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Keeping Marriage Strong Love

Micro-Cheating is a Bunch of Bull Shit

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

“Cheating” is a subjective concept depending on the couple. Casual flirting could be the norm for some relationships, when in others, it could be a deal-breaker. Yet here we are, with another form of infidelity that is hitting the radar of relationship experts: micro-cheating. It’s the new gateway drug, apparently. Just like a bit of pot will have you on the road to heroin, taking minor interest in another person other than your partner is the road to full-blown infidelity.

What a bunch of bull shit.

Where did we get it in our heads that a committed relationship demanded that we restrict ourselves to one person and one person only for all our needs? How exhausting for everyone involved. One person cannot possibly fulfill every single piece of you, and while that idea is romantic, it’s not realistic.

Don’t get me wrong. My husband completes me. He is my other half and the balance that I desperately need. I don’t know how I would live without him at this point, because life is so great with him in it. However, the man does not want to go shopping with me. I do not want to go golfing with him. We have separate interests that require the presence of separate people to fulfill us as individuals.

Let’s circle back to micro-cheating, because I can already hear the objections as to how platonic friendships stop being platonic as soon as emotions get involved.

What nonsense.

Humans are emotional people. If my husband was looking at some other person and considering how great it would be to be married to them, yeah, I would have a few questions. At the same time, my husband does have relationships with other women where there is a deep emotional connection. Women that have been in his life long before me, and there is more than platonic attachment. It doesn’t equal romantic attachment. These women are not a threat. They simply hold a special place in his heart, and he is fond of them. It’s completely normal.

If micro-cheating exists, we are all guilty of it. Every one of us has blushed when a stranger flirted. What should we have done, react with complete disgust and curse them for the compliment? We’ve all worn a certain dress or shirt more than others because someone told us how great we looked. Apparently, if you dress to impress anyone but your significant other, you’re a micro-cheater.

I scrolled across an article the other day that suggested micro-cheating was telling your partner that you had a business meeting and instead were at lunch with a friend. Micro-cheating is changing someone’s name in your phone because you don’t want your significant other to know you’re texting Brad all night instead of Jessica.

Now, we could argue all day over whether those things are cheating or not, but there’s still a problem. That, my friends, is what we call a lie. In case you’ve forgotten, lying is generally considered to be a no-no in relationships. So in that situation, you’ve got way more problems than micro-cheating.

I don’t buy in to micro-cheating. Dedication to your partner does not mean you can’t be emotionally connected to someone else. I love all my friends dearly, but none could replace my husband. Different things will constitute cheating in the eyes of different couples, which is why communication is so important. But there are no tiers to cheating. Boundaries are important, and so is comfort and compatibility. Decide for yourselves but understand there is no “gateway” to cheating. You’re either committed or you’re not, and that has nothing to do with other people.

 

Categories
Keeping Marriage Strong Love Raising Healthy Kids Travel

Keeping Marriage Strong: Couple Getaways

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I am always talking about the next road trip and the importance of family vacations, but escaping alone with your spouse, whether for a simple overnight or a few days, is just as important.

It’s not just good for you and your spouse; it’s important for the health and well-being of the entire family. Getting away together lets you remember the reasons you fell in love in the first place – the love that built your family! And being away gives your kids a chance to appreciate what they might be taking for granted.

Family vacations are so important,  creating memories and experiences that bond you. But you may find the mini-vacations that you and your spouse take together are just as fulfilling.

I really believe these little escapes we make keep our love healthy and strong. And they don’t have to be expensive or extravagant. Dave and I have done everything from spend a week together in Montreal to cook dinner at home, call it an early night, and have a romantic “getaway” in our bedroom. The kids play along and don’t disturb us for the night.

When you take time to be a couple and enjoy time with just the two of you, you come back refreshed and ready to be better parents.

Categories
Keeping Marriage Strong Love Parenting

Reconnecting with Your Partner After A Second Child

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

Child #2 is a real game-changer. I don’t think any amount of mommy blogs can fully prepare a mom for two kids, but you get the hang of it eventually. However, what I noticed that suffered most was not anything I worried about before the second baby arrived. I was so worried about having time for 2 kids that I didn’t consider my relationship with the person that was there before the kids.

Although I go into it assuming that the kids will dominate most of our time, the reality of that is still a shock. You don’t realize how little time exists that doesn’t involve children. Suddenly the number of children equal the number of adults, and you might even be outnumbered. Time for adults doesn’t exist, at least for a few weeks. It’s about survival as the household adjusts.

Then the dust settles and you enter a new routine, but does that routine include time for your partner? If it doesn’t, it should. Your relationship existed before kids, and the goal is to have it continue after the kids are grown. Every relationship takes continuous effort, regardless of what else is going on. Here are some ways to reconnect:

Go on a date.

If you have access to a babysitter, take advantage. Even if it’s only once every couple months, it’s good to remind yourself what life with your partner was like before children. Sure, you’ll spend most of your time talking about the kids, but you’ll also get to enjoy time a meal without worrying about other patrons getting hit by flying french fries.

If you can’t get a babysitter, make a date for yourself at home, even if it means staying up a little late. Tuck the kids in bed, order yourself a pizza, and cuddle up with a favorite movie. The idea is just to set aside time.

Check in.

Reconnecting also means acknowledging when your partner is at their max. Offering to watch the kids so they can take a shower or read a book alone for a bit means so much and shows that you’re paying attention.

Random acts.

Leave little notes around or pick up their favorite snack from the store. Make their favorite meal or do breakfast in bed. Random acts show your partner that you’re still thinking of them, even though things are a bit crazy.

Remember you’re in this together.

Parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and it would feel impossible without my partner. But unless we are connecting as people, we can’t connect as parents. I know we bicker less when we feel like we’ve got each other’s backs.

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Keeping Marriage Strong Love

Out of Ideas and Time? Gifts to Your Partner Don’t Have to be Complicated

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

It’s officially panic weekend for those who haven’t gotten their significant others a Christmas gift. Kids are easy: A color book and whatever toy and they are pretty happy. So why do we struggle when we are giving gifts to our life partner? I know, it’s tough to give a gift when you are already the greatest gift they have.

LOL.

Aside from wrapping yourself up and hiding underneath the tree, you need some real options. It’s crunch time, but rather than peruse the prepackaged aisles of hot cocoa packages and movie night presents, think simple. What does your partner enjoy?

Honestly, my husband could get me chocolate or ice cream for every single anniversary, birthday, and holiday and I would be completely content. He knows me. That’s what I love. Mix it up a bit with different varieties of chocolate or even upgrade to the “fancy” kind and you have one satisfied customer.

What about experiences that you two can do together? Create your own coupons that offer massages, date nights, or something funny like vacuuming or doing the dishes. If you two are music lovers, find a local concert. If you are foodies, seek out a new restaurant you’ve never been to and grab a gift card.

Maybe your partner would love some peace and quiet. If my husband told me that next weekend was completely mine and handed me a movie voucher, I would be ecstatic. I love my children, but “me time” doesn’t happen often. Even creating a collage of family photos with the kids and their sticky hands would be such a special gift, and it’s nothing that anyone could find on the Wal-Mart shelves.

Don’t overthink gift-giving. That’s not what the holidays are about and it truly is the thought that counts. All your partner wants to know is that you tried, even if you missed the mark a little.

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Keeping Marriage Strong

This Communication Mistake Made Me Blind to My Partner

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

Communication is so freaking hard. No class prepares you for how to communicate with others. We are taught basics in kindergarten, like how to share, and not punch little Sally when she steals your markers. But what about how to truly discuss our feelings with another person without sounding like a complete dodo bird? No one teaches you that.

Even after navigating your first friendships and romantic relationships, you never truly get it right. You crash through adolescence and early adulthood, and you think you’ve got it handled well enough. You know how to express yourself and how to make yourself heard. Especially in the age of #metoo, a woman needs to roar louder than ever.

Except I was roaring so loud I couldn’t hear my husband.

My husband and I have an incredible foundation of communication. As a long-distance couple for several months, communication was all we had. The only dates we had were on Skype, and texts were our love letters. We shared our darkest secrets and we learned really quickly how to communicate when physical touch was never an option.

And I foolishly decided that we had it on lock-down. I knew how to communicate with this man. I could talk about my feelings all day long and never worry about holding anything back. Except I made a huge mistake. I was so confident in our ability to communicate that I didn’t realize he was only listening. He’s such a great listener, and I’m such a great talker, that I never even knew something was amiss.

I made the mistake of becoming complacent in my communication skills with my husband, and not recognizing that he wasn’t being heard. I was so busy communicating my own concerns that I wasn’t doing any listening, and I didn’t even realize until he was visibly suffering. He had things to say, and even though he speaks in a few words when I speak in full paragraphs, there’s no excuse to the fact I was ignoring him.

In any relationship, there will always be new challenges. You won’t always communicate the same way, because nothing will stay the same. The goal is to grow and change together, and that demands communication in every step. What worked when my husband and I were miles apart does not work now. What worked when we had one kid does not work now that we have two.

It is imperative in a relationship that you are able to communicate with your partner, but it’s so important to remember that communication is a two-way street. When you’re complaining about all the hang-ups from your day, don’t forget to ask about theirs. As you’re ranting about every little stressor, check and see if it’s a good moment to unload your emotional baggage. Don’t forget that when you need them, they probably need you, too. The only way you’ll know is if you communicate and focus extra on that whole listening aspect. Everyone deserves to be heard.

 

 

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Keeping Marriage Strong Pregnancy and Your Newborn

10 Postpartum Rules for My Partner

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Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

The postpartum life can be dicey for all involved. I know I have a short fuse shortly after giving birth, and I do what I can to not take my frustrations out on my husband. However, there’s such a thing as helping yourself. My husband can make both our lives a lot easier by following these 10 postpartum rules so that we come out the other end of the newborn stage still happily married.

  1. Don’t tell me about any of your aches or pains. Nothing you’re experiencing compares to the pain of childbirth, and I’m allowed to be a little selfish right now.
  2. For the love of god, do not invite anyone over without running it by me first. I might like your best friend and even love your parents, but I’m not about to entertain. Don’t make me hide in the bathroom with our newborn, because I will.
  3. If you have a slight cold, or the dreaded man-flu, suck it up buttercup. I could literally give two shits right now about your runny nose and sore throat. Sorry, not sorry.
  4. It’s ok to say that you’re tired. We both are! Newborns are rough. It’s not ok to challenge me to a competition of “who is the most tired.” As an exclusive breastfeeder, I will kill you in your blissfully undisturbed sleep with your worthless man-nipples.
  5. Bring me all the snacks. Don’t question me or my motives. I’ve been deprived of various foods for 9 months, and I deserve all the nourishment I feel like having.
  6. I get control of the remote whenever I want it. I’m bored out of my mind sitting on my ass while stitches heal and the baby breastfeeds, so I get to choose what’s on the tv.
  7. Don’t ask why I’m crying. I don’t have an answer for you. Hormones are driving my thought patterns and it’s not rational. Just ask how you can help and give me a hug if I need one.
  8. If there are other children, get them out of this house. I don’t care where you go or what you do. Have ice cream for dinner. Just leave me alone, preferably while the baby is sleeping, so that I can get some rest.
  9. Tell me I’m beautiful and mean it. I feel like a rock star for giving birth to a human on some days, but other days I feel like a hot mess in my mesh panties and leaking boobs. I need to know that you see the awe in what my body has accomplished.
  10. Let me know that I’m doing a great job, every day. There’s a lot of pressure on moms to be perfect, and we are far from it. When I’m frustrated because the baby won’t stop crying or I can’t stop phoning the pediatrician for every hiccup, let me know that I’m kicking ass at this parenting thing. We can only do our best, and we are at our best when we have the support of our partners.

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Categories
Keeping Marriage Strong Love

Date Night and Pizza Night can Coexist

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

Every parent knows that date night can be hard to pin down. First, you have to find the time. Then, you have to find the energy. And most importantly, you need a reliable babysitter. The stars have to practically align for date night to move forward as planned, but if I’m honest, I sometimes ask if it’s really worth the effort.

Don’t get me wrong, I love date night with my husband. At the same time, I’m freaking tired. I don’t really want to go sit at the same restaurants, attend the same movie theater, or walk through the same parks. I’m all for something new and adventurous, but time and money are limited. So, do we go through the same old routine just for the sake of going on a date?

Sometimes, my husband and I do the same-old and genuinely enjoy it. Other times, I can’t be bothered to get dressed, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t want quality time with my husband. The solution? A date night in, not out.

It may seem weird to have the babysitter come over if you have no intentions of leaving, but why not? Lock yourselves in the bedroom, even if you have to make a whole scene of “leaving” for the kids to think you’re gone. Have the babysitter (or helpful family member) corral the kids into the leaving room and give you some private time.

Some of my favorite nights with my husband have looked exactly like this. We’ve asked my parents to watch our toddler while we order in a pizza, snag some ice cream, and just watch a movie uninterrupted. We don’t have to pause for bedtime and we aren’t falling asleep 15 minutes in because we had to wait until our child was asleep.

There was no drive. No wait time for our meal. No getting dressed. I was just chilling in my bed with my husband in my pajamas, eating pizza and ice cream. It really doesn’t get much better.

Do I enjoy nights away, either for the evening or even an overnight hotel stay? Definitely! I think it’s so important to take some time for ourselves and get out of the house. But honestly, I also love our date nights in. I’m too tired for pretenses sometimes, even if that just means wearing a bra.

Date night is as flexible as you want it to be. The important thing is that you and your significant other take time to remember what else is holding your relationship together besides children. Instead of going through the motions, make date night something unique that fits your needs, even if it means staying home.

 

Categories
Adult Children Keeping Marriage Strong Love On Motherhood Parenting

Empty Nest, Here We Come – Like It or Not

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I have been so blessed to have a full house from the time I met Dave. He already had three children, and they quickly became my own as our relationship developed. Once we were married, we added two more, with a total of five children occupying our time.

As kids get older, it is expected that they’ll move on eventually. My youngest son, Parker, is headed off to college this fall. Our youngest child, Anika, will be graduating next year and doing the same. Although our second-oldest, Kira, came back and then stayed after leaving for college, this is a temporary situation. She and her husband have plans to settle in England, and their time in our household is limited.

This will leave Dave and I with an empty nest, finally. However, this does leave us thinking, “What now?”

I will miss my children. I will cry (and have cried) many tears at the idea of them moving out and starting their own adventures, and I will look forward to future gatherings of our family. I’ll acknowledge that our nest will feel a little empty, and the stillness and quiet will shock both of us a little bit.

At the same time, an empty nest is something to look forward to. Dave and I have prioritized our relationship during the busy lives of our five children, and he is still my best friend. We work together, travel together, have raised kids together, and delight in our grandchildren together. We will always be there when our children need us, but once they are all moved out, it will just be us.

We can cook whatever we want, watch whatever we want on TV, go where ever we want on vacation. We will get to enjoy our time together, without the constant interruption that is a natural consequence of children. I’m sure there will still be days that I cry and miss my children terribly, but there will also be days when I rejoice in having the quiet companionship of my husband.

Dave and I have loved every second of raising our children, but we are so excited to have uninterrupted time together. I will welcome visits from children and grandchildren every day, but I will also welcome the month-long jaunts through new countries. I will welcome the brand-new adventures that are much more affordable with two people than with seven. I will welcome the quiet, and yearn for the noise, all in the same breath.

Although our children will always be our pride and joy, I am grateful that Dave and I did not neglect our own relationship over the last 20+ years. Children do grow up and start their own lives. Invest in your relationship every day, because this is your life partner. To keep marriage strong, you must be able to survive with the kids and without them. The empty nest will sting a little as your children leave, but it doesn’t mean that your home and heart won’t still be full.

 

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Keeping Marriage Strong Love

What Having Kids Has Taught Me About My Marriage

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

My husband and I began on a non-traditional note. Our relationship has been a whirlwind from day one, and we didn’t go through the typical stages of a relationship. Our “dates” were all online chats, and we were engaged before we ever met in person. Within three months, we were pregnant, and I didn’t see my husband much in person that first year of dating/marriage. The photo above is our intimate wedding, and depending on the angle, I was definitely a few months along with our first. So, there wasn’t really an “us” before marriage and babies, but I’ve still learned a lot about our relationship by having kids.

I’m not the fun one.

This was a tough one to tell myself, but really, I should have known. I obsess over whether Hallie is eating healthy, and my husband is handing her cookies. I spend so much time educating her about numbers and letters, and my husband is teaching her about football (soccer). I’m busy teaching manners while the two of them are busy laughing at farts. Ok, I laugh at farts too, but still. The reality is, a balance is necessary. We just happen to strike it perfectly together, which is something I have to remind myself of when I’m trying to get her ready for bed and my husband is tossing her in the air.

My husband parents differently; not better or worse.

Of course, there are times that my husband is the disciplinarian or mentor, and his methods are different than mine. As a work-at-home mom, I have a lot of influence over our child’s behavior, and I believe that my way is the right way. It’s been a constant work in progress for me to let go of some control, because there are a lot of ways to parent. Pushing my methods on my husband only caused tension between the two of us, and I failed to see the value in what he was teaching her. Now that I’ve relaxed a bit, I see that he emphasizes different lessons that are just as important as the ones I teach.

I need to ask for help AND be ready to receive it.

This goes along with letting go of control. I get so mad at my husband for not helping, but have I asked? Is he a mind reader? Solid no on both points. And when he does help, I’m over his shoulder criticizing his methods. I would sit back and just let me handle things if I were him, too. It was completely unfair of me, and it took several months for me to chill out. Not my proudest moments for sure. Now, I am making a constant effort to be a partner in parenthood, not a dictator, and our relationship is better than ever.

Our marriage deserves priority.

Parenting is so tiring. There are nights when we both knock out by 8, shortly after our daughter is in bed. However, there are also nights that my husband wants to watch a movie and just spend time together. My gut reaction is to say, “heck no, I’m tired.” Then I realize how much fun I have when we do stay up a little bit later just to enjoy each other’s company. We used to stay up at all hours of the night talking, sacrificing sleep. It’s ok to still do that every now and again, because being a bit tired the next day really can be worth it.

Parenting is a tough job, but I can’t imagine the adventure without my husband. I just have to be very careful not to lose what brought us together. Although we were only together briefly before children, we have to remember that spark. Children haven’t dulled it in the least, but they are certainly a distraction. Having children has taught me that I really do have time for everyone in my heart, and my marriage is an important part of that.

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Keeping Marriage Strong Love

Supporting Your Partner Sometimes Means Rooting for the Coach

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

It’s not my time yet for soccer mom life. Hallie isn’t old enough to participate in activities more complicated than nap time. Recreational and competitive sports don’t typically start until age four or five. So, no, Hallie is not enrolled in any soccer team despite her love for what she so British-ly calls football. But she might as well be a team mascot.

My husband has been coaching a local recreational soccer league. Coaching and soccer have always been his passion. I figured I would join him for some home games but that this would be his thing to pursue. Ideally, he would love to be paid for coaching someday, so these are all steps in the right direction. The thing is, I’m not just at some home games. I’m at every game, unless Hallie or myself is sick.

This, my friends, is dedication. Some of these games are two hours away. And when my husband first started coaching two and three nights a week, he didn’t have a driver’s license yet. Guess who hauled him to practice every night after finishing a day of work? That would be me. And I don’t hold a grudge, but even I ask myself why I follow a team so religiously when my child doesn’t play.

It’s because I’m the coach’s only real fan. Sure, parents appreciate a good coach. You want your child to succeed and a coach is a huge part of that. However, parents are quick to turn on the coach. Any loss or hurt feelings are immediately the coaches fault, regardless of previous success. Coaches are appreciated, but parents are on their child’s team every time. My husband is so excited about every single player on his team and truly cares about advancing the skills and success of each child. So even he isn’t even on his own team, because the needs of his players come first.

So I’m on the coach’s team, because win or lose, Hallie and I are his biggest fans. My husband enjoys traveling with us, especially since he would miss a lot of family time otherwise. I never imagined my weekends to involve two to three different soccer games, or spending eight consecutive hours on a field, but we do it. Because my husband needs me there to support him and wants me there to be a part of his success. It may not seem like a huge gesture, but for our relationship, it means a lot.

Sometimes supporting your spouse isn’t just about good communication or hearing their frustrations about work. Sometimes it’s about packing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and spending your own birthday or Mother’s Day at a soccer game your child isn’t playing in. Sometimes it’s about adopting a passion that isn’t quite your own and knowing that the scales aren’t always balanced. It’s about understanding that support isn’t about equality or fairness, but about being in someone’s corner when they need you.

I’m a soccer wife, and it’s definitely not what I expected to be, but I love every second. On the sidelines is where my husband needs me, and that’s exactly where I will be. And I’ll admit it, I’ve got a soft spot for his team now too, and Hallie has the best time participating as much as she can. It must be contagious, because we are all invested now.