“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.
Okay, I admit it. I am sorta in love with a football show. This anti-sports gal who once fought vehemently to win back her Sunday or Monday Nights now sits and discusses QB1s and plays (well, I’m still in a learning stage). My husband spent years trying to get me into football. Begged, pleaded, prodded, poked and then, gave up. It was a moot point. All I ever heard was “blah, blah, yardage, scrimmage”, yet here I am now eating wings, sipping Corona and watching a bit of the Patriots. It’s all because of Friday Night Lights, and I think now, I get it.
Yes, the people on the show are good looking. Yes, I could be some of their mothers, but I digress… Yes, the story lines are fun and interesting. But, my favorite part of the show is the married couple Tammy & Coach Taylor. They have one of the most ideal and real marriages I’ve seen on television. Tammy supports her coach husband in his role and he in turn, supports her back. They both work hard, raise the kids and show the value of a healthy marriage. They fight over lack of sex after baby, parenting teens, money issues and all the things most marriages do. But, what I adore about this couple (and yes, I know it’s all television – but as a writer, I get the value in good, realistic writing) is how she isn’t bit in the butt for supporting her husband and his career. It’s sort of old-school – make your man feel good about himself, meets new school – woman don’t take no crap from no one.
The messages all around me have always been First Kids, Then Husband. I dubbed it The Man Can Make His Own Damn Lunch. My mom used to make my dad lunch every day. I saw this and literally ever fiber of my 80s feminist mind wanted to puke (sorry, Mom). I made a personal vow that when I got married my husband would make his own damn lunch!
And, so he did. Brown bag and all.
But, I think early on that translated to me doing my thing, him doing his thing and then us doing our thing. It never even occurred to me that I could or would try out ‘his’ things or vice versa! But, over 19 years of marriage I’ve been trying out some of his interests and I actually enjoy them. Well, some of them. And, he has also tried some of my interests. Not because I asked or he asked, but just because it felt right.
A good marriage is a supportive and loving partnership. A great marriage consists of respecting your partner enough to try and get to know him even better. To listen, to snuggle up during his team game. To sometimes make him a brown bag lunch…
Several years ago, amidst babies and boredom I decided to try my hand at matchmaking. Always a romantic, I was convinced I could find random strangers love through a strong focus on coordinated life goals, encouraging flexibility and trusting a gut instinct. I was fairly successful matching up hundreds of daters (more than just a first date) and even a successful marriage that is still going strong on baby #2.
One of my biggest challenges working with singles in the over 35 range was convincing a very disheartened person to give love another go. After years of disappointment, dating seemed more like work than reward. I heard from so many singles after a mere 10-minute meeting (and often even less than that) it was just not going to work. I scoffed at this. How could you know? How could one judge so quickly and turn a deaf ear? Picky, much?
I tried so hard not to judge, but for those singles I was helping that were under 35 and the closer we got to early 20s, it was just so much easier. These men and women were more open-minded to sitting for an hour or two or three before judgment. Often chalking up ‘no sparks’ after one date doesn’t necessarily mean no sparks after 2 or 3. These were my easiest long-term daters. Many dating months, before deciding it was a no-go.
I am not very good at math, but the numbers easily added up. The older a Single got, the more difficult it was for her to imagine herself with said person. Perhaps it was a comfort level of living alone for so long. Perhaps it was waiting for perfection to sweep them off their feet. Perhaps it was fear that they actually could live out that dream, instead of being dependent on the Woe is Me. Perhaps they needed therapy. And, then of course, perhaps they just had not yet met Mr. Forever, yet.
Eventually, I hung up my matchmaker hat for a less frustrating job of parenting my teens, tween and tot. At least, I spoke their language.
Today, I think I finally get that feeling that as a young married woman I could never understand. That one emotion in mere seconds the over 35 Singles always quoted me as I rolled my eyes (inward of course, never outward) – that Spark.
I have been looking for a house for nearly 2 years. I already live in a very beautiful, warm and cozy home. But, with the six of us and nearly 20 years of ‘stuff’ we are squished and ready to upgrade. I have dated many a home. At this point, I would say I have likely seen, perused on-line profiles and nearly gotten engaged to 50 homes. But, not one of them gave me the ‘Spark’.
In the beginning I did the same thing. Look up the profile of the home. Create a very perfect looking list of my Must Haves and look for little ‘cracks’ in the façade that may be costly to repair later. I would look in person convincing myself I could make it work. Then as days went by little by little my impression of the home grew worse and eventually we’d break it off.
As I entered a full year of looking at homes, I became less picky – or so I thought. If I am upgrading to my Forever Home, he better have everything I’m looking for. But, perhaps it was taking so long because I was only looking for perfection and it was time to be flexible. So, I decided to open my mind to potential for perfection, not perfection itself. Be realistic with my budget and start focusing on what was sensible, not necessarily absolute.
New homes potential opened themselves up to me. I would again, excite at the possibilities that lay before me, but again over time the investment in something that needed so much work did not seem worth the effort.
My Ah-Hah Moment had arrived, Ms. Oprah.
I now understand and instantly connected with my Singles. I saw many of their faces and remembered many of our conversations running through my mind. As we grow older, more firm in who we are as a person, it becomes so entirely difficult to imagine investing in something that needs so much work. We are oh, so much more willing to see something imperfect as perfect for me when we are young, naïve and innocent. As we know more want want, who we want, it becomes harder to find them.
I was never more grateful for my current home (which we have invested much money and love over the years) and for my current husband (same). Singles. Please forgive my ignorance back then. I apologize profusely for being too dumb to ‘get it’.
My wish to you and to myself is that we can find what is perfect for ourselves, not something that is perfect in and of itself. That we can open up to new challenges and possibilities to find that both time and investment of love and patience breeds something special, innately ours and full of joy.
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?