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.


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.


Sleeping in Separate Beds Doesn’t Mean My Marriage Sucks

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

Parenting is survival. Sleep is a very precious, especially with younger kids, and if you’re getting sleep you’re not going to complain about how it’s happening. Sleep is sleep. Which is why I don’t get concerned when my husband and I don’t sleep next to each other every night.

I’ve read that couples that don’t sleep next to each other are destined for failure. There must be something seriously wrong with my marriage if I don’t insist on sleeping next to my husband every night if we are under the same roof.

Except that’s a lot of bullshit.

Our firstborn was never what you would call a great sleeper. She was awesome in that she would wake up (frequently) to breastfeed but would then fall right back to sleep. I also have the capability of falling straight back to sleep, so the arrangement worked. Even if she woke ten times a night (which was often even in toddlerhood) she would go right back to sleep.

This set-up worked fine when she was in our room, but then we transitioned our child into her own room. Guess who didn’t like sleeping in their own room? We found a toddler crammed into our bed more often than not, and no one was sleeping well anymore. There just wasn’t enough space, which would become more of a problem as I got bigger in pregnancy.

The solution? We had already outfitted our toddler with her own queen-size bed. It was simple enough to assume that one of us would sleep with her if she woke in the night. Could we have sleep trained her? Probably. But first, we’re lazy. And second, we’ve never been big believers in forcing our child into something before she was ready on her own terms.

On rare occasions, our toddler will sleep from 8pm to 6am without disturbing us at all. This is our glimmer of hope that one day she will sleep without us. Other nights, she will wake up any time between 11pm and 4am and demand our attention. This means that one of us will join our toddler in her bed, and everyone will go back to sleep.

This does not mean my marriage is a train wreck or that I look forward to not sleeping next to my husband. This means that we all value sleep and right now, this is what works. I get some night time snuggles with my husband, but in all honesty, he’s not the biggest snuggler anyways. He likes his space, especially at night, and can’t sleep with me squished against him (which is my favorite way to sleep.)

Nobody is heartbroken with our existing arrangement, and my husband and I are still very much in love. Whether we sleep in the same bed every night does not dictate anything about our relationship. We’re actually a lot nicer to each other because we are getting good sleep. We treasure our moments together when our toddler is resting peacefully alone, but we don’t stress over the moments when one of us must abandon the other. Remember, this is survival mode.

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.


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.

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.

Keeping Marriage Strong Travel

Go Away. The Kids Will Survive

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Last weekend, Dave and I drove 45 minutes away and spent a night at a hotel near the local mall. It wasn’t the best hotel and it wasn’t the most romantic location. But I had enough points for a free night. The week before, we discovered that our free night certificate that we get for having the hotel credit card was going to expire, so we drove 20 minutes away to stay the night in a hotel in the parking lot of a Chinese Buffet.  Also not the most romantic destination.

They were two of the BEST. NIGHTS. OF. MY. LIFE.

We didn’t do anything special. The first night, we grabbed Chinese food and took it back to the room, watched a movie on iTunes, then tuned in to Live PD for the new episode (my one guilty pleasure in the “reality TV” arena). The following weekend, we went out for a nice steak dinner and then went back to the room, curled up on the bed, and watched a movie (and more Live PD).

It wasn’t about what we did. Or where we stayed. Or even what we ate, although the Chinese food was amazing.

It was about the quiet.

We have two teenagers, a newlywed couple, and a nearly-two-year-old toddler living with us.

There is no quiet.

We love it – we truly love that we have our home filled with people we love. But we’re a lot more capable of caring for our crew when we make time for us, because no matter what, when you have six almost-adults and a toddler under one roof, there’s stress, whether you want it or not.

So we went away for a blissful 24 hours, two weekends in a row.

You know what we discovered?

Our kids like it when we leave. They play video games together, watch movies we don’t like, and go to the store and buy pints of ice cream that they eat in one sitting.

They get their own meals and clean up after themselves and even remember to do their laundry.

They bring in the mail and handle the crises and don’t even text us if there’s a problem.

They handle it.

I have more points to use up for free nights. And we have a gift certificate for a free night at a bed and breakfast that the kids got us for Christmas. So, yeah we’re going to get away, as regularly as we can manage.


Keeping Marriage Strong Love Resolving Conflict

I Asked My Husband to Humor Me with Some Forced Positivity

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

Regardless of what type of mom you are (work-at-home, stay-at-home, out-of-home, whatever) we all know the struggles of a long day. You get to the end of it, and sometimes you’re just frazzled. You can’t stand the thought of another person making demands of you, and then you meet up with your spouse. What in the world could they possibly want now? Your attention? Your patience? Please, your kids used all of that up hours ago.

Negativity is Contagious

So this is what happens. You hit each other with the negativity from the day. One or both of you barely gets through the day before someone has something negative to say, if you’re lucky to hear a simple “hello” over the screaming children. You complain about this bill, or this sick kid, or this amount of homework, or the housework, or the dinner. There’s always something to complain about, and who can blame us. It’s been a long day.

Unfortunately, this sort of attitude doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s not helpful, and can create a harmful cycle of negativity. Yes, we are all allowed to complain, but let me tell you what I’ve learned.

Full Stop Please

Louis and I were in a similar rut, just a few weeks ago. Seems like all we did was argue (or have “discussions” as I like to call them). There was so much tension, and we couldn’t go a single day without being irritated at one another. I honestly couldn’t tell you where it started, I just know that it existed. And I was tired. I already have one irritable toddler, and I really don’t need an irritable husband. Or an irritable self. I can be pretty sassy.

I finally put things to a full stop. I asked Louis if we could really listen to each other’s concerns, rather than make passive aggressive comments or short references to issues in a busy moment. I asked to have a real conversation, and asked for both of us to make some changes. The major change? No negativity one hour before and one hour after work.

Positivity is Healing

This meant that there was no complaining about Hallie being a shit all night long in the morning. There was no complaining about the day ahead and the challenges we hadn’t even tackled yet. We had a lot more time for how cute Hallie was, even though she dominated our bed all night. We had moments to laugh together as Hallie helped Louis get out the door in the morning.

This also meant that there was no complaining the second Louis walked through the door, about what a tough time Hallie had given me or whatever crap Louis dealt with at work. There was no time for the grievances of tomorrow and how we would inevitably be doing it all over again. Instead, there was more time for being grateful to be together again, and talking about the good things that have happened. Even a bad day has a silver lining. We got to highlight what we had enjoyed, even within stress.

Of course, we aren’t perfect with this change, but the very first day it made such a difference. We were simply happy to be in each other’s presence, and we weren’t bickering over stupid stuff. We still bicker for fun, but that’s just us. We chose to be positive in certain hours of the day, and it affected our whole outlook. Yeah, we still talk about what’s been crappy, but it doesn’t set the tone. We fight less, love more, and that’s all I want out of my marriage. It may have been forced positivity at first, but a few weeks later the positive vibes are still flowing.

What could this slight change do for your household?

Keeping Marriage Strong Parenting

Date Night is Good Parenting

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

My husband and I don’t go on dates often. We both work, I chase after our toddler during the day, and we are just generally tired. I said to him the other day how impressed I was that we were both awake past 9pm, because usually one of us is sleeping (and we were both asleep by 9:30). We finally get to the weekend and we are either tied up with obligations or too exhausted to leave the house. Date night doesn’t happen all the time, but it is important.

The mom guilt is so real.

I have a really hard time abandoning Hallie. The word “abandoning” is definitely dramatic, and I’m sorry. It’s just how it feels! The mom guilt pulls on my heart strings, even though I know she’s perfectly content with her grandparents. She may look uncertain or cry when I say “bye-bye” but I know that as soon as I am out the door she’s distracted and having a wonderful time. I know all these things, but it sucks leaving. I do it anyways, because as soon as I’m in the car, I’m ok as well. Hallie is safe, and I’m about to spend some quality time with my husband.

You were somebody before you were a mom.

Who were you before motherhood smacked you in the face? Don’t lose that person. Sure, our children take priority, and we make sacrifices. Welcome to motherhood. But that doesn’t mean that you have to press pause on every single one of your interests or personal desires. Go out with your significant other, or even with a group of friends, and be somebody other than a mom. Those moments are precious, and you’re allowed to do something that isn’t rated G.

It’s good parenting.

They always say to put your own oxygen mask or life jacket on in emergencies before assisting others. It may seem heartless to prioritize your own life before your children’s, but you can’t help anybody if you’re dead. Date night is good parenting, because that is your oxygen mask dangling in front of you. Take a moment to relax and refuel before you have to go home, because your children will always have demands. Taking time for you and your relationship gives you the energy to face those parenting challenges head on.

Your partner deserves your time, too.

Motherhood is demanding, and as important as it is to take time for yourself, it’s equally important to invest in your current relationship. The best parents are ones that communicate well and work together, and that can’t happen if you are both too overwhelmed to even have a conversation. Motherhood is so difficult, and you want to have someone on your team to defend against the gremlins. I mean, children.

Even if your child cries, go on date night. Even if they aren’t happy while you’re gone, go on date night. Your children will survive, and honestly, it’s good for all of you to have some space. If your child doesn’t cope well, even a 30-minute walk is enough to get some breathing space. Date night doesn’t have to be extravagant, but it’s important that you take the time for yourself and your significant other. You’ll be so glad you did, and even though leaving is hard, it makes coming home so rewarding.

Keeping Marriage Strong

15 Rules for a Happy Marriage

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

15 Rules for a Happy Marriage

  1. Love the person for who they are, not who you think you can get them to be
  2. Say I love you every day
  3. Never go to bed mad
  4. Cuddle every night before you go to sleep
  5. Cuddle every morning when you wake up
  6. Prioritize each other over everyone else, including your children
  7. Don’t just tell your partner you love them, show it
  8. Take risks and be vulnerable with your partner
  9. Celebrate the little moments
  10. Don’t worry if you are different than other couples – be and do what makes things happy for the two of you
  11. Never stop dating
  12. Be friends
  13. Support each other’s dreams and goals
  14. Compromise often, give in whenever you can, and stand up for what’s really important to you when you have to
  15. Talk to each other – really talk to each other – every single day

Our first year of marriage was a while ago – almost 20 years. It was exciting, and challenging, and scary, because it wasn’t just Dave and I, but three kids, too, working hard to make a family. More recently, I’ve had the privilege of watching the relationship between my daughter and her husband as it has developed over the last two years. We first met Louis when he landed in America a few days before his wedding day; he, Kira, and their daughter have lived with us since then.

In watching them navigate those first 12 months has reminded me what really makes the magic in a couple – and it’s not the passion or the sex or the date nights or the time away from the baby.

It’s the talking.

None of that other stuff matters if you can’t talk to your spouse. Everything about those 15 rules is about talking, communicating, and most importantly – listening.

When Dave and I were first dating, living together, and finally married, the most important time we spent together was in a little porch room off the back of the house. We would sit for hours and talk. We talked about everything and anything that came to mind – we talked about the future, about our kids, about our jobs, about our beliefs, about our childhoods, about our pasts – we talked. And talked. And talked.

Kira and Louis, who also met online and lived in different countries, had no other way to build their relationship than through talking. While much-improved since the days Dave and chatted in the AOL chatroom (since they could see each other and hear each other and didn’t have to type well), conversation was all they had to stay connected.

All that talking from oceans apart prepared them for the challenges of that first year of marriage, and they not only survived it but thrived through it. In a few weeks, they’ll be celebrating anniversary number two. When it comes to surviving the first year of marriage, nothing is more important than openly and honestly communicating with each other, respectfully and lovingly.

Dave and I are together almost 24 hours out of every day. We live together, run a business together, sit next to each other most days while we work. We are raising kids together. We travel together. And we talk to each other, all the time. People ask us if we get tired of each other. We really don’t. We really do actually like each other, just as we are, imperfections and all.