Five Easy Ways I Keep It Spicy- and you can too!

I figured in light of the weekend, this particular Blog Prompt was timely:

How Do You Keep The Romance Alive With Your Spouse? (for more info, click here)

Okay, let me start with a True Confession: my life is not glamorous. In case there was any doubt: I write this in sweats. My toddler made sure I did not shower today. My background inspirational noise? The Wonder Pets ("What's gonna work? Team work!")

Why do I tell you this? Because I want you to know that in addition to a fancy-pants "Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist" I am also a REAL person. It isn't like my husband and I get to jet off to Vegas for the weekend on a lark. Heck, we don't even get to eat dinner out without childcare plans. So I get it. I get how marriage could lose a spark. It's easy to do.

That said, I work with couples on helping keep their marriages lively and meaningful. And I've got some ideas. These things work in my marriage, in my clients' marriages, and I think they can work in yours too:

1. Go On Dates.
I know, this might sound completely obvious. But a recent study showed that as many as 60% of married women did not go on date nights with their spouse! While this study might not be scientific, if it's even close to accurate- that scares me. So if you're in that 60%, let me explain why I think date nights are extremely important: The day to day of marriage, maintaining a home, balancing a budget, caring for children, focusing on a career: means that there is a LOT of opportunity for neutral or even negative daily interaction. It takes a conscious effort to make sure that there are positive interactions to balance that out- and help your relationship go the distance.

Similarly, its easy to forget that in addition to all the hats you wear- you are a woman and a lover too. (I know, I said "lover". It's a semi-gross word. However, it's also a TRUE one!) Take it from the woman in sweats- showering, makeup, doing your hair, wearing an outfit that's too sexy for the office or the playgroup, putting on insensible shoes..... these things are important to keep your libido going. Which leads me to my next point.

2. Have sex.
Again, depending on how you're doing- this is either completely obvious to you, or you are cringing and wanting to skip it. But please hear me out! Relationship expert Michele Weiner-Davis writes in her book "Sex Starved Marriage" about this important topic. She offers the controversial opinion (supported by research and brilliant minds) that barring medical issues: having a good sex life is a choice. "Use it or lose it", that's my motto. So while no one is expecting porn-star status from you, it's important to remember that your sexuality was an important part of your courtship and early marriage. And *gulp* it still should be. (*Ducking to avoid laptops being thrown at my head!*)

3. Fight!
What? huh? Did she really say that!? Yup. I did. When I see couples, I would rather have a couple come in my office in a SCREAMING match than completely silent. Not because I enjoy screaming matches (they make my blood pressure rise just like anyone else). But because there is CARING behind it. As long as there is fighting, there is passion behind ideas. There is a belief that your words matter. There is emotion behind your interactions.

This doesn't mean you need to have a dirty-take-no-prisoners-fight. It could be a sparring match. It could be cracking jokes on each other. It could even be playing competitive games on opposite sides. But going head to head can help clear the air... and reignite your passions.

4. Do Something Different!
The worst enemy of love is not hate; its boredom. So I recommend you do something different. Eat in a different location of the house. Switch roles for a day and do each other's "chores". Turn off the TV if it's always on. Try a new board game. Go to a new kind of activity (a comedy club? A sporting event? A concert?) It can be ridiculous, that doesn't matter. Just as long as it's different.

This helps in two ways: One, the novelty centers of your brain respond when you are in new settings. This means you are feeling happier and more open to new ideas. When something is new- it signals to your brain: "Okay, pay attention. You're not used to doing this." And you become more flexible, creative, imaginative, and adaptive. All great things when you're trying to bond with your sweetie. That's why vacations are such great bonding times.

Two, it can allow you to see your spouse in a different light. After years (decades) of doing more or less the same, seeing your spouse doing something DIFFERENT can really help add a sense of freshness and novelty. You just might learn something new about each other- and a new reason to have the hots for one another.

5. Do Something Your Spouse Is Good At!
Let's face it, confidence is SEXY. So is competence (and they tend to go hand in hand). So put yourself in the position to see each other at your best.  This could be a sport, a hobby, or even work-related function. But by seeing each other at your best, it not only gives your spouse a chance to show off (and feel good about themselves) but it shows that you take an interest in what is important to them. And let's face it, feeling good about your skills and your spouse's interest in you... Now that's an aphrodisiac!

Wishing you a sexy weekend with your honey!


"What's It Like Parenting Tweens and Teens?"

Today I took a blogging challenge, to answer the question: "What's It Like Parenting Tweens and Teens?"

My first responses were things along the lines of:

- Ever been sucker-punched in the gut? Then hugged? Then kicked in the groin?
- It's like trying to dress up a cat, with claws.
- It's like trying to keep a grip on a water worm (do you remember those things?)
- Running in quicksand?
- Or how about: It's like telling a cat to sit.

Why do so many of my teen parenting metaphors have to do with cats? Come to think of it, maybe it makes sense. They give affection on their terms. They come home only to be fed. They sleep all the time.... Maybe I'm on to something.

As a therapist who specializes in working with adolescent girls- I can tell you one thing parenting a tween or teen is not: EASY. You spend your entire life loving and nurturing this little being who depends on you for everything. And then one day you turn around and not only do they want NOTHING to do with you. But you're the singular most STUPID human being on the planet. Sound familiar?

Here's the good news- It's completely normal. (Or is that bad news?) Adolescence has been called "The Rise of Narcissism". Which I think is the most accurate description of a time period that (at any other age) would be considered mental illness.

To put it in layman's terms: Your child is SUPPOSED to fight against the powers that be. They are SUPPOSED to challenge, and push, and wrestle, and in general be uncomfortable in their own skin. Why? Because this is the launching pad for adulthood.
And just like the butterfly must claw, scratch and eat it's way out of the cocoon, the teen must struggle for their own new identity.

If they never cast off the rules/expectations put on them, then they will never figure out which of those they ultimately want to internalize. (And yes, they do ultimately end up internalizing a great deal of them). Does this mean you just give up? Accept their challenge without pushing back? Hardly. But what it does mean- is that the struggle is normal and, more than that: healthy. A teen who never pushes is not on their way to developing identity. So, on those days that you're ready to pull your hair out (or commit your first act of child abuse) just know- this is a good sign.*

Even more good news: If you feel like you don't recognize your teen some times, you're not supposed to. They don't recognize themselves much of the time. They're changing daily in their quest for identity.

If you're looking for more information on how to make this crazy relationship work, check out an older post of mine: "The Proper Care And Feeding Of Your Teen" Part I  and Part II

Wishing you sanity and ports in the storm,

*There are times when teen behavior signals a deeper problem that might need attention. I'll address this separate but extremely important topic later this week.


Motherhood: There's An App For That?

In some ways motherhood is easier than it's ever been. There's an app for potty training, sleep training and (I just purchased!) a clock that changes colors when kids are allowed to get up in the morning! Don't forget about baby carriers, car seat carriers, and Baby Einstein.

Most days I'm glad that I'm a mom today.

But I have to wonder: with all the advances, are we losing something?

I mean, after all, motherhood has (I assume) been just as fulfilling and meaningful for previous generations. (I feel safe assuming this because we still exist as a species... so there must be something appealing about it!) I also assume that previous generations didn't sit around doing nothing, and wishing "If only I had an electronic device to which I could give 4 hours of my attention!" And as far as I know- we still have just 24 hours in a day. 

So here's the strange thing I contemplate: What did we take out of our days to make room for the new gadgets?

Most of it (no doubt) was manual labor. But again, I know that previous generations didn't spend all waking hours laboring. So what about the relationship time? The social time? The interaction with others? What did they used to do, that we now fill with our new ways?

Don't get me wrong, I am not an "unplugged" kind of girl. (Clearly, as I write this in a blog). I belong to networks galore. Enjoy a good YouTube video. And I'm thankful that I can google just about ANYTHING that interests me. I love that I can stay connected with friends and family far away, and that everyone gets to see that cute new video of my son within minutes of it happening....I

And yet, I'm left thinking- maybe there was value to the slower pace. After all, it is how humanity has spent most of history. For example: transportation. Maybe there was value to walking alongside your child on the way to a neighbor's house? Maybe the fresh air, exercise, conversation, quiet, sounds of nature... were better for us than the gas fumes, cell phones, music blaring, DVDs playing, and traffic. Maybe there was something meaningful in the gaze of a newborn... instead of the glow of a screen? (Ouch).

Maybe in our quest to be the most-put-together-have-it-all-and-look-young-too woman, we lost touch with something else. The fast pace and glamorous appearance cost us something.

A little more time talking, less watching. More reading to, less reading online. I don't know- it's something I aspire to at least.

Wishing you (and me!) a slower-pace,


What If We're Just Okay?

I may have written on this before. If so, I don't want to know. Let's just pretend this is a unique and original though, okay?
Today it strikes me particularly hard, this idea of self-concept.

If a child is told they are naughty, mean and bad all their life- how will that child will behave? Of course: the child will act like they are naughty, mean and bad. S/he will live and choose things that back-up that idea.

This make so much sense to us when we look at children, but we  often forget this about ourselves. In our heads we run scripts of negative, harsh, no-good, very-bad thoughts all day long. We see all the things we do not do well enough. All the ways in which we cannot measure up. We run lists of things unaccomplished, things left undone. We constantly tell ourselves that we are not doing enough.

And then we expect performance from ourselves. We expect happiness, and success. We expect accomplishment.
How does this make sense?

If we spoke to a child the way we speak to ourselves, and then demanded achievement... everyone around would easily see and realize the error. Who is going to achieve anything, when all they hear is how they are nothing? Yet we do it to ourselves all day long, and no one speaks up for us....

So I'd like to propose something: What if we started telling ourselves good things? What if we are already good enough? Smart enough? Kind enough?*

Oh, I know what you're thinking. That negative self-talker is very crafty! The self-talker says: "But I don't ever want to feel I've accomplished everything, or I'll stop growing!" Yup, like I said: its crafty.

To which I say: "Crafty self-talker, look at the kids. Do we wait until they are Picasso before we praise their effort on their drawing? Do we wait until they are a professional athlete before we encourage them for giving their all in a game? Do we wait until they have graduated college before we ever congratulate them for an 'A' on a test? Of course not! That would be silly, and counter-productive. The child will give up long before making those lofty goals, if all they hear is criticism. YOU ARE THE SAME WAY."

Are you hearing me yet? Is your self-talker finally getting it? If we wait until we are perfect, we will never be kind to ourselves. And really, what a tragedy.

So I propose the radical concept: You are ENOUGH. Today. For this moment. Enough.... now breathe.

I really think you're enough,

*Okay, so I realize this is a good spot for a Stuart Smalley impression. But really, I'm not going for it. It just happens sometimes when I get on a roll. ;)