“We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history…We numb vulnerability.” – Brene Brown
Jen and Ben bit the dust. It made me sad, I had higher hopes for these guys. 10 years! Wow, says the media – they really made it for ten whole years. Well, some psychologists think that the way to ‘divorce proof’ your marriage lays in one word – vulnerability. The Huff even wrote about divorce-proofing your marriage through this ‘super secret method’ years ago.
A bit ago, I had lunch with old friends. They spent the entire meal picking on one another, insulting each other and showing their ugly at my table. It made me uncomfortable and I can only imagine how it made each of them feel. My husband and I are certainly imperfect. I am sure I am guilty of the same behavior at times in our lives – but, I can and want to do better for both our sakes.
Vulnerability begins with educating our children on their emotions. You have to be vulnerable to teach vulnerability. It’s sort of ridiculous to never let your children see you cry, see you afraid, see you fail at anything. Parents are super people, right? So very wrong. If you don’t show your children that you’re human they will try to become super people too and that’s just not setting fair or realistic goals. My children know I have a fear of heights. My children have seen me cry, fight, fail. But, they also know I wipe away my tears, resolve, move on and function. Those are important lessons and ones they cannot learn without being vulnerable to them. They need to be vulnerable in return – letting them cry on your shoulder, say their “I hate yous!” (and hopefully apologize later). It’s part and parcel of growing up healthy. Don’t believe me? Read this and learn more.
Vulnerability is scary. You can dump your stuff out of the drawers and have someone laugh, cry or get angry at the mess you made. So you have to do it with someone you trust, right? Well, yes and no. I have learned that you can be vulnerable in smaller ways and sort of test the waters. Share something and watch how they react. Humans are a beautiful beast – sometimes they exceed our expectations. And, for those that don’t well, screw em. You’re better for trying to connect. I realized that so few of the married people we know share a deep, obvious connection with their spouse. They bicker, they pick on each other, they make fun of one another and say hurtful things in public. They seem so full of resentment and anger. This person you selected out of all the people in the world you’ve met. This person you’ve had babies with – is suddenly public enemy #1. You can either live a life filled with yuk or you can open the dresser drawers and see what falls out.
Vulnerability is not gender specific. There’s some misconception that women can and should be vulnerable and men should sit and learn to be better listeners. ‘It’s weak to show your feelings’ ‘Men can’t do it’ I’m sorry, this is just simply not true. If a man is having issues with being vulnerable it’s simply because he wasn’t taught the skill or shown acceptance. And, yes, it is a skill. Hand him this and have him read those articles – there are primers, facts, psychological studies and real stories of men learning how to open the door to sharing their feelings. And, ladies it’s our turn to be better listeners and not attack him when he does it.
About 20 years ago, an old friend of mine got married to a guy after 3 dates. I freaked on her. How could you marry someone when you haven’t even had your first fight? How do you know he’s the one? I tried to shake sense into her. But, she said “I can see that I could love him.” And, with that they married. No vulnerability, no openness, no obvious mutual respect or love. She just saw potential. Naturally, they divorced a few years later and she called to tell me I was right. Never marry a person you haven’t had a fight with – let them be vulnerable and show you their ugly. If you can take it and show your own ugly in return, you can live a beautiful life. At least that’s what I’m hoping!
Infusing Vulnerability into your Marriage In response to so many things in each of our lives, both my husband and I committed to living life with more vulnerability. We were going to spend more date nights out – not stressing over what we were going to do (which is now typically just sushi dinner out) but sitting face to face with one another and opening up our proverbial drawers. In the beginning, being completely vulnerable for anyone is sort of scary. Allowing your angry, messed up thinking to come to the forefront can open a huge can of worms that leads to fights, arguments, disagreements, bad places. Or, at least, that’s what I thought. But, if you take a moment to carefully select your vocabulary (using “I feel” and focusing on how I feel, rather than “you do…”) being vulnerable and open is cathartic and brings you closer as long as your listener does his job – acceptance.
After nearly 20 years of marriage, you would assume you know all there is to know about the person you sleep next to every night (except when a little one sneaks in between at 2 am) – but, vulnerability and openness really showed me that there is always more to learn. Fears about work or money, stresses about social changes as we age, obligations that suddenly felt overwhelming. Sometimes, I didn’t even know that by being vulnerable we were both tapping into parts of ourselves we didn’t even realize we had!
Vulnerability leads to Intimacy – the ultimate payoff. If you are able to achieve connections through your vulnerability your payoff will be intimacy. Media often equates intimacy with something sexual. And, that is not always the case. Intimacy, I have learned is a deep connection, warmth and comfort you feel with someone because they know your ugly, can share their ugly and think it’s beautiful. It’s a level beyond the ‘relationship’ – it’s the ultimate happiness to truly feel intimacy with someone.
I have a confession to make. Sometimes, marriage is boring.
With the winter Polar Vortex, formerly known as Cold, in full throttle and half my friends on warm Florida or Caribbean vacations, I sit home. Indoors. With my hubby and kids. Bored. And, cold.
I would love to go for a nice walk, go out for picnic, snuggle up on the warm sand, read a book, side by side in the yard – anything to kick up the heels of this absolutely ridiculous cabin fever.
The American Psychological Association claims healthy marriages are not stale, cold marriages. When you feel the doldrums hit, its time to get out there and try new things together. This doesn’t have to mean skydiving or jumping out of your comfort zone too far (see the time two of the most introverted people tried a dancing class…) it just means getting out of the neighborhood, sitting in a new environment, reinvigorating the communication.
We do go out, mind you. We have a steady date night once every other week or so at our favorite restaurant. It’s nearly a routine. All the waiters know us, we have our favorite tea for dessert and it’s always a lovely time. But, after years of the same old same old we’re turning into an old, boring couple.
While sometimes, I relish that comfort of knowing the marriage routines, I also know it’s not entirely healthy to keep repeating life. Spicing things up reminds me why I married not only a partner, but also my best friend. I love having fun with him and experience new things together. Its just that with 4 kids and freezing temps it’s hard to get my butt out the door.
I have found even going outside of my little ‘hood, downtown for drinks fosters new conversation. So, last month hubby got a calendar for his birthday. Each month is filled with an activity – outside of the house – so we can remove the boredom and get out there again. After 18+ years of marriage I think it’s time to date again…
This Thursday we’re headed on a work-related, marriage-related assignment at the Palmer House’ new bar downtown. The tab’s on Chicago Parent but, the fun and laughter’s on us. Looking forward to remembering life outside my four walls and the inside of my car. Looking forward to getting dressed in something jacket removal-worthy. Looking forward to drinking something that makes me feel a little tingly and warm. Maybe, if I close my eyes we can pretend we’re on a beach someplace…
Look for my article in the March issue of the magazine and look for the smile on my face on Friday.
Marriage has a new bum rap.
I was talking with a friend last night via Facebook, who just so happens to be one of this year’s ‘hot’ single Rabbis. My buddy is a super eloquent & intelligent Rabbinic figure. After 15+ years of dating, he has many clear insights about the dating scene and lots to say about the “Singles Crisis”.
Having been married for 18 plus years, I feel I cannot even begin to understand the plight of The Single person. I dare not lump every single person together or say there is one way The Single handles himself.
However, as a former matchmaker (yes, I was really a matchmaker) I do have special insight into how some singletons feel about the whole marriage thing and why sometimes things are sabotaged. I have also written dozens of articles on the topic of marriage and dating for relationship gurus and other matchmakers.
You see, there’s a not-so-new-but-yet-new school of thought that says marriage just isn’t a possibility for everyone in life. Some people just give up the fight and know that Mr Right will never come a-knockin. The older a person gets, the more they hinge on not waiting around for Mr. Right to show up – unless he officially announces himself and meets an instinct so keen, so fine-tuned and so fleeting that its near-impossible to make a positive hit.
It’s a fairly quick process of M.A.D. – Meet, Assess, Dismiss.
Some begin to lose one major component to a happy life in all this madness – hope. And so, they stop trying, stop wanting, stop putting themselves out there. The pool becomes smaller, the availability becomes less and the time just seems wasted.
And then, they stop dating altogether.
I cannot imagine that pain or that feeling of anger or frustration.
I completely understand walking away.
While I am not here to espouse (pun intended) whether someone must find a mate or tell you that you are being too picky (I am sure hundreds have already shared that insight with you) I am here to let you know from the other side of the marital bliss, that marriage and great relationships are worth the efforts – so please, don’t give up on it just yet!
I’m sharing some quotes suggested by other Singles who took a hit on the open market. Contributed solely by the single, for the single.
The Message From Other Singles : Please, keep putting yourself out there.
And, Married Friends – STOP judging. Nuff said. These are really beautiful and poignant.
AND for those who ONLY want… A size 2, 6 feet, blue eyes, athletic build, washboard abs I say…
Any quotes to add to the conversation?
I have been married almost 18 years. By celebrity standards it’s about six marriages combined. By divorce standards, we’ve “beat the odds” and by my standards it still feels like we both learn something new all the time.
Longevity seekers all want to know, the secret. Well, come close my dear, I am about to give you the big reveal:
Marriage is damn, freakin’ hard. But, the secret is we don’t give up.
Yep. There it is. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it. Marriage is called a Labor of Love. I stress the labor part. Yes, when I’m sad, he’ll make me laugh. Sick? He’ll take over. Bored? He’ll entertain. Kvetch session? He’s all ears. But, easy? HA…
When the shiznitch piles up and his imperfections air their stinky socks on my bedroom floor, we talk it out. We yell. We scream. We even have been known to do the silent treatment. But, we always, always stick it out. No matter how ugly it gets. Oh, and it gets ugly sometimes.
In Hollywood or entertainment magazines you often read the term, “We just fell out of love”. Sorry, I’m not buying it. You don’t just ‘fall’ out of love if you were deep in it the first time. You gave up on the love. Someone stopped trying to rekindle the dulling flame. Someone let interests, a roving eye or anger get the best of the marriage. So, like any plant in my care – it just shriveled up and died.
That is not to say every marriage that ends can be saved. I get it. Some are meant to fail or not meant to have been to begin with. Some hurts can’t be fixed. The commitment has to be two-sided and wanted by both partners.
Long-lasting, loving relationships have to accept the idea that romantic love full of fun-lusting, passion is just not going to be a mainstay on a daily basis. No french maid outfits, no weekly steak dinners after Year One and the cholesterol kicks in and certainly no candlelit bubble bath waiting at the end of a hard day (usually)…
Marriage is work. Hard work. You gotta give it your all and you will reap the rewards of romance and passion some of the time. Which is awesome. But, constant fun? Nope. Constant lust? Nu-uh. Perfection? Puleez.
So, what could a long-lasting marriage look like? Two people that remember to do their work, put in their giving and loving and appreciate the fact that you have a partner who will do the same for you. A marriage that supports not only the highs but helps with the lows. Learning how to fight fair and really forgive. Walking out is easy (in that moment. Not suggesting leaving afterwards is any easy walk in the park either…). Sticking it out when its tough and extra labor is required is the hard part. As novelist Ivan Turgenev once said, If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.” So stop waiting for perfection and start living an awesome married life. Now, you know the secret. Go forth and endure…
In just 2 days I am having a birthday. Not a big celebratory milestone, just a passage of my thirty-eighth year on this lovely planet. As a child birthdays were very big in my home. Members of our family were expected to all purchase cards, gifts and create hoopla worthy of a month’s prior excitement build-up. I would make countdown calendars and dream up what sparkly bauble or expensive trinket would arrive in my hands. But, alas many birthdays exciting as they may have been, never met or exceeded my tremendous expectations. It wasn’t for lack of effort on my family’s part, it was for lack of realistic expectation on my own childish self.
As I got older and birthdays passed being cool to celebrate with parties and splendor, it was then time for my boyfriends or best girlfriends to make my day feel ‘special’. With fancy dinners, trips downtown to an off broadway show and finally, many a sparkly bauble; still birthdays felt too contrived, too materialistic and too much hype.
I have never enjoyed being the center of attention. I do not know what to do with all that fawning over me and other’s love being worn on the sleeve. Middle children are born to squeeze in under the radar, we were not born to be fussed over. Perhaps this is why birthdays always made me well, sad.
In the past fifteen plus years I have been blessed with children, birthdays have taken on new meaning for me. Celebrating the birth of my own child is a beautiful gift and I cherish their own birth day full of memories and happiness for all they have accomplished so far. My own birthday has become about allowing my children and my husband the opportunity to shower me with whatever silly, affectionate or loving things they can come up with, no expectations necessary.
This year, as I inch closer to the top of the hill, I have a new feeling about birthdays. Maybe it’s odd, but I feel this tremendous need to give gifts to those who enhance my life and create my years on this earth spectacular everyday. I want to show gratitude to my own parents, who have given me the gift of life and cultivated me into who I am becoming everyday. I want to give thanks to my children for allowing me the ability to be the very best version of me, so far, so that I can represent them well. They have taught me the value of seeing things for the first time, taking it all in and not being so darn in a rush to grow up. I want to buy gifts and give cards to my wonderful husband for having tremendous patience with me and showing me what unconditional love truly feels like – despite my craziness, my drama and my woman-ness, he still accepts me regardless. I want to shout from the rooftops that I am so tremendously gifted with the very best of friends. My girl friends (and I include my sisters in my girlfriends) are the absolutely most supportive group of women I have ever met. They have held my hand while I’ve cried, laughed at my not so funny mistakes and pretended that they actually value my opinion (which makes me feel really important 🙂
When my children begged me to know what I wanted this year and I answered, nothing, I wasn’t just saying that and hoping for a diamond necklace. I really do not want for anything else. I need to thank G-d for the tremendous, amazing and gifted life these nearly 38 have been. If I could just ask for no more crow’s feet and a few less pounds, I would accept those gifts 🙂
Here’s to many more celebrations for all….