I’m In Love With The Shape Of You

I need to write more often because there’s so much to say and I’m not sure where to start. I guess in the middle? Six years ago, Ron and I were financially stressed in a house we couldn’t afford, dealing with my mother whose help always came with strings, looking for a place to live while trying to get our house ready to sell, all while not being very fond of each other. We couldn’t agree on a house to buy, leading to us being homeless for a month when our house sold on its first day on the market. We ended up in a house we despised although it was structurally the most sound of all that we saw. We came a hair’s breadth from divorce.

Six years later, we’re still here in that structurally sound house. Still married. Still not able to agree on a house to buy after a year of looking.

But we’re not financially stressed. We don’t have to deal with my mother anymore. We’re not homeless although if we put our house on the market, we will be; our neighborhood has appreciated dramatically and houses sell on the first day.

Six years in this house and there is still painters tape around the bathroom door trim and on the glass of the french doors. I’ve yet to have a craft room. Our kitchen counters are still the same fucking hideous gold wheat tile. The kitchen walls are still shit brown.

But we have a(nother) new water heater. Today saw the end of the rotted front window that didn’t open and meant we couldn’t call the third bedroom a bedroom since there was no emergency egress. We finally chose a paint color to go over the vomit inducing Easter egg trim.

Six years in this house and we’ve learned how to communicate. We don’t take each other or ourselves quite so seriously. We value each other’s opinions. I know (even if he has no clue) when he says he doesn’t care, to just pick something, he cares a whole lot. I don’t take things so personally; if he doesn’t like something I like, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like me.

Sixteen years in this relationship and I still have a lot to learn about compromise, picking my battles, and showing my love by not fighting over stupid shit like where to live. Because it’s not the house, it’s the person in it with me, that matters.

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You’re My Sweetheart

Yesterday was a terrible day. It is rare that my mother can affect me, but it does still happen occasionally, and yesterday was just one of those days.

But today…today I got notes, texts, and emails from friends telling me they love me. My mother-in-law did the sweetest thing and deleted my mom from her friends. Today I played with kittens, snuggled my husband, had lunch with my family, read a book, wrote a synopsis for my NaNoWriMo novel, signed up for a launch party, looked at knitting patterns to take to the knitting retreat next weekend, ate egg salad sandwiches for dinner, put away laundry, and wrote a long letter to a friend while laying next to my husband on the bed.

At some point, Ron went into the kitchen and came back with a handful of smarties. He unrolled one and set it in the middle between us. I was busy typing and not looking; I reached my hand over and felt the now empty wrapper, then started feeling around for another roll. I let out a frustrated yowl and Ron quietly pushed an unopened roll between my searching fingers.

This is love. While fancy dinners, unexpected flowers, and expensive chocolates are nice, it’s the smarties roll gently nudged into your searching hand when you’re stressed out that lets you know you’re special.

While my husband is far from what most women would consider to be perfect, he knows how to love me and he does it well. He knows when I need to rant or when I need to just be held in silence. He makes me laugh, but lets me feel my feelings before trying to distract me from them. He makes me toast and tea and laughs at my “your face” jokes that really aren’t funny. He listens to my weird dreams but knows the difference between those and my dreams of what I want for my future, our future.

Smarties. They are better than flowers.

 

Come Play With Me

My husband called me this afternoon at an odd time and for no reason. I immediately thought something happened at work and he was done (his last day is supposed to be July 8th), but he just said he was bored. He plays an adult well in the real world but in real life, he’s a dorky five year old. And this is why I love him.

We’re on the downhill slide to 50. We are OLD. But Ron still makes me feel like we’re teenage kids together, faking our way through life like we have no idea what we’re doing. I mean we really don’t have any idea what we’re doing; who does? We have a modicum of a plan but day to day stuff? We still occasionally eat chips and queso for dinner (not as an appetizer) and vegetables just aren’t as prevalent as they should be at our age. We bicker over whose turn it is to do various chores. We laugh and giggle and play like kids.

I know that at work, my husband is strong and capable and smart and an adult, dammit. But with me, he still gets toddler face when he has to do something he doesn’t want to do, like mow the lawn or take out the trash. He randomly makes funny noises. He makes up songs to the cat. He wakes up with his hair sticking up and is plain adorable. I can easily imagine him at age two, or five, or even 15.

He works hard to cultivate his adult image and I’m sure I’ll get crap for marring it, but he is ridiculously child-like with me. He keeps me young because he makes me laugh. I’m often torn between wishing the entire world could know how awesome he is and wanting to keep him a secret all to myself.

Our marriage has had its ups and downs (like hell level downs) and there were a few times we weren’t sure we would make it, but the past two and a half years have been amazing and it doesn’t show signs of stopping. Since we learned how to communicate, we are stronger, happier, and more fulfilled. If there was one single thing I could wish for my children it would be to have this level of communication with their future partners. There is no passive-aggressive manipulations. If I want something, I ask for it. He’s still learning to do that but he has drastically improved.

I think the other thing we’ve learned that has made us both happier is acceptance. I love him for exactly who he is and I don’t try to change him. I do make him stretch his comfort zone now and then but I don’t expect him to suddenly start bringing me flowers.

Having someone to play with, who makes me laugh and who laughs at my horrendous “your face” jokes is a relationship goal that I never knew to aspire to. My first marriage made me feel old and worn out. My second marriage made me feel like I had a third child. But this baby bear is just right.

 

Dance With Me

Today was an unqualified disaster. It’s my fault for having expectations and looking for outside validation. On the plus side, I’m able to recognize that it’s my issue and I was able to self-validate enough that I didn’t fall apart.

All week long, I’ve looked forward to attending an art fair with my husband. After I told him that I needed for us to go on a date, he reluctantly agreed to go. We rarely go anywhere other than to lunch and the grocery store on Saturdays, so I woke up excited. I took extra time in the shower, put on makeup, styled my hair, put in my contacts, and spent more than 30 seconds deciding what to wear. In other words, I treated it like it was a date.

I looked damn good today, too. I’ve lost enough weight that I finally fit into my Chicos jeans, one of my weight loss goals. I’m thin enough to be able to close my buttery soft black lambskin leather jacket. I have all new makeup and the proper brushes to apply it. I do not have a single wrinkle on my face in spite of being 46. I felt sexy and beautiful.

He had to work for a bit this morning, so when I was dressed and ready, I texted to let him know. When he got home and came inside to change shirt and shoes, I pointed out that I was in my Chicos jeans, to which he responded, “Uh huh.” I not so passively and only slightly aggressively said, “Wow honey, you look beautiful today and really good in those jeans.” He laughed and said he would just let me compliment myself because I’m better at it. I let that slide because I wanted to have fun today.

It continued with him informing me that he gave up his “people who work on Saturday” free lunch. I was truly appreciative that he would rather have lunch with me than with his workmates that he eats with three to five days a week. At least, I chose to interpret it that way.

We got to the fair and he complained about the music. The music wasn’t part of the event we were attending, plus it was awful, so I let that slide, too. The fair was tiny and we were in and out in minutes, so I suggested we go to a little tea room downtown for lunch. It’s one of my favorite places and their food is incredible. It’s not cheap, but it’s not expensive, either. I think $26 including tip is nothing for a lunch date.

He complained about the price. He complained about his sandwich. He did like his soup. Finally, I told him that he was acting like my mother, who could never find anything good to say about the places that I would pick whenever we would eat out. A restaurant would have to be her idea or she would be rude to the staff and bitch about the food.

At that point, I gave up. I ate my salad in silence and tried not to cry as I processed the day in my head. I knew that having expectations was a recipe for disaster, but I thought this was such a simple thing, surely it wasn’t asking too much. We go to lunch all the time and have wonderful conversations, so that should have been the easy part, but it wasn’t. I finished my salad and we left and came straight home where I promptly put on my pajamas and laid down for a nap. Being sad makes me tired, so I ended up sleeping for four hours.

To me, a date with someone with whom I am in a relationship is essentially foreplay. Stimulating conversation with an attractive man is arousing for me. I’ve been having too many fantasies about flirting lately, and I wanted to have an affair with my husband. The entire time I was getting dressed, I imagined how our day would end, but as each moment of the day played out exactly opposite of how I wanted it to go, sex got further and further from my mind.

When he didn’t compliment me when he got home, I didn’t make a big deal of it because I know that he doesn’t understand how nice it is to be sexually appreciated. But I remember other dates with other guys who told me I was beautiful and sexy and looked amazing in whatever outfit I was wearing.

When I fell in love with a relatively pricey pair of earrings ($30 for punched tin ovals), I decided not to get them and walked away. I kinda wished that he would insist on buying them for me, but he didn’t. That was fine as I know money is a touchy subject with him, but I remember other dates with other guys who did insist on getting me whatever little trinket I coveted while shopping together.

When he did not engage in any conversation with me at the restaurant, I did not take it personally. We talk all the time and have great conversations, and a marriage shouldn’t be judged by a single afternoon. I wished he would talk to me about movies (even though he thinks they all suck) or politics or even his new computer parts that he just bought. I know flirting isn’t his favorite thing, but I remember other dates with other guys where the time was filled with flirtatious, sexually charged banter and we couldn’t wait to leave a place and get to somewhere safe to rip each other’s clothes off.

Fortunately, I also remember that I didn’t end up with other guys for all the same reasons that I did marry my husband. He is good, kind, ethical, hard working, and wicked smart. I have no doubts that he loves me, finds me attractive, and wouldn’t mind if I truly wanted to buy a $30 pair of earrings. However, I understand why affairs happen. I understand that desperate desire to feel that falling in love feeling, even when you’re not actually falling in love. I understand wanting to be wanted. At least I know I never, ever have to worry about my husband having an affair though, as he’d never get a second date, or even manage to get to the end of the first one.

Today, I did learn that it is much better for me to go somewhere alone, have a fantastic time, and come home in a great mood. I also learned that trying to push my husband beyond his comfort zone is asking too much, even if it doesn’t seem that way to me. I remembered that looking good is something I should do for myself, not for someone else. I remembered that fantasy is called fantasy because it’s something that’s unlikely to happen, otherwise it would be reality. And I learned to stop waiting for someone to ask me to dance, even if that someone is my husband.

The Exes and the Oh, Oh, Ohs, They Haunt Me

No matter how perfect one’s marriage or relationship is, a little temptation (or a lot) must fall. A great marriage doesn’t make you suddenly less human, less urge-filled, less wanting. While most days, the decision to love is a daily one, sometimes it is a moment by moment thing, much like the decision to drink. Especially for someone who is the relationship equivalent of an alcoholic, always looking for redemption or fulfillment  in the next person to walk through the door. That’s where the term “commitment” comes into play, but that’s a different post.

Temptation can come from anywhere, but most often it’s from facebook or other social media. In the days before facebook, I rarely saw anyone outside of my work environment. Once I stopped working, I was confined to the couch. Not many people to meet there, let me tell you. But facebook opens up the world at the touch of a fingertip (or ten fingertips, as I know how to type properly).

Temptation does not require reciprocation. Lust can be completely in one’s own mind. Yes, I lust. 99.999999% of that lust is directed at my husband, so I’m doing good, but every now and again there is a niggle of “what if.”

Fantasies of clandestine meetings, longing looks, “accidental” touches…they all run through my head. The idea of having someone for whom to dress up, put on makeup, and wear heels is an appealing one. Seeing that look of appreciation in someone’s eyes when I walk in the door and take their breath away? Yeah, I miss that. I do arouse my husband, but that’s not quite the same as making him breathless with my mere presence, panting with anticipation.

I miss the power of being an attractive woman. Don’t get me wrong, I am FAR from beautiful in any sense of the word. I was always cute, sometimes pretty, and finally settled safely into the realm of attractive as an adult. But I’m also witty and smart, quippy, sassy, and I know how to flirt. I can use my deep brown eyes, smooth shapely legs, full lips, and a ridiculous talent for innuendo to drive a man wild with desire without ever touching him. I’ve done it. Many times. But marriage deletes that power. To be fair, it’s not actually marriage’s fault. It’s really familiarity that breeds the contempt of flirtation.

The other day, I asked Ron who he fantasizes about and he said he doesn’t, because it would be disrespectful to me. While that’s incredibly sweet, I told him that I would not feel disrespected if he thought about some other woman while being the master of his domain. I think about Jensen Ackles on a regular basis, and I infinitely respect my husband.

I’m lucky in that my husband can still make my heart skip a beat. The touch of his lips on mine still sparks electric tingles. Not all marriages are so lucky. That’s where fantasy comes in, but it’s important to remember that it is just that…fantasy. Not reality.

Reality is the dishes and the laundry. Eating noises and bathroom smells. Sagging skin and stretchmarks, hair in places it shouldn’t be, razor bumps, morning breath, marks in underwear…all those things are real and part of any and every relationship. Nothing is perfect except for in our imagination.

However, none of that stuff matters when you see a sexy pic of someone on facebook. Reality slips away and fantasy takes over. Yes, I am having a hot, steamy, sexy affair in my head. Does that make me unfaithful? I don’t think so. I would never, ever act on it. I never even talk to the object of my fantasies. They are just that…the object of my fantasies.  I have a lifetime of memories of the sexually charged start of plenty of doomed romances to fuel my daydreams; no need to add to the mix.

In a world where the nebulous”he” always knows what to say to turn me on, worships my body in ways that I literally can only dream of, touches me exactly where and how I long to be touched, whispers to me of all *his* erotic fantasies about me…that’s a world that does not and forever shall not exist. It does not make me love or want my husband any less. In fact, it often makes me want him more.

Fantasy is the food of the not so thrilling marriage, or the candy bar of the fulfilling one. I ask no forgiveness when I occasionally unwrap the corner of that secret forbidden sweet stashed at the back of the cabinet and take a tiny nibble.

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Tougher Than Diamonds, Stronger Than Steel

A friend wrote a post on facebook about people who are waiting for the “perfect” mate and the comments were interesting. So many people had the most ridiculous ideas of deal breakers. Let me tell you, perfect does not mean that he agrees with everything you say and do. Interests are superficial; they wax and wane. What you like one day is what you hate the next. It’s the core of your partner that’s important.

I’m really starting to dislike the term “deal breaker.” I like to think of them as starting points. There are only four true deal breakers, and they are abuse, addiction/untreated mental illness,  unfaithfulness, and inability to change. Anything else is negotiable. Look for the person who makes you laugh, goes out of their way to make you feel loved, who is kind, caring, supportive, and empathetic.

Give a warning shot across the bow before deciding that someone isn’t the one. When I met Ron, he was a terrible tipper. Now he grudgingly tips 20%, but he does it because he knows it’s important to me.

I was freakin’ crazy when we started dating, arguing all the time, playing come here go away. He flat out said “Choose which is more important, the drama or me.” I chose him over drama. What could have been a dealbreaker for him was instead a chance for me to make a positive change.

Look for the person who respects you enough to love you and help you grow, but is patient enough to stay while you do it. Someone who may not do the things you do, but who is secure enough to let you find others with whom to do those things.

Oh, but what about when he hums through his nose while he’s breathing, or she has to have all her food on separate plates? Um, guaranteed that if it’s not those things, there will be other things that you will learn to hate. But love means making the effort to look past those things.

Neuroses are not deal breakers. I insist that dishes be washed under running water. Ron thought it was weird, but went along with it. A year or so later, we read an article on germs and dishes; turns out the best and cleanest way to wash dishes is under running water. I’ll say it again. Neuroses are NOT deal breakers.

You love animals and he doesn’t? That’s when you ask him to make a change. You’ll find a way to make it work. If not, that’s inability to change, which can be a deal breaker if you love animals more than you love him. Same goes for if she wants kids and you don’t. If he wants to send the kids to private school but you only want public, that is NOT a deal breaker. It’s a point of compromise.

What about sex? What if it feels more like a vaginal exam than foreplay? What if he doesn’t like the way she twists and pulls? FREAKIN’ TALK ABOUT IT! If you’re not comfortable enough with each other to discuss what you do and don’t like about sex, you shouldn’t be having it.

Love is all about making compromises. I used to tell my second husband that compromise was when one person got their way and the other one didn’t. Now I know that’s not true at all. Compromise is when you work together to find a solution that is acceptable to both people. It’s work. It’s GIVING. That’s LOVE.

Although I’m not the first person to say it, and I’ve said it many times, love is not something you decide on one day and never revisit. Love is a decision, every single day. Love is deciding to find it funny that he can’t go to the grocery store alone without calling you from every aisle. Love is deciding to put on headphones when she watches Supernatural for the hundred millionth time.

I think the reason so many people think it’s impossible to find love is that they don’t want to have to change their own behavior. They want to focus on someone else’s quirks and never adjust the insane things they do. I think it’s hilarious when someone says, “Oh, if he were to do (x), I would walk away.” But if you ask them about when they do (y), they say, “Well, if he loves me, he’ll just have to accept it.” Wait, so he has to accept you and the crap you pull, but if he does anything wrong, you’re out of there? Yeah, good luck with that.

Love requires change, and if you’re not willing to change, you’re never going to find it. Change is hard, I know. But when you decide to love someone, change has a purpose. You’re becoming a better person for the one that you love.

Some days, love is easy. Some days it’s hard as fuck. No matter how irritated we get though, we both know that tomorrow is another day, another decision, another chance for it to be us against the world.

 

The Dark Side Of The Moon

I had two major breakthroughs in therapy today. I did my assignment of making a list of my characteristics; when I presented it, I joked that I did it as a list of pros and cons. She had me read it out loud, then asked me to pretend that all those characteristics belong to someone sitting in the chair next to me. What would I think of that person?

I looked at my list, and admitted that if they were smart, funny, creative, and sarcastic, I would likely want to be their friend. I examined the cons and thought that none of those things were something that would make me dislike someone, things like disorganized, self-doubting, bitchy. She asked what I would tell that person who had self-doubts. Since one of my pros is that I’m encouraging and empathetic, I would tell them that they are capable of doing anything they want.

She then asked what I thought of that person overall. As I looked at that list, a list that I struggled over and thought about endlessly for the last five days, I realized I’m actually a pretty cool person. I’m far from perfect (selfish, authoritative, demanding), but in general, I try to be “good” (kind, caring, giving, generous, fair, ethical). My pros did outweigh my cons, even when weighting various bad characteristics more heavily than others.

That was breakthrough number one. Number two was the big “aha” moment, though… As we talked about my deep-seated parental void that I’m constantly trying to fill, she said that I would NEVER be able to fill that void, that it would always be there. At first I thought that was kind of a negative thing for a therapist to say, but then it hit me.

When I met Ron, I believed with all my heart that he was my missing piece. That if he loved me unconditionally, I would never want for anything or anyone ever again. In a lot of ways, he is my missing piece, and the Universe knows that this man loves me unconditionally and has done so through good times and bad. Even so, I still have that longing, needy, existential void that I keep trying to fill with one person or another, particularly mother figures.

But no one, no matter how wonderful they are, can ever make that nothingness go away. No one can go back in time and re-parent the neglected and abused child to keep that vastness from springing into existence. All I can do now is try to talk myself down off the ledge of low self-esteem by reminding myself that I am worth sacrificing for, I am worth encouraging, I am worth loving, I am worth protecting. And the fact that I wasn’t encouraged, loved, or protected as a child ISN’T MY FAULT. It’s my mother’s.

One of the things I listed is that I am a good mother. I know I’m a good mother because I have awesome relationships with my awesome kids. Matt calls me at least once a week if not more, just to catch up and touch base. I see Aubrey every single day and she hugs me every night before she goes home. In spite of my lack of a maternal example, I still managed to love and protect and encourage my children. I was far from perfect. Trust me, there are plenty of moments where I know I was the worst mother ever. But overall, Matt and Aubrey know they are loved unconditionally. My worst mother moments were my failing, not theirs.

In a hilarious caricature of my entire relationship with my mother, I recently posted a meme about depression not always having a reason. My mother in all of her narcissistic glory, posted, “Now you know how I feel.” OMFG. Are you freakin’ kidding me? While a million and one smart ass comments ran through my head, I settled on replying, “It’s what I aspire to.” Really, I wanted to say, “Way to make it all about you.”

I don’t care who a person is, and especially not if it was my child, if someone I know were to post that meme, I would respond with, “I’m so sorry you’re having a tough time.” Or, ” Is there anything I can do to help?” Or even, “I know it’s hard, I’ve been there, but I’m here for you if you need anything.”

We all had a good laugh about it because it is seriously typical. However, while I know it’s a dark humor thing, I also know that it hurts in a way that only maternal rejection can hurt. But after today, I also know that her response is her problem, not mine. It really, truly, absolutely is NOT about me.

That is huge. Groundbreaking. Tremendous. So after a week of making a list, checking it twice, and interviewing my friends and family, I know exactly who I am.

I am enough.