Newlyweds

Poking fun at my husband while walking out of a store, hurriedly trying to keep up with his pace – “I could get kidnapped back here and you wouldn’t even know!”

“You just have to walk faster,” he replies.

We continue in the same line of banter for a little bit until we get in the car, where I cross my arms and say “you’re on my shit list!”

He chuckles.  “Aww, how cute – a shit list.  Does it have little emoticons and decorations at the top of it?”

wedding shoes and bouquet

I really need to get some straps added to these little lace flats.  Darling shoes, but I can’t walk fast in them to save my life.  They were worn with my wedding dress, and gray was picked over white in the hopes that they could be worn in the future.  As much fun as it is to have a playful repartee with my husband, I know it annoys him when I can’t keep up with his 6ft-tall-man stride.  Have to be wearing secure shoes for that!

Great Expectations

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While antiquing today, I found a lovely 1901 book titled What a Young Wife Ought To Know by Mrs. Emma Angell Drake, M.D.  The title caught my eye – I’ve been wanting to read some old homemaking books.  As I was fingering through the pages, wondering if this book was a hidden treasure, the book opened itself to the following…

What shall be the ruling characteristics of the man I shall marry?  is the question that every young girl has answered long before she may be conscious of it herself.  As one and another of her acquaintances marry, she mentally concludes that this and that trait which the new bridegroom possesses, would not do at all were she the bride. And so year after year the mental, moral, and physical make-up of the man she is to choose, grows into completeness, as this imaginary being is shaped to her liking.

James Lane Allen says truly, “Ideals are of two kinds.  There are those that correspond to our highest sense of perfection.  They express what we might be were life, the world, ourselves, all different and better.  Such ideals are like lighthouses; but like lighthouses are not made to live in, but for beacons.  Neither can we live in such ideals.  But there are ideals of another sort.  It is these that are to burn for us, not like lighthouses in the distance, but like candles in our hands to light each step of the way.”

When you began to love you began to idealize the man you loved, and the danger is with most women, that the ideal is so near perfection that the reality brings to them a rude and dangerous awakening.  Dangerous, because they allow the ideal to usurp the place which belongs to the real, and because all the way along they are comparing the real in lover and husband, with the ideal.

Therefore, dear, remember that you are human, and since the real, not the ideal matches your human nature, expect the man who chooses you, and whom you choose, to be human also.

Pages 58-59

So rapt was I that a random scrap of paper became a bookmark, and I nearly squealed in joy of my new book – right there in the shop.

We spend our youths imagining what type of man we might marry, and build up expectations, or ideals of the perfect mate.  There’s a reason why romance novels account for well over 50 percent of mass-market paperback fiction sold in the United States each year.  An ideal, imaginary alpha male of my own was formed over the years.  I found myself craving the fiction more than reality, and lost myself in books.  Divorce found me, and suddenly the dating world was available again.  Hours were spent daydreaming over what type of man I’d want – I decided an alpha man would be perfect – like in the books!  I shudder to think of all the expectations I had of my ideal partner.

When Jesse came into my life, all the stars aligned, and he seemed perfect for me.  After a couple of dates I said to my mother “this might just be the man I marry”.  But then reality sets in.  Turns out he can’t read my mind, and hinting at things doesn’t work.  Six months together passed, and he hadn’t fallen so in love with my awesomeness that he’d spontaneously proposed.  I’d expected to date for six months to maybe two years before engagement and marriage, but I never expressed that, or sought his thoughts on the topic. I knew he wanted marriage, just not when.  Time went on, and I worried more and more, causing unnecessary stress.

Ironically, having an ideal kept me from obtaining my ideal.  Had I relaxed into the relationship, without lengthily comparing the ideal with the real, he may very well have proposed sooner than 4.5 years of dating.  Or perhaps that is his ideal length of courtship, and we simply weren’t compatible in that sense.  We should all be careful of forming ideals, and comparing our partners to them.  As James Lane Allen implied above, be wary of forcing your ideal self onto another – use it instead as a beacon for self-improvement.

 

An online version of the book is available here.  I plan on sharing many more thoughts on this book!

The Paper Analogy

When you are in a new relationship, each truth you learn about each other is like a sheet of paper – clean, fresh, and white.  As you bond over time, the stack of “papers” begins to build.  You may say “I just love to be tickled!” and another sheet is added to the pile.  You might hear him say “I hate it when people do that” and the bundle grows larger.

People in long-term relationships tend to have an expectation that the other person remembers everything.  But over time, as you learn more about them, the bottom of the sheaf turns faded, brittle, and yellowed.  You recall only the recent things you’ve discovered, and perhaps begin wishing it was like it used to be.  In it’s worst, you wonder if the person you’re with actually knows you at all.

You can have what you used to have, if only you dig up that old paper and rewrite it.  Say “I love it when you tickle me!” even if it’s been said several times in the past, and it’s been months since you were tickled. Remember all those things you learned when the papers were fresh, and ask him to tell you that story you used to love hearing.

If you don’t nurture your relationship, eventually the base layers will turn unreadable.  You will become blinded to the person you married.  Don’t let that happen – rotate your pack of papers, and be understanding when your partner can’t recall something you’ve said.

 

*I read about this analogy in the past, but I’m not sure where – could have been a book, website, or blog.  So if you know who the original person is behind this thought, please post the source!

Is PMS Just Another Excuse to be a Bitch?

In the US culture, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is made to be a Big Fucking Deal.  From advertisements for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) drugs, to casual conversation among females, it is inundated into our lives as normal.  “It’s almost as if, given cultural expectations that they will behave badly, they decide to go along with it in order to behave in the ways normally inaccessible to them, [like] being bossy, irritable [or] bold,” said Kathryn Clancy in Is PMS a Myth?

I believe in the placebo effect. In my pharmacy career, I was always fascinated when reading drug inserts and seeing that a percentage of those on the placebo drug (an inactive tablet that looks like the real drug, but is just fillers and/or sugar) reported improvement in the drug studies. There is also the flip side – people taking an inactive “medication” reported side effects (called the nocebo effect).  It was most definitely not the “drug” giving them headaches, fatigue, or depression – yet the patients are believing it is.  Could the behavioral symptoms of PMS be attributed to other causes in our lives, and PMS be the convenient scapegoat?

The Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms for PMS.

Emotional and behavioral symptoms

  • Tension or anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Crying spells
  • Mood swings and irritability or anger
  • Appetite changes and food cravings
  • Trouble falling asleep (insomnia)
  • Social withdrawal
  • Poor concentration

Physical signs and symptoms

  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain related to fluid retention
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Acne flare-ups
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Some of these seem legit, like breast tenderness, weight gain from fluid retention, and acne flare-ups.  But what about the rest – specifically, the behavioral symptoms?  Does PMS really cause depression, tension or anxiety?  Perhaps women are expecting to have these symptoms because it’s a product of the culture they’ve grown up in.  This study found that in terms of mood, PMS may just be “more science-fiction than fact”.

Over 100 randomly selected healthy Canadian women who were unaware that the study was about mood and the menstrual cycle were given smartphones and asked to record their negative and positive moods over a period of six months—providing the researchers with real-time mood data. At the end of the study, the MiDL team found that in a healthy population blinded to the purpose of the study, physical health, perceived stress, and social support were much stronger predictors of mood than any menstrual cycle phase.

One of the experts who participated in a meta-analysis study explains

“There is so much cultural baggage around women’s menstrual cycles, and entire industries built around the idea that women are moody, irrational — even unstable — in the phase leading up to menstruation”

“Our review — which shows no clear evidence that PMS exists — will be surprising to many people, including health professionals.”

Do you have a “real self” and a “pms self” as psychologist Joan Chrisler is quoted saying in Is PMDD real?  “[PMDD] undermines women’s self-concepts and feeds into stereotypes about women. It’s convenient for women to use this… The discourse is me, not me, my real self, my PMS self. It allows you to hold onto a view of yourself as a good mother who doesn’t lose her temper.”  This was when I realized that I’d been using PMS as an excuse. If I lost control of my emotions, I rationalized it away as PMS.  It wasn’t me, it was that other me.  Thinking of those in my life who have at one point or another seen me in that state filled me with shame.  I might explain my behavior away, but will they?

Armed with this new knowledge, I decided to experiment.  For three months, I convinced myself that PMS and periods are no big deal.  Just a normal part of daily life, like pooping or having a runny nose.  When I felt anger or frustration, I reminded myself that it’s not some disorder causing it, and that I can control myself. Oddly just having that thought seemed to make the negative emotions dissolve.  I kept doing the techniques listed in my Managing Conflict post when needed.  As a result, there were months of unremarkable menstrual cycles.

It does take constant mindfulness, especially in the beginning.  Last month I didn’t revisit my research on this topic, and found myself falling into old habits.  After a couple of days of snappish behavior, I caught on to what I was doing and acknowledged to Jesse that I need to do better.  He could tell I’d been feeling overly irritated, and had been keeping his distance (I tell you – everything I feel shows on my face).  I sure don’t want to be an irrational victim of my hormones.  Come to find out, my calorie intake was too low in January, and that may have had more to do with the irritation than PMS.

I leave you with one final study, which suggests that women are “not passive PMS sufferers [Italics added]”.  Self monitoring, awareness, avoidance of stress, and care of the self will help not only with PMS, but in your day-to-day life.

So cheer up bitch, it ain’t that serious.

Managing Conflict

I honestly can’t remember what any of our arguments have been about. Even sitting here actively trying to recall – it’s just not coming to me. There used to be “a big blowup” once a month or so.  Perhaps I was the type to bottle things up until they came exploding out.  Or maybe it was a power struggle, PMS, or fear-based?   I didn’t want conflict, but somehow I kept finding myself in it.  All couples argue, right?

Hours were spent scouring the internet looking for clues as to why it happens, and how to fix it.  There’s still a folder on my browser full of articles on communication, active listening, and empathy.  For the better part of a year, I was convinced that it was how he was responding to me (invalidation) that was setting me off.  If only he could learn how to validate my feelings, everything would be okay.

Learning about communication on the internet can be very confusing.  For every article in favor of a technique, there is another rejecting it.  I once read this article, which states “One of the most common pitfalls is trying to help ‘solve the problem’.”  The light bulb went off, and that sentence looked like the answer to all my problems.  I nodded my head while reading the rest, and thought that he just needed to stop trying to fix my problems!  In hindsight I see that learning from couples who have low/no conflict in their relationships would have been better. Reading those articles on the internet were validating my negative behaviors and making things worse.

He didn’t want to argue, either.  I’ve learned that when I lost my shit, he was thinking “how can I fix this?”  He was not actively trying to hurt my feelings, or pick fights.  He just wanted a happy girl again.  Is that too much to ask for?  I don’t think so.  It’s a good thing that he’s thinking of my happiness.  I was the instigator in all of our arguments.

The first step to finally overcoming conflict was for me to accept that it was my problem, and was not in any way good or acceptable to continue.  I started being more aware of when it was coming, and diffusing the situation either before it started, or shortly after.  I’ve gotten more confident in my ability to control myself over the last few months, and was able to promise Jesse that he’d never see that crazy lady again.

Here’s a list of what has worked for me.

  • Go for a walk, and think about all the things you like about him. Don’t return until you are genuinely smiling and grateful again.  Be sure to tell him something before leaving, such as “I’m getting emotional, so I’m going to go walk it off”.  Ensure your strong emotions aren’t influencing your tone overmuch.
  • Really think about how you phrase things.  If your husband is starting to get defensive, then you’ve worded something badly.  This is when you should own your shit and apologize.  No if or buts added.  “Sorry I said ____. I was wrong.”  I’ve found this to diffuse the situation and turn the atmosphere into one of love and peace.
  • If you can’t think of a positive, non-critical way to say something, then don’t say anything at all.  Wait a few days to see if it even matters to you still.
  • Sulking is bad.  It’s a cry for attention and not at all attractive.  If you need attention that bad, then just ask for it!
  • Hug him often.  Women get fearful and insecure when they go extended periods without physical contact.  Hug him at least a few times a day and keep the physical connection going.
  • Fill your mouth with water and swish it.  I read this posed as a joke, but found it actually works – and it’s hilarious to witness.  If you’re ever feeling mad about something obviously stupid, go fill your mouth with water and keep swishing.  It will keep you from complaining, and it won’t be long before you’re trying not to laugh over the ridiculousness of it.
  • Don’t complain to him unless you want him to fix it.  If you really have to vent and rant about something, give him a heads up.  “I just want to rant for a few moments and get this off my chest” works. Get it out, thank him for listening, then get on with your day.
  • If he says something that hurts, remember that men speak more harshly and directly than women do.  It’s easy to get overly offended when it’s coming from a person whose opinion you trust and respect.  Ask yourself – if it had come from a stranger, would you have been hurt?  If the answer is no, then you’re probably just being too sensitive.  If the answer is yes, then say “ouch” or “that hurt”. You want him to be able to speak freely without being weary of your reaction, especially if you want an honest answer about that dress looking good or not.

Weight Loss

After meeting Jesse, we both wanted me to lose some more weight, especially before having children.  Being overweight can mess with your fertility, and it’s better to establish healthy eating habits prior to pregnancy.  Plus I want to have a healthy, fit body – and maintain it for life.  There is SO much diet and fitness advice on the internet that it can be overwhelming for most.  So I’m sharing what is working for me.

Calorie counting apps:  (Yes, you really do need to count calories to lose weight.)

  •  Myfitnesspal is the most popular app.  I found it difficult to use when most of your entries are unprocessed, homemade meals.  Myfitnesspal is like FaceBook for dieters – there is an extensive social network that can help keep you accountable.
  • Simple Calorie Count is a great app if you’re used to writing down your daily calorie intake in a journal.  Just as it’s name suggests, it’s a simple, bare-minimum app.
  • Cron-O-Meter is my favorite app, and is the one I’m currently using.  The recipe builder is superb – after adding in the ingredients, the program knows the weight of your recipe.  You can then weigh your homemade foods and have accurate calorie and nutritional information.  This app will show you every nutrient you ate in a day, and which foods they came from.

Videos:

  • Forks Over Knives is a documentary based on The China Study, and was our main motivation behind changing to a plant-based, low-meat diet.
  • Fed Up is an excellent documentary on the negative effects of our sugar-laden modern diet.

My diet:

  • Mostly vegan diet.  I still eat small quantities of meat and fish.  I keep diary to under 5% of my diet.
  • Low/no sugar diet.  This includes artificial sweeteners, honey and syrups.  I do still have fruit, but keep it to a minimum.
  • Most of my protein is coming from beans, nuts, and protein powder. I’m eating 60 – 100 grams a day.
  • My macros are ideally 20% protein, 30% fat, and 50% carbohydrates. I’m focusing more on total calories at the time.
  • I’m eating 10-11 calories per pound of body weight.  The Fitbit, which I’ll go into more below, combined with Cron-O-meter help me stay at a daily 500 calorie deficit.

Exercise:

  • The Fitbit Charge HR has helped me with calorie counting, and with monitoring my sleep.  The fitbit can be linked with either myfitnesspal or Cron-O-Meter and the actual daily calories burned will go into your calorie counting app.  You can gradually increase the activity goals over time to encourage yourself to be more active.  I love looking in the program and seeing the workout calendar with all the check marks!
  • Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body  This book was recommended to me by several women, and I’m so glad I decided to buy it.  It’s a program that can work no matter your current body – even if you’re overweight, you can get started with building a strong yet feminine body and lose weight in the process.  I’ve just finished my third week of following the best butt bodyweight plan and I’ve lost two pounds – and that’s with Thanksgiving!

So far this year I have lost 37 pounds.  Only 27 left before I reach my goal weight!  I’ve taken before pictures, and can’t wait to share them once I meet my goal.

Who Does the Dishes?

It’s a source of arguments for many couples.  I’ll admit having had tiffs in the past over chore division, including dishes.  In the current equality-based culture of tit-for-tat, couples often get stuck on evenly dividing the chores.  Is such a thing even possible?  Should it be?

I always figured that whoever cooks dinner shouldn’t have to do the dishes.  So after moving in with Jesse, I proudly proclaimed him as in charge of the dishes.  He’s actually better at it, to be honest.  I’m more likely to be satisfied with a quick rinse, while he uses enough soap and scrubbing to satiate even the greatest of germophobes.

Over time, I found myself mentally criticizing how he does the dishes. Must he use so much soap?  That sponge is too dirty.  Those dishes have been in the sink too long.  He always leaves things drying too long.  Enough thoughts like that and you’ll be on the fast train to resentment-land.

One of my biggest fears is forming resentment (I’ve been there and it’s not pretty).  So when those aforementioned negative thoughts became more common, I did some introspection and first asked myself: “What is it that I want him to do?”  Notice how I crossed out that bit about him?  You want to keep the focus on yourself, and what you can do.  Ultimately what I wanted was to maintain a clean and inviting kitchen.  This is something that is within my power to have without resorting to controlling behaviors.

After learning much from Red Pill Women, one of my mantras has been “you can control yourself, but you can’t control those around you”.  I was feeling urges to control how he does the dishes.  Just because he does it differently, does not mean it is wrong.  It’s just contrary to my way of doing things.  If you want it done your way, then you should do it yourself.

So I switched the dishes to being part of my daily chores.  I didn’t tell him this, or make a big deal of it – just did what needed to be done.  If there are dry dishes in the dishwasher, I put them away.  If there are a few things in the sink, I washed them.  He often beats me to it now, and I be sure to thank him for helping me.  I don’t criticize how he does it.  The result – peace.  I feel grateful when he does the dishes now, rather than critical.

This week I’ve noted the time it takes to do the dishes.  In just ten minutes the dishwasher was unloaded, reloaded, and a few dishes were hand-washed.  Ten minutes!  To think that people, my past-self included, actually have arguments over this!   You could do the dishes in the time it takes to discuss it.

I’ve proselyted from my old view of “she who cooks shall not clean”.  It makes more sense for the one who cooks to do the cleaning.  People are more likely to make a mess if they know they don’t have to clean it up. You evolve over time to clean while you cook.