Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I've talked before a bit about the sacrifices we've made so one of us can be with our kids and we won't need daycare. For the most part, I'm completely OK with those sacrifices, and I don't do a lot of comparing my situation with others who may have housekeepers or new clothes (not that I'm paying attention). But the other day jealousy hit with surprising force.

We were at the UU service, waiting for it to begin. I was sitting in my chair, and the boys were sitting in the smaller blue chairs lined up by the "altar" for the kids in front of me. A little boy came and sat next to Al., wearing a Camp Galileo T-shirt. We had a visiting minister from another state, who smiled and asked the boy about Camp Galileo.

I would love to send A. to Camp Galileo. They have themes he would love, like the Greek Gods and all kinds of science experiments. A. read the brochure and was excited. I applied for a scholarship last year and was thrilled to receive the letter that we'd been granted one...until I called to enroll him and found that it was only good for one particular week, the July 4th holiday week (so it was only 3 days anyway), which was the one week we'd be out of town. I was pissed (I thought they should have revealed the limitations up front so kids didn't get all excited deciding which camp they wanted to attend; each week is a different theme) but I knew beggars can't be choosers, so I never said anything to A. and as far as I know he forgot about it.

So, anyway. Cry me a fucking river, I know. Big f-in' deal. Kid goes to private Montessori school, has everything he needs and has at least one reasonably attentive parent home with him almost all the time. So I was really surprised to be hit with such a strong club of jealousy when I saw that kids' shirt. Something about not being able to send him to that camp when this other kid sitting right next to him got to go, made me feel like a failure.

But that's ridiculous. As a therapist, I know more than most, perhaps, that money does not make you happy. I remind myself all the time of how lucky I am, how lucky we are...not everyone's that lucky.

Some people are dealing with way bigger obstacles than not being able to afford science camp. So if you feel blessed, like I do, please consider helping out a good mother who is keeping it together for her kids and making some awesome grilled cheese sandwiches with no help from their father. People don't get what they deserve in this life, but sometimes we can help with that.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lunasea's 10 Tips For a Happy Marriage

Being a couples' counselor has been great for my marriage. Mostly because I get home after a particularly hairy session and kiss my husband and thank him for not being anything like the people I just worked with. In general, I find people are more vested in being right than in saving their marriages. I'm actually not seeing couples anymore unless it's for my full fee - it's just too hard to jar people's feet loose when they've got their heels firmly dug into the cement.*

In a few weeks, G and I will be celebrating 10 years of marriage. In some parts, that's not very much at all. G's parents just celebrated 50 years of marriage. But in California, we're well above the average.

So, I got to thinking, what exactly do we do to make our marriage work? Because I'm telling you, it's not that we are exemplary people. We're both just fine, but most of the people who walk into my office are just fine, too. So at the risk of sounding completely self-congratulatory, what are they doing wrong that we're doing right? I'm going to give you my best ideas. These are things that I think would put me out of business if all couples did them:

1. Figure out what's really important to you in a partner. I have my couples make 3 lists of virtues they need in a partner: Non-negotiables, negotiables (things that would be nice but aren't mandatory) and optional (frosting on the cake).

There should only be 3-4 things on the non-negotiables list. Mine were:

1. Wants children
2. Kind to others
3. Ethical, honest
4. Has a sense of humor

These were the deal-breakers. I couldn't stay with someone who wasn't kind to me and everyone else. I wasn't going to stay with anyone who lied to me or hurt others with unethical decisions. And it would be hard to understand me if he didn't have a sense of humor.

The negotiables list is longer:

1. spiritual
2. psychologically aware
3. has good boundaries
4. loves books
5. loves music
6. enjoys nature
7. sexy
8. really funny (you can have a sense of humor and not be really funny - I pretty much always fell for the guys who made me laugh)
9. gets along with his family
10. gets along with my family
11. would be a great father

I'm sure there were more, I forgot the rest because it's all blended into what who I'm with: G.

I've also forgotten what was on the optional list. No surprise, because these two lists aren't nearly as important as the first.

My advice is to never settle for anybody who doesn't fill all the checkmarks on your non-negotiable list. Abuse, emotional and physical, of course, should never be tolerated.

But don't cut someone out of the running because they don't have all the virtues on your negotiable list. I always thought I'd end up with a bookworm, like me. It still amazes me that I'm with a man who doesn't particularly like bookstores. Maybe I could have found someone who loved bookstores if I'd waited longer. But then, guaranteed, he would have been missing some of the things G. has. And now that I love him, I'm not willing to give those up.

That was a long one. Let's make the rest shorter.

2. Choose your words carefully. It's a lot easier to take some time to figure out what you want to say then to clean up the mess after hurling horrible insults. You can't swallow words back into your throat after they've been released. Maybe you'll be forgiven for the horrible things you said, but they probably won't be forgotten.

3. Stay on topic. You're disagreeing about the evening routine? Stick to the evening routine. Don't bring up the morning routine, his mother's routine, your mother's routine, his disgusting habits and who filled the gas tank last.

4. Say what you mean and mean what you say. In any discussion, ask yourself, what do I really want to get across here? Say that and stick to it. If you have to restate it, restate it. Your partner isn't necessarily going to know which part of what you say is the most important. It's so weird when couples tell me about one of their fights - they both remember completely different parts of the conversation, and they both are shocked by what their partner remembers. "She keeps bringing that up but that wasn't at all important to what I was trying to say!"

5. Listen. Make sure you listen carefully and understand where your partner is coming from before you make your point clear. This is right out of Couples Communication 101, and I am telling you, if your partner thinks you understand what he/she is saying, they will be a hell of a lot more willing to listen to what you have to say about it.

6. You are not the King (or Queen) of How to Do Everything Right. You've already told your husband that your way of doing the dishes is superior, several times in fact, and he still doesn't do it your way? Let it go. He heard you, he just doesn't care. And hopefully, "Does the dishes my way," is not on your list of non-negotiables.

7. Know what makes your partner feel loved. People usually do for their partners what they want done for themselves. Tell your partner what you really appreciate and wish they'd do more often. At the same time, realize that there might be things your partner does to show his/her love that you're not fully appreciating.

8. Chill the fuck out. (G. calls this "Don't be so reactive." I call it chilling the fuck out). Most of the time, your partner is not actively trying to piss you off. If you don't like the tone of voice they're using, tell them. Don't do it back to them to teach them a lesson (BTW, I think that's a bad strategy with kids, too). Think about what's happening - is it really important? OK, then go say something. Calmly, directly. You think maybe it's not that important and maybe you're in a bad mood? Recognize that and keep your mouth shut until you chill out. So many of the couples I see don't argue about anything all that important, but they keep making huge dramas out of everything.

9. Which reminds me, don't threaten to leave. Don't threaten to end the marriage. You can leave any time, of course, if it really isn't working, but don't threaten to do it in the heat of anger. To sound like a hippie-dippy therapist, it brings up all sorts of unresolved abandonment issues in your partner that, trust me, are better left unactivated.

10. Hmmm. Maybe you should fill this one in.

This is a working draft that I'm sure will be revised many times and hopefully eventually posted on my professional website, perhaps without the expletives. I'd be very interested in your thoughts and comments.

*I should mention here that there have been couples who have been really willing to work with each other and who have left therapy in a much better place and those situations are always very rewarding. But the ones that don't, break my heart.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Pluses and Minuses

On the plus side:

I'm finishing week 2 of Couch to 5K and when I have some more time, plan to find a 5K to register for.

I'm exercising most days of the week, at least half an hour. Would like to get it up to an hour. My mentor, who is in her later 50's, said she had to exercise an hour a day every day to lose the mid-life weight. And she only lost half of it.

I feel better and I have more energy. I still walk out to the garage regularly and then turn around and walk back in the house because I have no idea what I went to the garage for. I'm getting used to it.

On the minus side:

I can't give up coffee. I tried, and tea is OK, but last Saturday I bought myself a coffee at the farmer's market and Lordie, was it good! I was in such a great mood after that. So I decided one cup (OK, 16 oz. is more like 2 cups, but...) a day is not going to kill me.

Sugar and wheat have been touch and go. Some days are fine, some days I just don't seem to bother to avoid them. I have been gathering a lot more organic fruits and vegetables from our yard, the farmer's markets and the produce delivery, so I'm eating more of those, but I'm still eating too much processed stuff for my liking.

So, I'm getting there. Better than going in the opposite direction, I suppose.

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