Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why It’s Important to Cheat on Your Spouse

Haha! I knew that headline would grab your attention! Hey, didn’t cha know? I’m a swinger. Riiiiiiigggggghhhhhttttttt. Sure, I may joke about running off with the super hot guy who plays Dean on “Supernatural,” but I’m sure after a couple weeks his snores would annoy me with the same level of irritation that my husband’s do.

So no, I’m not advocating cheating. But what I do advocate is finding a way to rediscover what it was about your spouse that caused those stomach-flipping butterflies and that nervous smile when you first laid eyes on him/her across the crowded room. What it was that made you check your messages every ½ hour to see if they’d called. Or that made you take a little extra time to get ready for a date (did I say a little extra time? I used to spend hours trying on outfits before dates with my not-yet hubby)

When you’ve inched past the decade mark in your marriage, it can be exceedingly difficult to recall the thrill you felt the first time your and your beloved’s lips met. Especially when it’s just past 8:30 in the evening, you’re folding laundry, and your husband is asleep on the couch, snoring loudly with his mouth wide open. In the day-to-day act of living (and all the lovely and annoying things that go with it, like paying bills, cleaning toilets, the ups-and-downs of careers, leaky roofs, morning breath, that extra 10-lbs you swore you’d lose by now…not to mention the sometimes ugly arguments that are part of even the best marriages) the fire that made your heart race uncontrollably whenever you were around them is now just a thin wisp of gray smoke wafting lazily up from the dying embers of romance…

Okay, that’s a little hyperbolic. And I do have married friends who swear their flame is hotter than ever and if that’s so, then I say, “Rock on, sista!” But for the rest of us, perhaps not so much. And that’s not to say we don’t love our spouses as much as our “flames still burnin’” counterparts. It’s just saying we need to find a way to re-ignite that flame before it burns out completely.

And that’s where “cheating” comes in. I reach down into my memory and pull out my image of my DH as he was when we first met. Younger, of course—but at 48 he still is smokin’ hot for an “old” guy, thanks to daily work outs, a rigorous regime of vitamins and good genetics (and hair—still has most of his hair, graying of course, but it’s there). But what I try to envision in front of me is the 36 year old who impressed me so much with his intellect, his travel (he’s been to 30 countries), his commitment to healthy living, his willingness to go along with me wherever I wanted, be it roller-blading at the beach or out to Julian to pick apples. He also had a ton of friends who took me in like I’d been part of the group for years. Plus, he was a flowers-and-cards kind of guy. Hard to believe now, but he was. He even wrote poems to me.

He’s still the same guy, now buried underneath a high-stress account manager job, work-related travel (he’s gone every couple weeks for days at a time), a second mortgage, the needs of two growing kids, a tough economy (we said bah-bye to more than half of our net worth since December 2007 thanks to the stock market—and wouldn’t you know it, the stocks that are coming back around again now are not the ones we still own), commitments at church (he’s a deacon, and feels exceedingly guilty that he’s missed the last three Sundays because of kids’ activities—as opposed to me, who is pretty happy to have an excuse not to sit in the third row), and, well, just life.

And I’m not the same, either. I don’t like to admit it, of course, but it’s true. And it’s not just the extra “baby” pounds that never seemed to go away (oh, you have to exercise to lose weight? Go figure!). And it’s not just the smile lines around my eyes that are there even when I’m not smiling. I’ve got my own stuff to deal with—from the proverbial “family” issues, to career uncertainty (do I go full-time somewhere with a guaranteed paycheck, or continue to build my freelancing career?? *sigh*).

So when I fantasize about the guy who used to live in the skin now occupied by my husband, it’s not cheating, exactly, but it is sort of being with someone else—the person he was when we first met, and it was all exciting and new. It may sound strange, but it’s actually helped us. Because knowing that guy is still in there, buried just under the surface of the husband, has made me want to be more of the person I was when we were first together. Less quick to complain when things annoyed me. More willing to see his point of view. Eager to partner with him and give him my support, rather than roll my eyes or give one of those heavy “whatever” sighs.

So if you’re looking to strike a match to that last unburned coal of romance, try summoning up a mental vision of your spouse as a lover—as your lover, the one you would have done anything for. And keep that picture in your mind when you kiss them, when you take them in your arms…or even when you watch them, asleep on the coach, mouth wide open and snoring, at 8:30 in the evening.

PS: And going to a romantic restaurant once in a while doesn't hurt either--and I mean one that does not include chicken fingers on the menu. Leave the kids at home and pretend you're still young and hotter than you-know-what for each other. Here's some of the OC's best romantic spots for rekindling the flame...

French 75, Laguna Beach

La Cave, Costa Mesa

Manhattan Steak & Seafood, Orange

Mozambique, Laguna Beach

Orange Hill Restaurant, Orange

Rusty Pelican, Newport Beach

Studio, in the Montage Resort, Laguna Beach

The Cellar, Fullerton

Monday, November 2, 2009

Where is the line between supporting our kids and pressuring them?

I tossed out a comment once while chatting with a friend that for all the effort and money we’re putting into our girls’ athletic activities, they’d better get college scholarships! It was one of those off-hand remarks said in a joking tone that was meant to just fade into the fabric of the conversation. Yet while the rest of the conversation has completely left my mind, that tossed-off joke has stayed with me. It haunts me. Often the sentence has flitted through my mind in completely unrelated situations. It baffles me, because it was just a joke…right?

But it’s said there’s truth behind every joke, and I guess if I were to be completely honest with myself, I really would like one or both of the girls to win athletic scholarships. In fact, if I want to be painfully honest with myself, and by extension, you, I sort of expect that they will. If they don’t…I’ll be disappointed.

I understand that admitting a truth like that makes me look like a horrible parent. Parents are supposed to love their kids unconditionally, and whether or not they earn a scholarship, athletic or academic, to college should be far, far, far down on the list of why we love our kids. Yet (I believe) for every mom or dad out there upon whom it suddenly dawns one day that, hey, I’ve got a truly gifted kid there, the thought of college scholarships isn’t far behind…

Which leads me to (at last) the topic of this blog: our expectations of our children. What is realistic? Where is the line between support and pressure? And who draws that line?

My girls chosen sports are running and gymnastics. My 10-year-old started with Track & Field six months ago, and is now in cross-country. At this point she’s earned several medals and has a 6:26 mile time—her goal is to get below 6:00 by the beginning of Track season in January. My 7-soon-to-be-8 year old is in competitive gymnastics, and has collected a mess of medals of her own, and will be going to State Finals in two weeks.

So how much is too much? Is running 20+ miles a week (between conditioning and races) too much for a 10-year-old girl? Or is 12 hours a week of gymnastics too big a burden for a child who is still mastering her times tables? Other parents say that as long as the kids “enjoy it” it’s all right—and as long as they keep their grades up.

I examine my heart; I get into that really uncomfortable place where my own unrealized dreams are hidden. How much of their success is really about me? And when it comes down to it, that’s the question every parents needs to honestly ask themselves when trying to determine how much is simply too much (or, conversely, not enough) for their child. If a child is asking to “take a break” from a sport or club or activity, it’s time to step back and allow that break. That doesn’t mean they won’t come back to the activity; it may mean something as simple as the kid is just plain tired. It could also mean that parents’ expectations have taken the child into an arena that they, the child, doesn’t have his or her whole heart invested in. That being said, the child could be very good at that sport or activity—but if their heart is not in it, then where’s the joy? And that’s when we have the responsibility as parents to look at our motivations.

While watching my girls, I am part of them. I am Sam as she dashes across the finish line. I feel it when she expels that deep, pent-up breath. I feel the air swoosh past my own face as Nati does flies around the uneven bars. Her hands hit the mat as she arches into a double back handspring, and my palms sting. But it’s not fair for me to keep them in an activity because of the feeling I get watching them. That’s when support becomes, in my opinion, pressure. When it ceases to be about them, and becomes about me.

But, as every parent who has a kid who’s exceeded expectations should know, ultimately the most important thing is to keep it all in perspective. It may lead, somewhere down the line, to a scholarship...or not. As a mom, it's my job to make sure I don't get carried away in what should be their life experience...but that I do give them the support, encouragement and time they need to be as good as they can whatever they choose to do.

And make sure to keep puttin' dough in that college savings account!

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