in together when I was only 17. We had zero help from our families and were completely on our own to pay all of our living expenses and my college tuition. I was a full-time college student and full-time pre-school teacher. He was a full-time golf course worker. We both worked hard in our younger years, but because of bad role modeling and immaturity we made a few small mistakes with our money; little credit cards that we shouldn’t have got, buying too many candle holders from Target, forgetting to pay our cable bill and having it turned off, and going out much too often! Each time we slipped up, I was transported back to my youth where money was an emotional thing. Getting my cable turned off made me feel like a bad person. Having to take out student loans to pay for college made me feel like a bad person. Buying that candle holder instead of saving made me feel like a bad person. Over the years I worked on my emotional ties with money. I tried to learn to allow myself to make mistakes. I attempted to put my financial situation in perspective with my past and the responsibility I had to take on early in life, but it was still hard. I was surrounded my peers who were given so much that I either didn’t have, or had to work my ass off for. I struggled not to believe that my life being so hard wasn’t somehow intrinsically tied to my self worth. 4 years later, with lots of hard work  and tears, I graduated from the University of Washington with honors, no repossessions, no evictions, no bankruptcies!!

When I graduated college, I felt that our financial struggles were over!! I graduated college with little debt other than a gigantic pile of student loans. But sucky for me, I graduated right as the economy crashed. I wasn’t able to get a job right out of school. I ended up selling shitty shit (i.e. hair accessories, balsamic vinegar  hair removal products) at country fairs and women shows. I also worked as a substitute teacher. While I was making money, it definitely wasn’t a consistent source of income and we were barely surviving. Financial emotional meltdown again!! I didn’t work so hard for all those years to sell shitty-shit!! Again, I struggled with not tying my financial situation to my self worth. Didn’t I deserve a break for goodness sake?

After 6 months, I got a full-time teaching job and finances were stable for once. We could pay our bills, save, and put some aside. Isn’t it funny how when things are going good, you think your issues are solved? I thought I was over my money emotions, but I wasn’t. I didn’t learn this however until two months ago when my husband lost his job. I tumbled again into emotional despair and the feeling of inadequacy. Just when we were able to move out of our shitty 1st apartment that we had lived in for 7 years. Just when we were able to start saving. Just when we were able to live the life that everyone else was just given. I had intense fear that everything we had worked so hard for would be snatched away. Thankfully, he got a new job three weeks later and had already been a full-time college student for a year and a half. We’ve had to make a few small adjustments to our budget and financially we are okay. Emotionally, I still need to work on not allowing money to determine my self worth. I need to let go of the fear that comes with the the un-known and change. I need to remember that all the people in my life love me no matter the balance of my checking account, that I am a fabulous person who didn’t deserve any of these challenges. One of my favorite quotes from my husband is, “Even if we have to sell pencils out of a cardboard box, I will always love you.” I need to remember that.