All the Reasons to Take Your Family to Santa Fe (and Return Without the Kids for Romance)

We tried to cram in a family vacation and a romantic getaway over one long weekend in Santa Fe. It didn’t go totally as planned.

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]M[/su_dropcap]y wife and I decided we needed a rare romantic getaway. But we also felt like we needed a family vacation – something nice for our two-year-old and five-year-old. We had a small budget and wanted to go somewhere we could drive to from our home in Longmont, Colorado.
We decided on Santa Fe, New Mexico. Neither my wife nor I had ever been there, but we’d always wanted to go. And only six-and-a-half hours away by car? No problem.
It seemed like the perfect place: plenty of things to do as a family, great food and drink, and a very affordable condo rental on VRBO that could serve as the perfect spot for some romantic relaxation after the kids went to bed.
Or would trying to cram in a family vacation and a romantic getaway over one long weekend end up being too much?

Rough start

We left for vacation in high spirits, as well as a good 15 hours early. Not only were we excited to get out of town for the weekend, but we were feeling pretty smart: A spring snowstorm was on its way, and in a few short hours would start clobbering the I-25 corridor between Longmont and Colorado Springs.
Our original plan was that we would wake up early and leave on Friday morning. But with the severe weather warnings, we hastily packed up our gear the Thursday evening before, put the kids in their jammies, and decided to head for Durango, which was safely south of Colorado Springs and the southern edge of the incoming weather.
We made it to Durango uneventfully, staying over at a La Quinta. The next morning, we awoke to rain and temperatures in the low 50s. As we ate our free breakfasts, we watched the local news on the TVs mounted high up on the walls in the dining area. They showed images of Colorado Springs buried beneath nearly a foot of heavy, slushy snow.
There was no doubt we had made a great decision leaving early. Unfortunately, we were just about to learn that we’d also made a horrible decision – specifically, the decision to stop at Durango instead of just driving all night to Santa Fe.
About an hour after we left the La Quinta, we were stuck in standstill traffic, looking helplessly out of our windows as a white-out enveloped us, and every other car around us. By noon, we were at milemarker 42. By 3 p.m., we were still at milemarker 42.
The kids watched movies in the backseat as a quiet, sickening dread washed over me. Three hours. No movement. All around us, 4×4 pickup trucks were stranded in the snow. We were in an old Toyota Prius, which we had bought used the previous autumn. We’d never really taken it out in the snow. And yet there we were, in quite literally the most severe winter conditions I’d ever seen from a driver’s or passenger’s seat.
My wife looked on Google Maps and saw that not only had they closed the interstate ahead of us, but they’d closed it behind us, as well. We were stuck in between with nowhere to go. The wind gusted up to 50 miles per hour, and the snow blew sideways as it fell from ceasely from the sky.
I ticked through the important stuff in my head: Plenty of water? Check. Plenty of gas? Check. Plenty of food? Check. Clothing? Check. And we weren’t stuck. We were just not moving. Intellectually, I knew we we had everything we needed to be safe. But on some deeper, less conscious level, anxiety was building.
And then the cars ahead of us crept forward. And we did, too. Snow scraped the undercarriage of our little Toyota. Please, Prius, don’t get stuck now, I begged the car telepathically.
Fifteen minutes later, we crested a hill and stretched out ahead of us – ground that had been barely touched by snow. The asphalt was not only clear of snow, it was mostly dry.
Southern Colorado has some strange weather.
We seemed to be in the clear, but we weren’t. To get to Santa Fe, we still had to make it over Raton Pass, just over the Colorado border on the New Mexico side. Raton Pass was closed due to weather. So we stopped in Trinidad at the start of the closure. I gassed up the Prius, and we hit a place called Tequila’s for some early dinner. It was packed with other travelers also waiting for the Pass to open.
I rubbed my temples at the thought of having to stay overnight there, of having made it only 230 miles in 11 hours of driving over two days.
Somewhere down in Santa Fe, a really beautiful condo waited for us. At least, it looked beautiful on VRBO.
As the kids munched their quesadillas, I noticed something: Good news seemed to ripple through the restaurant. At tables all around us, people were smiling all of a sudden, looking visibly relieved. Through the din of whispered conversation, I thought I heard something about the Pass being opened. My wife checked Google Maps. It was true.
By 5:30 p.m., we were on our way. When we cleared the Pass, we were greeted by “severe clear” visibility – blue sky without so much as a wisp of a cloud. We drove into Santa Fe as the sun was setting, which painted the sky pink and orange and purple. It was gorgeous.
By 9 p.m. (12 hours after we had left that morning), we pulled into the parking lot of the condo. In a few minutes, we would confirm in-person that, indeed, the condo really was beautiful.
It should have taken us six-and-a-half hours to get to Santa Fe. Instead, it took a total of 27 hours over the course of two days.

Sarah Pedry
Art by: Sarah Pedry

Museums, museums, and more museums

Our kids love museums. If you say the word “museum” to them, they literally jump for joy. That’s a big reason why we picked Santa Fe: It’s absolutely packed with museums. Really good museums. Too many good museums for a couple of parents who only have 48 hours to spare and two kids who keep shouting, “LET’S GO TO ANOTHER MUSEUM!”
We started out at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. The woman behind the counter gave our kids pads of paper and pencils so they could draw and take notes as they went through. I’m thinking, Man, that’s a great idea! More museums should do that! Then she warned my wife and me that we should not let our kids get too close to the walls or art since they had pencils. So then I’m thinking, Yep, we’re going to be the parents of the kid who put his pencil through “The Barns, Lake George.”
I’ve always really enjoyed Georgia O’Keeffe’s work. This museum showcased a range of her paintings and illustrations through the years – far beyond the flowers. I would have been able to take it in more had I not been so hyper-aware of how kids never walk in a straight line, never look where they are going. Man, I really wished they didn’t have those pencils.
Fortunately, we left the museum without damaging any art. And despite my wish that they were never furnished with writing implements, we’ve now got a pretty great memento: my son’s renderings of Georgia’s works.
Among the other museums we visited were two on Museum Hill: the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, a well-curated and powerful place with an enjoyable “discovery” area for the kids. Then we headed across the courtyard to visit the Museum of International Folk Art. Very little can prepare you for walking into the main gallery, where there are literally thousands of sculptures, paintings, illustrations, weavings, and more. It was overwhelming in the best way possible.
The following day, we headed to the House of Eternal Return at Meow Wolf, which I count as a museum of sorts, but may be more accurately described as an interactive art exhibit that feels like a waking dream. (I particularly liked opening a refrigerator in the strange house, and discovering that it was actually a doorway to a different world.) It equally terrified and amused the kids.
Then it was off to the Botanical Gardens (back on Museum Hill), and then to the Institute of American Indian Arts (which, if you visit, do not forget to check out the galleries upstairs), and then over to the New Mexico History Museum, which, among other things, included the Palace of Governors.
At this point, we were mentally numb. We knew we were in the presence of wonderful art and fascinating history, but as we walked through the Palace of Governors, I looked at my wife and asked her seriously: “Where are we?”
“An old place,” she answered, her brain as maxed-out as mine.
Meanwhile, our kids ran from one thing to the next, still enthralled by everything.
I recommend every museum emphatically. Just give yourself more than 48 hours to see them all.

Food and drink

My kids were determined to become experts on the quesadilla, I was determined to become an expert on margaritas, and my wife was determined to eat a variety of authentic and spicy local dishes. (I should mention that I have Crohn’s disease. So between that, and the typical palettes that children have, we usually eat pretty bland, boring meals at home.) So here’s where we ate:
Tomasita’s: Food was solid. Margaritas very good. The sopaipillas and honey they serve at the end of the meal? Heaven.
Cowgirl: Imagine a family-friendly dive bar that’s also a restaurant, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Cowgirl is like and why it’s so popular. They’ve got an actual playground on site, so instead of them acting like wild animals at the table, they can go do that out by the slide while you sip margaritas.
Tecolote Cafe: The place faked us out with its strip-mall location. There was nothing strip-mall about the interior, or their awesomely indulgent food. Inside, Tecolote is a light, spacious, festive spot decorated with handmade, customer-donated illustrations and weavings of owls. But the real interest is on the plates. We had chocolate chip pancakes, french toast, huevos rancheros smothered in red chile. Even their coffee was dynamite.
Kakawa Chocolate House: “Why don’t we just move here to Santa Fe?” my wife and I wondered as soon as we stepped into this tiny, insanely cute place that serves a variety of rich chocolates in sipping and truffle forms. The kids got the truffles, while my wife and I got the sipping kind (including one made with a blend of local chiles).
The Cheesemonger and Clafoutis: For our final night, my wife and I had the ambitious idea to have our own romantic “date night” dinner back at the condo after the kids went to bed. So we hit up the Cheesemonger and Clafoutis for a variety of cheeses, a baguette, and some very fine prosciutto and olives.
The Clafoutis baguette was one of the best baguettes I’ve ever had, and the rest of the spread was more than amazing. One small problem with our plan: When you’ve done seven museums and other activities in the span of 48 hours, you find that you’re just a little worn out once the kids go to sleep. So we redefined “romantic” as “let’s put our pajamas on and try not to fall asleep on the couch as we eat this stuff.”
Amaya: I was too busy trying to recover from a four-museum marathon with blood orange margaritas to notice how much the rest of the my family were enjoying whatever it was they ordered.
Cafe Pasqual’s: There’s a reason why a place would have a 20-minute wait on a Monday morning. Because it’s awesome. We decided to go out for one last breakfast, because we were basically robbed of our first day in Santa Fe.
The kids split an enormous short stack of pancakes and bacon while my wife enjoyed two poached eggs on avocado toast with bacon and dukkah. The syrup is so good it merits eating it by the spoonful, which is definitely something I didn’t do (did) because it would have been very rude and set a bad example for my kids.

Right and wrong

After our breakfast at Cafe Pasqual’s, we piled into the car and made the six-and-a-half-hour drive back – very relieved to encounter no snow and a little disappointed there wasn’t a blizzard that would have forced us to stay an extra day. Along the way, we thought about what we did right and what we did wrong.
Here’s what we did right: We went to Santa Fe. Santa Fe is a little city bursting with energy and life and culture and a lot to do.
Here’s what we did wrong: We decided to do all that over a long weekend. We also tried to have two vacations at once: a romantic getaway, and a family vacation. By any measure, this was still a great family vacation. But as most parents (including us now) probably know, a family vacation is exhausting. Especially with kids ages two and five. Doing it the way we did it, we left ourselves with little time or energy for anything more than activities.
So, despite how much fun we all had, it looks we need to go back. Just the two of us.

Audio Book and Chill With Someone You Love

Maybe it’s time to turn off the TV. Put down the remote. Do something new, something different. How about audio book and chill?

Every couple reaches a point when they have run out of things to watch on TV.
You’ve seen every DVD or digital download in your library several times. You’ve watched all the movies playing on your premium channels (‘Do we have to watch “Deadpool”, again?!’). You binged “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards ”on Netflix. You flip through the guide on the cable box, in hopes that something new might pop up.
Maybe it’s time to turn off the TV. Put down the remote. Do something new, something different. How about audio book and chill? There are so many good audio books out there. You can be entertained and learn something at the same time.
 
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Think of it: You and your partner are at a dinner party. There’s a break in the conversation. You lock eyes, and one of you says, “We are listening to this great book about….”  You will sound so smart and interesting.
Not only are audio books full of fun facts, but they can be hugely entertaining. Here’s a list of some good ones:

DadisFat

“Dad is Fat”
by Jim Gaffigan

If you are a parent, this is the book for you. This laugh-out-loud memoir about raising children in New York City will make you appreciate your kids and the crazy vocation called parenting.


SherlockHolmes

“Sherlock Holmes, Vol. 1”
by Arthur Conan Doyle

It’s a classic! And, who doesn’t love Sherlock Holmes, honestly? These tales will take you back to Victorian England when things were simpler, but crime and murder still captured the imagination.


TroubleMaker

“Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology”
by Leah Remini

Recently, Leah Remini has been very outspoken about how much she doesn’t like The Church of Scientology. In her audio book, which she reads, she highlights her childhood and early life with the church, too.


 AsYouWish

“As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride”
by Cary Elwes

Any child of the 80s or 90s watched this movie at least 17 times. The book tells the insider story. Dinner guests will be so impressed with your vast knowledge of Andre the Giant and his legendary drinking.


TheFireman

“The Fireman”
by Joe Hill

When a virus starts spreading and making people spontaneously combust, the world goes to hell. Some characters try to help one another, but as in real life, some don’t. The narrator’s voice has a husky, smoky quality that may or may not be influenced by the subject matter.


DowntheRabbitHole

“Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny”
by Holly Madison

Most people would be lying if they said they didn’t care what goes on inside the Playboy mansion. And most people wouldn’t root for Holly Madison, until you hear about everything this woman went through. She even became successful despite it.


ADirtyJob

“A Dirty Job”
by Christopher Moore

Usually, books about death make you want to cry. This book makes you want to laugh. A pawn broker ends up with a unique job, and his life spins out of supernatural control.


ThePowerofHabit

“The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business”
by Charles Duhigg

Have you ever wondered why we do what we do? Our habits can be explained. There is even a way to break the cycle of habit, if you choose to.


“The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”
by Malcolm Gladwell

After listening to this book, you will feel infinitely more intelligent. It will give you loads of facts that you can bust out at cocktail parties or discuss endlessly with your partner, like how Brooklyn went from crime ridden to trendy haven.


BadMonkey

“Bad Monkey”
by Carl Hiaasen

This story starts with a fishing trip and a human arm. Somehow, the narrator gives humor to the whole outlandish, South Florida tale. Anything by Carl Hiaasen is sure to please.


SinCity

“Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for American Souls”
by Karen Abbott

Did you ever wonder where the phrase “I’m going to get laid” came from? Well, it’s an expression from the Everleigh Club in Chicago, the most famous brothel in the U.S. This book chronicles the Everleigh sisters and all the men who tried to take them down.


AtHome

“At Home: A Short History of Private Life”
by Bill Bryson

The author, with his corky British/American accent takes you through all the rooms of your house. You will come to understand how the most trivial things in your everyday life became a fixture in your home.


ASongofIceandFire

“A Song of Ice and Fire Series”
by George R. R. Martin

This series is over 200 hours long! That gives you so much time to enjoy the plot twists and turns. There are kings and queens and dragons. Some of it is brutal, but always addictive.
Give audio books a try and chill with someone you love. You might find you like it.

Date Nights: A Corny Necessity

The term ‘date night’ causes many parents to roll their eyes, but a University of Virginia study found that it is, indeed, important.

My husband and I once visited a straight-talking marriage counselor named Terry Real who asked us what we did to cherish each other as a couple. “There are 168 hours in a week,” he said. “How many of those do you give directly to your relationship?”

Tom and I looked at each other sheepishly. “Uh, none,” we told him.

Real was incensed. “This does your daughter no good,” he said. “Listen, the problem with being child-centric is that the couple becomes threadbare and starts looking like you two! You say that you’re busy, but what you really get is lazy.” He shook his head. “Get a babysitter! It’s a good investment!”

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The term ‘date night’ causes many parents to roll their eyes, but a University of Virginia study found that it is, indeed, important. People who built couple time into their schedules at least once a week were over three times more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriages, compared to those who had less quality time together. Wives who had couple time less than once a week, meanwhile, were nearly four times more likely to report above-average levels of “divorce proneness.”

Sex therapist Esther Perel gets incensed when she hears from parents who forsake their relationship for the kids. “They spend their entire weekends on the sidelines of these ridiculous games, cheering their children on when they finally manage to touch a ball,” she says. “This sentimentalization of children has reached a complete apex of folly. There is a total depletion of the importance of the adult relationship.” She tells parents to plan one curfew-free late night every six to eight weeks, in which they “lose control, let themselves go into excess, get high, drink, and dance, which connects with your past. And they do not spend the time talking about the children.”

We started booking a babysitter once a month, but there are ways to do date nights on the cheap as well. Perel advises creating a “family of choice,” friends and neighbors who can trade off watching each other’s children. We create a standing playdate with another family in which we swap hosting for a few hours every other Sunday so at least we have some adult time together once a month.

Many churches and synagogues run parents’ night out programs for their members; various children’s play spaces, YMCAs, and national kid-gym chains offer safe, supervised drop-off evening care for kids often for less money than your average sitter. You get some couple time and your kids enjoy a night racing around with friends.

Terry Real was right: we had gotten lazy. Tom and I soon trained ourselves to think creatively if we encounter even a small pocket of kid-free time. When we have a free hour and a half after we drop our daughter at a birthday party, we impulsively go to a tarot card reader in our Brooklyn neighborhood whose crystal-bedecked storefront we’ve often passed and wondered about. This, to me, is a can’t-miss: If she is off the mark, you have a laugh. If she hits on something that resonates, as our seer does when she tells Tom that he “likes cilantro and dislikes crowds,” you can feel excitingly spooked. While we wait out another birthday party the following week, we jump on a water taxi that ferries people between our neighborhood in Brooklyn and Manhattan and savor the feeling of bouncing along on the sparkling water.

There are hundreds of ways to get creative and to relish any kid-free time together. We spend an hour in a big bookstore, or go for a brief walk, which a mountain of studies show can immediately lift your mood and reduce stress. Even a thirty-minute stroll can make a huge difference; benefits increase further if you are surrounded by nature, a practice the Japanese call shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.” Or we grab some bagels and coffee and sit in the park with the newspaper.

“My husband and I like to do kid stuff without the kids,” says my friend Jill. “Zip-lining, go-karts, Pac-Man at the arcade. Sometimes my stomach hurts from laughing.” (One study found that activities that trigger nostalgia can increase feelings of connectedness to your partner.)

My friend John and his wife occasionally tell their bosses that they will be an hour late for work because of a doctor’s appointment, then steal away for a breakfast date after dropping off the kids at school. Breakfast is quicker and less expensive than dinner, and they still make a connection with each other.

Another father I know from my daughter’s soccer class takes this idea even further: he sets aside a few of his vacation days a year as does his wife. Then, while their children are in school, they have a daytime date. “You can fit a lot into six hours,” he says. “A walk in a botanical garden, an art gallery, lunch. One spring, we spent the day at a sketchy carnival and ran around riding the rides and eating bloomin’ onions. Which made us both sort of sick, but we still laugh about that day.”

A cash-strapped friend of mine leaves her kids with her mom once every few months, and she and her husband do what they call Drunken Errands. “We live in a really walkable part of Minneapolis, so we huff down a few drinks and then do what needs to be done,” she says. “We end up giggling and bumping into each other at Target, and sober up by the time we return home. Mostly.” If you’re home, set up the kids with dinner and a video and then have a romantic dinner for two in another room.

Some neuroscientists contend that the best way for couples to bond is to try something new together. Brain scans have shown that when we are confronted by something novel, certain brain areas are activated in anticipation of some sort of reward, including the midbrain, which is flooded with the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. (Once the stimulus becomes familiar and the brain learns that no reward is coming, it calms down.) Your novel activity doesn’t need to be paragliding, either – anything different will do.

So we try to be up for anything and to seize any moment to be together, even if it’s brief. Eminent couples counselor John Gottman equates his research findings in the metaphor of a saltshaker: instead of salt, fill it with all the ways you can say yes and sprinkle throughout your daily marital interactions: Yes, that’s a good idea. Yes, I’m on board. Couples who make a practice of doing this, he says, are much more likely to go the distance.

This essay is adapted from Dunn’s book “How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids,” published by Little, Brown. 

How Often Do You "Turn Toward" Your Partner? Maybe Less Often Than You Realize

Insignificant bidding exchanges have a huge impact on marital happiness. Tuning into them can make a big difference.

When my husband and I started fighting after we became parents, two deceptively simple pieces of advice from couples’ therapists, John and Julie Gottman, helped put us back on track.

The first is this: during the ordinary moments of life, they found, couples should have a 20 to one ratio of positive to negative interactions. Positive interactions can be the tiniest of gestures: a smile, making eye contact, nodding to show you’re listening, or a quick joke.

This ratio forced me to pay attention to the tone of our daily exchanges. How often were we actually being nice to each other? For the first week, I kept a loose count and I noticed that a dispiriting number of our communications were administrative. What time was our daughter’s birthday party? Did you buy shin guards for her soccer class? Well, can you go get them now?

Our feeble ratio of positives was a warning that we had to strengthen our daily bond by paying attention to what Gottman calls bids. When Tom is reading the paper, for example, he’ll say, “Hmm, that’s interesting.” This is a bid, a sometimes-subtle appeal for attention. If I reply, “Oh, what are you reading?” this response is what Gottman calls “turning toward” my partner – I have given him the encouragement he’s seeking. If I ignore his bid, I am “turning away” from Tom. It can be hard to take note of these bids – especially when kids seemingly lie in wait to unleash a volley of their own bids the moment they see you sit down. A spouse’s bidding can also be brushed off as needy or annoying, but often what they want is simply a quick connection: a brief chat, a smile, or a reassuring word.

In a now-famous study of newlywed couples, John Gottman found that these seemingly insignificant bidding exchanges have a huge impact on marital happiness. After a six year follow-up, he learned that the couples who’d divorced turned towards bids only a third of the time, while those that were still together turned towards bids almost 90 percent of the time.

I began to pay attention to and identify bids from Tom that might’ve slipped by me before. As it turns out, the guy is the human version of click bait:

Staring through binoculars at our neighbor’s apartment across the street: “Huh.”

Examining a coin from his pocket: “Now that’s something you don’t see every day.”

Reading a magazine: “Hmm. Pretty incredible about eels.”

The second game-changer is this: look for the good in your partner and then build a culture of appreciation by pointing it out. I made an effort to really see Tom’s acts of caring, some of which normally flit under the radar – such as stocking a precisely arranged cabinet of seven sizes of batteries for Sylvie’s various toys. When he walks Sylvie and me across a busy crosswalk, he makes direct and uncomfortable eye contact with the driver waiting at the light because he read that this reduces a pedestrian’s chances of getting hit.

It’s not enough just to think good things, says Helen Fisher, the biological anthropologist. She states that giving your mate affectionate comments daily is beneficial for them, but also helps you by reducing cortisol, lowering blood pressure, boosting your immune system, and even reducing cholesterol levels.

How important is this habit? Researchers from the University of Georgia found that what separates marriages that last from those that don’t is not necessarily how often couples argue, but how they treat each other on a daily basis when they are not bickering. Expressions of gratitude were the “most consistent significant predictor of marital quality.” The power of a simple thank you, as it turns out, is considerable.

So I thank Tom whenever it occurs to me – for ordering our daughter a new striped backpack she didn’t need but desperately wanted or for bringing home a half dozen chocolate bars and conducting a family taste test for fun. I feel a little woo-woo advancing this “attitude of gratitude” yet is it any less strange that I politely thank Andre our UPS guy way more often than the person I married?

Touching regularly also makes a difference. Even a quick squeeze on the arm reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and triggers the release of the brain chemical oxytocin, which promotes trust. Helen Fisher says that merely touching the palm or arm of someone raises your face and body temperature. (As she says, “People keep us warm.”)

I now make an effort to grab Tom’s arm when he walks by or sling my legs over his while we are watching a movie. Going further, I’ve made myself reach for his hand when a fight is looming, even if I’m so irritated that I’d rather pick up a live rodent. Soon enough, I calm down. It’s hard to holler at someone when they’re mere inches from you and the familiar contours of his hand remind me that this is the person I married, not the bogeyman.

How important is touch? In 2010, scientists from UC Berkeley studied and coded every physical interaction in a single game played by each team in the National Basketball Association, from chest bumps to high fives. They found that with few exceptions, the teams who touched the most won the most (at that time, it was the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers). Their conclusion: good teams tend to be more hands-on than bad ones.

Is there a more appropriate metaphor for relationships than that?

This essay is adapted from Dunn’s book “How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids,” published by Little, Brown. 

How to Tell Your Kids You’re Dating Someone New

Telling your kids you’ve begun a relationship with someone new is tricky- particularly if it’s the first time since separating from your family partner.

It was supposed to be their dad. You were supposed to stay with him forever – but that went south. That was bad enough, now they have to deal with the fact that there’s another man in your life? How’s this gonna go down?
Telling your kids you’ve begun a romantic relationship with someone new is tricky. It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have – particularly if it’s the first time you’re having it since separating from your family partner. There are ways, however, to soften the blow — to make them feel more at ease with a situation that they didn’t want or ask for.

1 | Don’t do it right away

Wait until the relationship is well established and on solid ground before introducing this big change into your children’s lives.

2 | If appropriate, tell their father (or mother) first — and tell them you did so

When the children first learn you are in a new relationship, their first thought will likely be of their other parent; they’ll worry s/he is in some way being betrayed. If you can assure them that their other parent is already aware of this news, the guilt and burden they may feel will be lifted.
 
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3 | Tell them one-on-one

When you do decide the time is right, pull each child aside individually to deliver this news. A close, intimate conversation between just the two of you will afford him or her a greater sense of safety and more freedom to react in a genuine, uninhibited way.

4 | Assure them they’re still #1, no matter what

Their first reaction will be, “What about me?” Even if they don’t express that concern out loud, tell them that this in no way affects the relationship you have with them. Just because another person is in the picture doesn’t mean there’s less room in your life for your children.

5 | Encourage them to ask questions

Any and all questions are fair game. They’ve just been dealt some heavy news – allow them to ask whatever question(s) will help them to better process the information they’ve received. You can use digression in how you answer the questions — but allow them to ask, nonetheless.

6 | Ask them questions

They may clam up; they may say nothing at all. That’s when you step in and ask them probing questions (gently) in attempt to identify how they’re feeling about it. If they don’t answer, don’t push. Revisit it at a later date.

7 | Give them space to process the news

When you’re done with the initial conversation, encourage them to take some time to themselves to sit with their emotions, but also assure them you’re available when and if they want to talk about it further.

8 | Ask your partner to give you space

Just as your kids need space to deal with their feelings on the matter, so might you. Delivering news such as this to your children can take a significant emotional toll on you as well.

9 | Give your children a say in when and how they meet your new partner

Maybe your new partner is someone they already know or maybe it’s someone new. In either case, giving your children some control over when they begin spending time with this person will make them feel more like stakeholders.

10 | Hug them. Kiss them. Tell them you love them – often

Though they may not show it, their insecurities may be skyrocketing during this time. Nurture their fragile egos with loving words of affirmation.  
There is nothing easy when it comes to navigating divorce — particularly when children are involved. It’s a slippery slope — a series of decision that can have a ripple effect in the lives of those around you. Whether children like it or not, dating after divorce is a fact of life for many. We can’t expect to stay single forever in order to protect their feelings. What we can do, however, is help to ease the transition for them.

When Grand Gestures Give Way to the Everyday

Having kids threw big gestures out the window and then ran them over with strollers.

I’m 18 and 2,000 feet in the air. The wind gusts have me clinging to the canvas hand-holds like grab bars on the subway, the consequences of letting go much worse than a collision with a sweaty neighbor. Heat waves from each fiery blast into the 55,000 cubic feet of balloon above me force me to turn my face outward.

And outward is everything. Rolling hills unfold like cirrocumulus clouds with ripples in the green surface below and white surface above. It is breath-taking in an I-really-can’t-breathe kind of way, equal parts glorious and terrifying. I turn to catch sight of my friend, my best friend for all our formative years, whose birthday this is honoring. Her face matches my own. Epic. Cue the guitar solo from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” A hot air balloon ride seemed fitting, literally sending us off into the sunset before we graduated, parted ways, parted lives (temporarily, or so we thought).

We had masterminded the perfect plan to be neighbors, our husbands would be grill buddies, and our households would spill kids onto a communal lawn (which would eventually lead to arranged marriages and sew our connection firmly in place). We wanted mafia-style connectedness with the purity of the Cleavers. Almost two decades later however, we live worlds apart with 3000 miles of communal lawn to cross to get to one another. We settle for talks far beyond acceptable data limits. But we’ll always have that ride in the sky to fall back on, a snug pocket of good memories waiting to be tapped.

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I’ve always been a fan of grand gestures and big hurrahs. If we’re going to a baseball game, pinstripes will be worn, foam fingers purchased, cracker jacks eaten, and “A League of Their Own” watched as a pre-game warm-up. I like the whole shebang, the experience of it all. If excitement and anticipation are on the buffet, I’m loading my plate. By the end of the ride, the game, the holiday, you can just roll me away from the table, sated with stimulus. My penchant for plethora makes me a gift-giving pro. It’s also what makes me hell to live with if things go awry.

When you get married and have kids, things will go awry. In the golden years of dating, each time I’d have my pre-husband over for dinner, he knew to expect no less than three courses. It was fun to pretend to be Julia Child, destroy the kitchen, and come out with something photo-worthy and succulent. But it didn’t always pan out that way. Sauces congealed, mousses didn’t. Steaks burned and fish stayed raw unwilling sushi. And then, to my delicate sensitivities, the night was ruined. It’s amazing he married my neurotic self.

Having kids threw big gestures out the window and then ran them over with strollers. There’s no impetus to cook a meal that involves continuously stirring or more than five ingredients. No time. No hands. No heart for it. Balloons, cheesecakes, strawberries dipped in chocolate, and weekend-long concerts give way to birthday cards that sing and anything that can be ordered on Amazon.

It’s better, in a weird this-is-your-life reality-show way. Big extravagancies have given way to little ones. We don’t need fancy dinners. It might be Little Caesar’s hot ‘n ready, but I’m just grateful we eat together on the regular. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that looking my husband in the eyes sends me soaring to new heights, but sometimes a few moments of eye contact is all I need to remind myself why I signed up for this gig. Oh yeah, you. Hi there.

And you know what? That hot air balloon almost 20 years ago “soared” about five miles before landing in an empty lot next to the grocery store. My money’s on a longer term investment.

Keep Your Dot: How to Make Your Stay-at-Home Partner Feel Supported

It isn’t about competing for who has the harder job. It’s about acknowledging that everyone needs their turn in the center.

A tricky element of being a stay-at-home parent is that sometimes I share my job with my husband. I’m on kid duty most of the time because he’s employed full time, but when he’s with us, he’s a fully participating parent. The problem with this arrangement is that it also entitles him to complain about our kids when they get annoying (which they do), and that actually kind of annoys me.

I read an article about Ring Theory (or the kvetching order) a while ago that stuck with me because I think there’s a way to apply the concept to everyday life, particularly the experience of being a stay-at-home parent. This could be the secret to reducing the feelings of resentment, jealousy, isolation, and under-appreciation that can so easily build between spouses when one is employed full time and the other bears the load of day-to-day child care duties.

Ring theory explained

Ring Theory is all about how to avoid saying the wrong thing to someone who is grieving, ill, or coping with a tragedy or crisis. The aggrieved person is illustrated as a dot in the center of concentric circles. The nearest circle represents the person closest to the aggrieved, like their spouse. The second circle contains the next closest group, like the person’s children or parents. The further out in the circle you go, the looser one’s connection to the aggrieved becomes.

The rules of the kvetching order are simple: “comfort in, dump out.” We offer support to people in circles closer to the center than us, and we vent to people in circles further away. The person at the center (the dot) earns the right to dump out to everyone else since they are suffering the most.

 

This makes intuitive sense when we’re dealing with sad situations. We know better than to say to a new widow, “I’m so distraught about the death of your husband. It makes me think about how hard it would be if I lost mine, and I’ve been losing sleep over it.” We’d never expect her to be concerned with our lack of sleep when she’s dealing with the loss of her husband. Instead, we offer our condolences and work through our personal emotions with someone more removed from the situation.

Applying ring theory to everyday life

When it comes to stay-at-home parents, I think of us as the dots in our personal kvetching orders. I’m certainly not comparing raising children to a tragic event. It’s the opposite experience, but it is a physically and emotionally demanding one. Stay-at-home parents get little respite, so the parallels I’m drawing between traditional Ring Theory and life at home with kids are related to the dynamics of support and communication people in the center of the circles need, not necessarily the experiences that put them there.

According to the theory, stay-at-home parents should get the chance to vent about the hard parts of being home with kids, and our friends and family have to listen, especially the person in our closest ring, like our spouses or partners.

Our partners also have their own kvetching orders for their jobs. When we ask, “How was your day, dear?” We’re signing up to hear about idiotic bosses, incompetent co-workers, grueling schedules, or boring meetings. The difference in our kvetching orders, though, is that I never get to hop into the center of my husband’s rings because I never do his job, but he jumps into mine pretty regularly, and there in lies the rub.

Kvetching-Order applied to stay at home parents and working partners

Keep your dot to yourself

After my husband has had a long day of his own and walks into chaos at home, he rightfully and occasionally gets frustrated with the kids’ loud, whiny, or unruly behavior. It does take a lot for him to get to this state because he’s a loving and calm man who is genuinely happy to come home to us, but he’s human and carries the burden of supporting our family. Our kids are non-stop curious little creatures, and that isn’t always a winning combination after he’s had a stressful day at work.

When I hear the impatience creeping into his voice, I think about how I’ve had to keep calm for the last eight hours that I’ve been alone with the kids, and how I’d really love to pass the baton to him, the man in my closest circle, so that I can be the one to lose my cool and let off some steam. But the rules of Good Cop – Bad Cop require one of us keeps it together. When he’s already reached his limit then I’m required to continue playing a comforting role, essentially erasing my dot and thus my shot at being supported.

Of course, this characterization isn’t necessarily fair to my husband. The stressors of his day don’t disappear when he opens the front door. He should feel at ease to express himself in his own home, and I’m the perfect person for him to talk to about the kids. Who better to understand the nuances of our family life than me? Yet I’m still miffed when my dot must move aside to make room for his when he re-enters the realm of active parenting (in which I’m perpetually immersed). After all, he already has his very own set of rings and I don’t want to share mine.

Stay-at-home parents already share everything with our kids, all day, every day. Our time is not our own. It’s devoted to the often mundane chores needed to keep the household running and to our children to keep them fed, clothed, bathed, safe, and stimulated. In return, our kids eat whatever food we’d prefer to enjoy, in peace, alone. They interrupt us no matter what task we’re trying to complete. They watch us use the bathroom. I’d at least like to have exclusive rights to vent about all of this and I want to be an ineligible receiver when it comes to complaints about the kids.

Imagine if the situation was reversed. Let’s say my husband is a dishwasher in a restaurant, and I join him at the end of his shift. He’s been steadily washing dishes for the last seven hours. I start doing it for twenty minutes and begin commenting on how the water is scalding my hands and that my back hurts from bending over. That would sound ridiculous, wouldn’t it?

It’s like venting to the widow. Sympathy is probably the last emotion he’d feel for me. Incredulity, frustration, and indignation would likely come first. This is how it feels as a stay-at-home parent when our partners walk in the door and make themselves at home in the center of our circles.

“I can’t take the kids’ high pitched screaming anymore. It’s getting on my nerves.”

↓↓

“I give you credit for taking care of the kids all day. Their shrieks are really hard to handle.”

The solution

There’s a really simple work-around to this, though, and it’s all in the delivery.

If my husband says, “I can’t take the kids’ high pitched screaming anymore. It’s getting on my nerves,” my immediate reaction is one of defense. “Oh, please. Don’t whine to me about that. Try listening to it all day.”

On the other hand, if he says, “I give you credit for taking care of the kids all day. Their shrieks are really hard to handle,” I will be so much more receptive to the complaint he’s voicing. As if by magic, his “dumping” comment that fishes for a consoling response from me is transformed into a comforting comment that validates my experience – my job – and I’m more than willing to listen to him and commiserate. We both win, and he still has the opportunity to complain about the kids or (gasp) about me to other people in his personal set of rings.

I imagine this theory works for any couple dynamic, not just a single-income family, and I’d be curious to know how you see it playing out in different circumstances. After all, this isn’t about us competing for who has the harder job. It’s about recognizing our respective rings, honoring the role we play for each other within them, and acknowledging that everyone needs their turn in the center. I’m not a marriage counselor, but I’m quite certain that if every couple drew their own set of circles and remembered to “comfort in, dump out,” we’d all do a lot less kvetching, particularly about each other.

A Simple Strategy for When You're Feeling Unappreciated

How can we effectively deal with feeling unappreciated? It starts with identifying when we’re feeling unappreciated in the first place.

There are seasons in life when our acts of service go unnoticed, when our kindness is accepted but not appreciated, or when “thank you” and “I’m grateful” are phrases we hardly ever hear. In these seasons, we feel a sense of meaninglessness – that who we are and what we do doesn’t have real value.
Perhaps you’re going through a season like this right now. Sometimes we wear a smile for the world when, in actual fact, all we want to do is scream. In this piece I hope to offer some freedom from those feelings.
How can we effectively deal with feeling unappreciated? Before we can answer that question, we need to reflect on how to identify if we’re feeling unappreciated in the first place. So let’s begin there.

The symptoms of feeling unappreciated

  1. Feeling “invisible” to those closest to you.
  2. Feeling that, if you weren’t there, the other person/people wouldn’t really miss you.
  3. Staying in an environment/role/job simply because it’s comfortable or familiar, not because you derive meaning from it.
  4. When you interpret the words “too busy” as little more than a hollow excuse.
  5. When you start interpreting someone’s busyness as a personal dismissal by default.
  6. When a connection/relationship is always maintained by you.
  7. When you harbor feelings of resentment toward the other person.
  8. Feeling that you are always the one giving.
  9. Feeling like an intruder on the other person’s time/skills, etc.
  10. Feeling that you don’t really add value to the other person’s life.

All these emotions can lead to a downward spiral of depression. It’s important to know the signs so you can take action.

Learn to take control

How do you take control when feeling unappreciated? Communication is key. Sometimes people are not aware of how you’re feeling, especially if you hide it well. Take that bold step and communicate your feelings in a kind and thoughtful way.
Losing your temper won’t contribute anything positive to the conversation, and demanding thanks will hardly ever result in it being given. Gently and sincerely talk with the other person about the way you feel. Allow them the freedom to tell you that they do appreciate you and that their intention was not to make you feel otherwise.

Know your worth outside the value judgments of others

When your sense of self-worth gets defined by someone else’s feelings, you’re on a slippery slope that heads only one way and fast. The measure of gratitude shown by someone else should not determine the value of what you do. The things you do must have intrinsic value based on who you are, what your service says about your values, and the esteem in which you hold the person you help.
This is the foundation for doing things in a way that won’t require thanksgiving but will welcome it when offered.

Love yourself by building self-confidence

By this, I do not mean you need to love yourself more than others, or even that you need to love yourself first. I’m talking about the kind of love you have for the things that make you who you are.
I, for example, am confident in the things I do, not because I do them well, but because they give shape and expression to who I am. I don’t need thanks for that.

Get the help you need

Sometimes you can’t do it on your own, and that’s okay. If you want to take control, you need to first admit that you have lost control.
These times may call for the help of someone who is trained to offer it, who holds an unbiased view of your situation, who does not have an agenda to push (save your own wellbeing), or who will help you see hard truths where they need to be seen.

Look objectively at the dynamics of a relationship

The sense of feeling unappreciated grows within the context of a relationship. The problem with that is that relationships feel permanent, which means people stay in relationships long after they’ve reached their expiration date. They end up looking for appreciation in the context of a relationship that should not really exist.
Apart from the relationship between parents and children (in most cases), no other relationship needs to be permanent. Being able to emotionally remove yourself from the situation in order to evaluate whether or not it is a healthy environment is essential to coping and overcoming the sense of feeling unappreciated.
Take a hard look at the relationships you’re in and gauge whether or not you want to be a part of them. If not, cut the cord, say good-bye, however painful it might be, and look forward to a new journey. (This is most definitely a last resort.)
I offer these next two points with gentle care because I don’t want to create the sense that feeling unappreciated is fundamentally your fault. It’s not (read my “Letter of Lace” to the unappreciated woman for more on this). However, recognizing that it’s not your fault does not mean that you are helpless, or even blameless.
That’s where these next steps come into play:

Accept the role you play in feeling unappreciated

Accept your role in the dynamic and be willing to change it. So much in life is beyond our control. Choosing how to respond to a perceived lack of appreciation is not one of those things though.
If you feel unappreciated, make your first step evaluating whether you’re reading too much into someone else’s lack of gratitude. We’ve all forgotten to say “thank you” at times, with no malice intended.

Show appreciation for others

This is a sure-fire way to boost your own immunity against feeling unappreciated. The truth is: feeling unappreciated is born from a place of unhealthy self-interest. There’s a careful balance to be maintained here.
While it is certainly true that the more you show others the appreciation you crave, the more likely they are to reciprocate, but don’t show appreciation in order to receive it. Show appreciation in order to recognize the value of others and to keep a healthy perspective of “self.” This helps fight off the temptation to feel unappreciated.
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” — Voltaire

How to Survive Parenting With Your Polar Opposite

When I married my husband, I cherished our differences for what they signaled – compromise. Then we had kids.

“You complete me.” Remember that line from Jerry Maguire? This was the one time in the last two decades that I crushed just a little bit on Tom Cruise. We all want that in our spouse – that feeling that they fill in the holes in our personality that we can’t fill ourselves, like divots on a golf course. With marriage, we will finally be pristine, a smooth expanse of happiness for all the world to see.

Then you have kids, and that course becomes a minefield, huge chunks of your life blown to the heavens by sleepless nights and hungry mouths and dirty diapers and later on, by temper tantrums and lines crossed, until you look at your spouse and it takes a minute to remember his name.

When I married my husband, I cherished our differences for what they signaled – compromise. I indulged his night owl proclivities on the weekends; my vim and vigor in the mornings served as his weekday alarm. His laissez-faire attitude about plans calmed my hyperactive need to be lord and ruler over each step of each day. We settled into a happy medium. He got the breakfast burrito and I got the bagel and cream cheese and we shared. He added documentaries to our Netflix queue and I added Seinfeld. It was a mutual enlightening.

But somehow kids blasted my zen to smithereens. The firecracker fuse to my temper was short and primed when he finally rolled into bed in the middle of the night just as the baby woke screaming to be fed. His non-existent desire to plan left me holding too many schedules for a day that would need to be lived twice to get it all done. As the kids grew older and began to push back against our rules and requirements, I could not find my way past the bad cop role while he nestled into the good one. He was the clown coming home from work to provide a little entertainment before bedtime. I was the one who called time and ended the fun.

It took us a long time to find the compromise again, to fill in those holes and create an unbroken expanse of sanity that would provide a solid foundation for our kids to rest on, and then, fingers crossed, take flight. Here’s what smoothed our way, as we each parented with our polar opposite.

1 | Find your niche

You know what you’re good at. If, like me, you’re a morning person, take the school and breakfast duty. Then let him take the night. While he wrestles with them, let him also wrestle them into the bath and pajamas. Don’t feel bad about it, enjoy someone else taking the load. If you’re the planner, plan and then make your expectations clear. If he’s the best at winging it and making it fun, loosen the reins and let him do his thing. We all have our five-star skills. Figure yours out and let your spouse run with theirs.

2 | Talk about it (when the kids aren’t there)

There are many times in life when I wish for telepathy, when the kids are yelling or begging for a half-hour extension to bedtime, or when we’re in Target and three little people have just run in three different directions. But try as I might, I cannot say all I need to say with a look. Even if it’s supercharged with the mom-mind-meld. So, we talk, during naptime, after the kids go to bed, in stolen moments in the bathroom, about all the things that need to be sorted in order to function as a unit instead to two rogue soldiers. We get out all the frustrations and sassy snark (me) and reset before going back in the game. It’s our huddle between plays that keeps the ball on our side.

3 | There’s no “right” way

Seriously. Parenting is not a game you win. Just because the kids responded to you better that one time at the park when you counted to five to get them in the car does not mean that’s the magic answer and you get bonus points. If his solution to potty training is bribery with jelly beans and yours is a sticker chart, it’s not rock beats scissors. It’s a draw. Every day is a new day and every kid is different. Sticking hard and fast to the little things will wear you down faster than those sleepless night of yore. If you take it in stride and accept whatever solution is working for the moment, no matter whose it is, it will gently usher you out of the role as scorekeeper. No one wants to keep tally for eighteen plus years. That’s too much math and angst for one soul.

4 | Give thanks

You have a partner in crime. For better or worse, this person is the one who will walk with you to the end, through the worst of the blow-out diapers, the temper tantrums in parking lots, the emotional hailstorm of adolescence, and the final empty nest adieus. They were there before and will be after. Give thanks that they chose you and you chose them, even if the mountain path is steep and rocky and littered with the debris of a messy life, because when you reach the top, it will be a panorama you never imagined, a life well-lived.

So here’s to holding up the white flag on the parenting front and fusing the best parts of you both. Here’s to bringing together the best of both worlds and using your powers for good and not evil as you raise your kids with your contrary counterpart.

A Strong, Enduring Love Isn't Always Sexy- and That's Fine

Witty romantic comedies, seductive romance novels, and cheesy love songs- not reality.

When I was in high school, I was a sucker for those happily-ever-after romance flicks. Cameron Crow’s classic “Say Anything” was one of my favorites. I wanted a love like that. I wanted John Cusack to stand outside my bedroom window with a boombox, proclaiming his devotion to me by way of Peter Gabriel’s golden pipes. That wasn’t too much to ask, right?
Turns out I was wrong; that was too much to ask. At least, the image of what I thought true love was supposed to be was too much to ask. Now, let me preface this by saying I have found true love, and he is everything I could ever ask for in a man, but this is true love as defined by this forty-something-year-old woman who’s been through a thing or two.
My image of love has matured over the course of the last 20+ years – it has expanded and evolved. Witty romantic comedies, seductive romance novels, and cheesy love songs, though enjoyable to take in, don’t accurately depict the real picture of love.
Here’s where fantasy and reality part ways:

Infatuation and love are not one and the same

Infatuation can precede love, but it is not love. That feeling you get when you first fall in love with someone – that is infatuation. It’s a high. It’s a feeling like no other. You’d do anything to keep that feeling, and it has tremendous power over a person.
This is what we see on the big screen. You know – boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy sweeps girl off her feet, and boy and girl live happily ever after. “Princess Bride”, one of my all time favorites, comes to mind. They ride off into the sunset, literally. It’s beautiful. It’s magical. It’s also fantasy. What happens to Westley and Buttercup when they move beyond the initial stage of their storybook romance only to hit the unpredictable waters of everyday life?
As Psychologist, J. Michelle Davis puts it: “Infatuation can even be thought of as love with only two dimensions. With love, that third dimension is reality.” Infatuation is two-dimensional. It is fleeting, and not sustainable. But that’s okay – because, for the lucky, (and those who work at it,) that exhilarating infatuation will give way to a deeper and more mature three-dimensional love.

Love isn’t all rainbows and unicorns

“All you need is love.” That’s what the Beatles tell us, anyway. Much as I enjoy hearing those beautifully melodic lyrics from arguably the world’s most beloved band, I question the sentiment behind those words – at least, as it pertains to romantic love. Love – the mere act of loving someone – isn’t all you need. No, you need communication, compassion, understanding, empathy, patience, resilience, humility, accountability, and – well the list of unsexy relationship-essential attributes goes on. This quote from Ricardo Montalban sums it up perfectly: “Love doesn’t happen right away; it’s an ever-growing process. It develops after you’ve gone through many ups and downs, when you’ve suffered together, cried together, laughed together.”

Sex is important, but it doesn’t have to be swing-from-the-chandeliers-amazing all the time

Fiction sex, in today’s sex-laden media, is always amazing between two consenting adults. Yes, it’s amazing, hot, and always perfectly timed. “Ghost” anyone? No, that one didn’t include chandeliers, but it did feature some scintillating pottery techniques, music by the Righteous Brothers, and two flawlessly sculpted bodies. While that scene was successful in conveying the depth of love between the two, that kind of intimate encounter is not really practical in any sustainable way. (What happened to all that clay they slathered all over each other? Did they shower before hitting the bed?)
Admittedly, early in the relationship, sex is not only spectacular, but it tends to happen at frequent intervals. Though time will likely douse that flame, it doesn’t mean that it’s any less important.
Sex between two people who love each other, even if it’s not mind-blowing, is an intimate and connecting experience. It is that thing that you share only with that one other person. Don’t give up on your sex life because it’s not the stupendous sex as depicted on the big screen. Rather, nurture it at every stage of the relationship – and remember the important role it plays in conveying your love for your partner.

“You complete me” is for the birds

Okay, I’ll admit, those words uttered by Jerry Maguire in his profession of love for Renee Zellweger’s Dorothy Boyd did initially make my heart skip a beat. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be told you complete someone?
Well, if I’m honest with myself the answer is: me. I don’t want to complete someone, nor do I want someone to complete me. A love that stands the test of time is one that includes two people who come to the table as already complete beings – independent of the other. Great love is one that adds flavor and color a person’s already whole life – not one that completes it.  
Experts agree: “Every good marriage is based on an awful lot of separation,” says Steven Nock, a professor of sociology who studies marriage at the University of Virginia and author of “Marriage in Men’s Lives”. He adds, “People need to have a separate life and existence to feel validated as individuals. They can’t live solely as somebody’s partner.” A more fitting (albeit less swoon-worthy) sentiment to escape Jerry’s lips would have been, “you add value to my life and I love having you in it.”
Hollywood would have us believe that when cupid’s arrow strikes, it all flawlessly falls into place from there. It doesn’t. It takes hard work to build a love that is strong and enduring. Though I still long to be captivated by a good fictional love story once in a while, I’ll take my own real-life and utterly flawed love story any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I feel fortunate to have evolved into a person who appreciates love for what it is, not for what it’s supposed to look like.