Why Do I Have To Tell You?

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Why do we always find it so romantic when our partner can “read our mind?” I think it’s because on a very basic level, we want to be known. But the honest truth is that we are human, and thus far- incapable of actually reading minds. We also tend to have a double standard when it comes to our mind reading expectations-

Me: “Why do I have to tell you? Why don’t you just know?”

But also me: “How would I even know that’s what you were thinking, Tim?? I’m not a mind reader!”

I never liked the idea that I had to tell Tim what I needed. Shouldn’t he just know? That would make life so much easier, wouldn’t it? My inner dialogue would go something like this, “I want Tim to tell me nice things about me, because I could use some encouragement right about now.”

Me: Why isn’t he noticing that I’m having a rough day?

Also me: I’m really good at just powering through, no one will even know I’m struggling.

Me: Why should I have to ask him to encourage me? Doesn’t he just naturally want to??

Also me: Maybe if I encourage him, he’ll return and then I’ll feel better.

Me: Well, now he feels great about himself and I am now not only having a rough day, but now I’m resentful.

Also me: He probably doesn’t think nice things about me if he isn’t saying anything.

Is this just me?

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I spent a lot of time chasing the “magic” in our relationship. You know, the phase where you’re just constantly affirming things, learning new things, and everything feels shiny and new and exciting. But the reality is, that is...a phase. (More on this in my next blog) The time eventually comes when it becomes imperative for you to communicate your needs to your person. So why is this so hard?

I think first off, many people are never really encouraged to express needs. Maybe they were told it was selfish to ask for things people didn’t naturally think of to give you. Maybe they were told they were unworthy of having what they wanted. Asking for things isn’t necessarily a safe bet. You’re risking what feels like a lot by putting yourself in this position of vulnerability. It’s scary. But if you want a functional relationship, you have to be brave enough to ask for it. Mind reading simply has no place in a marriage. I don’t think it ever becomes possible for your partner to consistently read your mind, but they can be observant, and make educated guesses. This requires both partners to equally be invested enough to not only communicate their needs and wishes, but to take note of the other person’s needs and wishes, so they can try for those educated guesses. Take the “magic” when it happens, but you must also be willing to settle in for the long haul and communicate.

A note for those who struggle with anxiety: Your Anxiety spends most of the time convincing you that: You’re not good enough to get what you want/need, you will be rejected if you ask, and your partner doesn’t care enough and that’s why you have to ask. Remind yourself that these are lies. Don’t allow Anxiety to call the shots. You can have a functional marriage, it is possible, and you are allowed to hope for and work for that.

-Ash


Emotions Do Not Ask For Permission

Ashley had done some hard work through counseling and processed through a lot of baggage in her life. It was now 2016, and I had graduated law school and now it was my turn. Ashley had a tough conversation with me and told me that she did not want to continue our relationship in the way it was going. She told me I needed to see a counselor and work through some stuff. There was no coercion or threats, but I knew she was right.  It is impossible to distill the 11, or so, years of marriage that led to that point in a single post. But, we both knew that for us to have a thriving relationship for the next 50+ years of our marriage, I needed to do some work on myself.

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Out of wanting to not disappoint or hurt Ashley, I tended not to speak up or let my opinion be known. I thought, “better for her to be able to do the things that she wants then for me to ask her not to,” or “better to stifle my emotions, then to express them and hurt her.” I associated emotions with weakness. So in her expressing emotions and me being calm, I was being the strong one, the person that she could depend on to be steady. I also tend to shy away from personal conflict, so I was quick to try to make peace and move on when there was conflict, instead of dealing with the real issues.

I enjoy the logical side of being human. For me, rationality seems easy, clean, simple. Emotions are difficult and messy. I was even keeled, my highs were not very high, and my lows were not low. I was okay in the gray zone of emotions. I may not have been experiencing strong positive emotions, but at least I did not feel strong negative emotions. I came to ask myself, “What if I am not experiencing life how it was intended to be?” Humans are rational creatures, but they are also emotional creatures. For my entire life, I let my rational side overpower my emotional. What was I missing by stifling the emotional side of me?

Emotions do not ask for permission. They happen regardless of whether you want them or not. Unlike rational thoughts, your body does not ask you, “Hey Tim, this happened, how would you like to respond?” Nope, something happens, and before you know it, BAM! Emotions show up and you ask yourself, “What happened? I was just sitting here.” So, you have two options: You can stifle them, or you learn how to approach them in a healthy way.

For my adult life, thus far, I chose to stifle them. Going through counseling was messy. I actually asked for a chart with the names of the different emotions on them so when I felt something I could work on identifying the emotion. Shocking, I know.

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Counseling stirred up a lot of topics for Ashley and I to talk about, which was not easy. I had to start learning a balance between sharing, but not over-sharing. Somethings are actually best left unsaid. Sometimes, expressing emotions is overly selfish because the motivation is completely self centered.
I am still learning, and will continue to learn. Fortunately, Ashley has stuck by me through the process and we have learned a lot. Emotions do not ask for permission, but you have a choice for how to approach them.

-TIM

Avoiding Tension on Vacation

“You’re taking 4 kids to Disney World?? Wow, you’re brave.”

We heard this no less than 27 times before we left on our trip in January of this year. Mostly, we were excited for this trip, but having heard that so many times it was starting to get to us. Tim's parents would be coming with us on this trip and we were excited for the extra company, extra set of eyes, and extra time that we would get to spend with them. Plus, they volunteered to take the kids for one night while we were there so that Tim and I could have a date night at the park. We would be gone a whole week, from Saturday to Saturday, and well that didn't feel like a long time, over the years, Tim and I have noticed that when we don't take time to stay connected even during vacations, we get grumpy and snippy and impatient with each other. We both set intentions before we left, that we wanted to relax and just have fun on the trip.

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The first part of our trip, we spent a few days with my Aunt and Uncle at the beach. It was so nice to relax there and watch them love on our kids. “The walls are soundproof, just so you know…” my uncle had said to us one night before we headed off to our guest room. We laughed, but yeah...we passed. There’s just something about the next morning when you know what you were up to last night... and so do other people... and the eye contact, and it just gets weird. So...yeah. (We have a story about that for another time.) But we found other ways to connect. We had nice long conversations on the drive to Orlando, and found that we were doing a pretty good job of just relaxing and enjoying the moments.

Once at Disney World, each day was a whirlwind of walking, riding rides, standing in lines, getting autographs- you know how it is. Each day, we found little ways to connect with each other: holding hands, walking together while our kids meandered out in front, stealing kisses, smiling at each other, taking selfies, taking our time, and taking advantage of a locking bathroom door in our room after the kids had gone to sleep. (You gotta get it when you can, you know??)

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This may all sound incredibly cheesy, and trust me, the feeling isn’t always there. But kindness begets kindness, positivity begets more positivity. Just exchanging a smile here and there often goes a long way in keeping anxiety and tension levels in check. Find little romantic things to do even on vacation. Tim would get up before me and go down and get me a latte each morning before I got up. It was a small thing, and obviously he was there getting himself coffee too, but I saw that little gesture as his way of saying, “I’m thinking about you.” When you’re looking for those little things, you’ll see them.

Staying connected just in everyday life is hard enough, staying connected while on vacation often falls to the bottom of the priority list because we often have so much else going on. Keep it at the top of your list, and notice how much easier and joyful your vacations become. That was our best and favorite family vacation so far, and we didn’t come home feeling like we needed a vacation from our vacation.

-Ash

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When You're Gone...

When You’re Gone…


So for those of you who don’t know, I struggle with depression and anxiety.

I hate saying that, it feels like I line I’ve rehearsed so many times that it barely has any meaning anymore. Like when you fixate on a word, “Apple” and say it so many times you start to giggle at how silly the word sounds tumbling off your tongue as though suddenly it’s in a foreign language. But I say it a lot, because I want people to know how common it is, that they are not alone.

Anyway- this stuff affects way more than I would like to admit that it does. Like when Tim leaves town. I have this intense FOMO (fear of missing out) which stems from abandonment trauma. (Don’t you love Millennials? We are so adept at relating all of our issues back to our traumas.)

So when Tim has to leave town for work or just a few days away on a guys trip- I. Freak. Out.

Not externally of course, but my dependency issues rear their ugly head and I run smack into them, always a bit surprised to see them, but eh- who am I kidding?

I was pretty spoiled for awhile because after we got married, we were rarely apart. However, right after we got married, I got pregnant. *cue crazy lady hormones I distinctly remember Tim going out to play video games at his friend’s house and sobbing on the couch because he wasn’t there. This -ish runs deep. It’s serious. Seriously annoying. Of course then, I was a pregnant newlywed, so I had an excuse. Now,...I’m a woman in my early thirties in a solid, happy marriage, still confronting my abandonment issues. It’s the worst. So here’s a little rundown of how this usually goes. This is deeply embarrassing, but I’m sharing it because I’m sure I’m not the only one who deals with this crap.

Day 1- I’ve got a brave face on. I drop Tim off at the airport, or watch him fold his 6’6” frame into the back of a tiny Uber, and I’m okay. “I’ve got things to do, I’ve planned things to keep me busy and occupied while he’s gone. I’m gonna be okay.” The kids are upbeat and although bedtime is hard because they all miss him, we all survive. And I get about 4 hours of sleep.

Day 2- I become the “fun mom.” In order to distract myself from the impending implosion I can feel coming, I am running around town, spending more money than I should be on the kids, showering them with new things, new experiences...hell- maybe we will go take our own trip somewhere. Expedia reminds me my bank account has told me to stay home, so instead, I’m riding a caffeine and sugar high until we all crash at bedtime. Only now that the fun people have gone to sleep and it’s just me- I get anxiety. So I Netflix and Chill-the-heck-out on my phone and only get about 3 hours of sleep.

Day 3- Running on 7 hours of sleep in 48 hours is just not sustainable for me. I wish I was that woman. I think I am that woman, until suddenly on Day 3, I wake up and look in the mirror wondering who gave me 2 black eyes in my sleep. But no, that’s just the dark circles. *sigh On Day 3, the kids somehow communicated this message to each other, “It’s Time.” They fight, yell, whine, and complain all. Freaking. Day. And to be honest, I can’t blame them. With the bar set so high on our adventures of Day 2, they are not content to stay home while this creature that resembles a bedraggled version of their mother is trying not to get tears and self-loathing in her coffee. Then, it happens. Suddenly, I can’t take the whining, the arguing and their attitudes anymore. *cue implosion. I rant, I cry, I storm off to put myself in time-out. Meanwhile, my kids are looking at each other like, “Did we break her?” There is silence. I feel terrible. I scrap the pieces of myself off the floor, off the wall and off the bed, and shuffle out to them. I apologize and like the amazing humans they are- they forgive me. I usually end up buying them icecream for their trouble. Everyone goes to bed early that night, and I am still up trying to pass the time, thinking, “Only tonight and then one more night.” I get 5 hours of sleep.

Day 4- Today brings determination to do better. I’m working hard to stay positive even though the kids are just as exhausted that Dad’s not home yet. We don’t ever begrudge him the trips, but gosh how we miss him. I pick back up where I left off from Day 1 at getting things done, and clean up around the house a bit. I pay the kids to do the dishes. My smile is weak, but I’m still standing. Only one more sleep. I get about 5 hours because I’m emotionally and physically depleted.

Day 5- Coming home day, I’m racing around the house cleaning like a madwoman, so I can look like I had my -ish together the whole time. I move furniture, I buy a new rug for the kitchen, I light candles. This house looks amazing. Time crawls by that day, as I’m hitting refresh on the flight tracker watching his little plane icon travel home. I feel crazy. I know I am, but I don’t even care at this point. I’m just excited that Tim is coming home.


-Ash