joylibby

February 14, 2012

Valentine’s Day: Whatev….

If I write one more blog post about marriage or love I think even  I  will throw up in my own mouth a little bit.  Seriously, enough already! It gets to be nauseating listening to someone pontificate about love.  But, tomorrow is Valentine’s day, so I think I have one more gushy post in me and then I promise I will stop.

Am planning to spend VD with a bestie girlfriend and my favorite son.  We’re going to cook, chat and have a great time.  I’ll miss my husband a teensy bit, but no more than I would on any given Tuesday night.  He’s not the grand gesture kind of guy, he’s more the I-love-you-today-and-I’ll-love-you-again-the-same-amount-and-with-the-same-devotion-and-stability-tomorrow type.  He’s definitely the kind you marry.

This week I came across an essay I wrote a while ago about love.  At the time, I was working on a book idea that explored each month of the year through the eyes of a spiritual seeker-mother-wife-modern woman.  Some day I may gather up all those months and do something with them, but for today, in honor of Valentine’s Day and as a tribute to my dear stable man, I offer you “February.”

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February is the month that always shines bright red in my mind.  Surely this must be because I’ve had years of Hallmark marketing overloading me with images of cupids, shiny doily hearts, red roses and chocolate boxes tied with a red bow.  But in my mind, each month brings a new color and February is definitely all painted in red.

The subject of February might seem obvious, it’s Love.  Right now I am humming that popular Michael Bolton song Love is a wonderful thing. This song was released when I was eighteen years old and in the throes of discovering what love can be.  The song says, well, obviously that it’s a wonderful thing, but also that it will make ya smile through the pouring rain, Turn your world into one sweet dream, and finally it promises that it will take your heart and make it sing.

It’s raining as I type and I can hear the drops pounding above me on the skylight and at least for this morning, I am very sick of the rain this season.  It seems like it has appeared too often, stayed too long, and given us all cabin fever.  I am still smiling, however.  Is it love that is making me smile through the pouring rain?

In February falls a holiday that has caused way more grief for men and women than it has ever helped: The dreaded Valentine’s Day.  I remember some doozies from my dating days, particularly from teenage years.

One boy bought me a white fluffy teddy bear, which I pretended to find thrilling and then I heard his father whisper to him, “See I told you she’d like it; they all love teddy bears.” But inside I wanted to scream But I am not five years old! Another boyfriend and I had a very intellectual discussion about Valentine’s Day and I shared my thoughts that couples should find ways to make each other feel loved and special regardless of the date. I told him that I found Valentine’s Day to be a pitiful excuse to lavish material things onto a relationship and call it cared for. I told him about an older couple I knew who had been married for thirty years who ignored Valentine’s Day altogether and instead had a little basket in their bedroom where they would each place gifts for the other.  They upheld this ritual just here and there throughout the year.  She baked shortbread cookies for him and put them in there; he purchased her new sewing scissors and she was excited.  My boyfriend agreed with the philosophy and therefore did nothing on the big day, and of course…. I was crushed.

Finally, one of my favorite boyfriends, a real sweetie… [to keep reading about love, click here…

February 10, 2012

For better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…

Filed under: About Family Life — Tags: , , , — joylibby @ 9:43 pm

Last week I posted a little rant about trust within a very traditional, almost old-fashioned model of marriage: Husband works; wife stays home and raises children.  Woman trusts man not to desert her and leave her penniless. Very 1950s housewife stuff, ya know?

But I’m not naïve or simplistic and I get that there are a zillion different ways to run a marriage.  Long gone are the days when women have few choices and must follow strictly prescribed paths.  We’ve all had to figure out for ourselves what feels right at the end of each day and how to hold conflicting desires within the same heart. But the traditional path is how it’s gone for me.

I look around at all the women I see each week.  They appear assured and so very much put together.  They wife, mother and work with confidence and seem to be aware of the gifts they bring to the world. I assume they’ve made peace with their choices and sleep soundly each night.  So it was quite a surprise last week to discover that the trust post had touched a few raw nerves when it exposed the vulnerability I live with.

Under cover of private email or whispers during chance encounters at kids’ sports games and volunteering events, here is what I heard:

I can’t relate to that kind of trust.  I’ve kept separate money from him for all twenty years we’ve been together.

Marriages fall apart at either the seven or twenty year mark.  At least that’s what happened to me.

I’m re-thinking my philanthropic obligations. I think I should be working instead of spending my time volunteering.

My husband slept with a secretary at work. Now she is suing him for sexual harassment, putting us in financial ruin as we contemplate what to do with our failed marriage.

I opened a savings account so this wouldn’t happen to me.

I work even though I want to be home with my children.  We don’t need my income right now, but I am afraid to give up my stake. 

I wish I were employable.  Every day I wake up and feel anxious that I couldn’t get a good job if I need to.

I haven’t stopped crying since I read about trust. I haven’t trusted him in years.

I spoke with one friend whose husband is sick and is probably going to go to his eternal home before either of them is ready.  She talked about how he trusts her to love him even though neither of them ever wanted this.  Their trust is focusing on the in sickness and in health moment we all want to avoid.  Although their marriage hasn’t always been bursts of sunshine, the connection they are experiencing now is restoring some of what they missed with each other in healthy times.

Then I received a note from a stranger.  Brett turned the tables on the discussion a bit.  Click here to scroll down and read Brett’s entire message to me.  He got my attention really quickly when he wrote “as the main breadwinner in our household, I implore you to note that I (we husbands) put the same trust in our wives.”

Brett described what the last few years of economic downturn has meant for his family.  If he’s like many men I know, his identity was likely rooted firmly in his role of provider and his wife enjoyed the benefits of his focus and drive.  When the world turned upside down and he could not offer that same level of financial support, she had a choice to make.  He wanted us to know that our men depend on us to love them and stick by them even when they cannot provide for us.  You know, the for richer or poorer part of what we said.

Trust makes its way into every relationship, no matter who works, who stays home, whether you have children or brought a trust fund into the marriage. None of us have any guarantees of how it will all turn out and all we can work with is the information we have on hand right now.

I’ve thought about Brett over the last few days and about my own amazing man.  Even though I enjoy the life his income provides me, he is the one I love.  It drives home for me what I already knew: At the end of each day, I don’t want his job or his paycheck in bed with me, I want him.  When each of us is able to avoid placing our value in what we offer each other, we are able to be more real and connected.  And when health or wealth leaves us, we aren’t left with nothing; we are left with our love for each other.

Today, through tears a friend asked, Isn’t it enough just to give him my heart?  Really, at the end of the day, is there anything else we can give?

January 31, 2012

Trust.

Last night, I walked into my bedroom and announced to my husband, Tomorrow I will blog about marriage.  He stared at me for a moment, blinked and then asked incredulously, Our marriage?

Not only is he uber private and uncomfortable with my sharing our stuff to anyone who will read it, I think he was also trying to think up a nice way to say, You? You’re going to write about marriage?

Truth is, I mostly suck at being a wife. Just this morning I actually yelled Shut Up! to him.  That was unnecessarily mean, he replied.  And he was right.  And that was just a regular morning, without a lot of drama attached to it.  So, no, I’m not writing because I hope to inspire anyone with my wife-ing.

I tried to explain to him what I wanted to say about marriage, but I got a bit tongue tied and flustered.  I don’t want to tell the whole world how great ours is, or even try to talk other people into tying the knot themselves.  I’ve just been reading so many beautiful blogs about marriage lately (here’s one from Lysa, one from Sarah, and finally one from Amber), but in my real life, tons of couples around me are still struggling to figure it out.  It seems like marriage is messy and needs to be nurtured constantly.

Marriage also has been on my mind recently because a few weeks ago one of my favorite girlfriends got left in the lurch by her husband of seventeen years.  Although I’ve had plenty of friends get divorced or go through rough patches, this is one situation that has hit closest to home.  It’s the one that made me say, omg, if it could happen to them, it could happen to us!  Our stories are similar: Two high-achieving men married two talented, gorgeous, vivacious young women who birthed them beautiful babies.  With great gusto we gals poured ourselves into motherhood and raising children who feel good about themselves.  We completely ignored the corporate world around us and trusted those men with our very souls to take care of their families to the best of their ability.  This allowed them to pursue, travel, climb and achieve.  Yeah, maybe the bearing of power, responsibility, accountability and stress was not always fair and balanced.  Some of us hoarded the veto power on all parenting choices while others of us may have hoarded all of the big financial decisions.  Perhaps some of us saw exciting parts of the world while others of us saw all the parks in town and had to get our thrills from occasional trips to the emergency room.

But somehow we stumbled through those weighty, exhausting years of parenting.  We fell asleep before we hit the pillows – sometimes as couples, sometimes with various children lying diagonally around us, and sometimes separated by continents. We read picture books until we thought we’d vomit at another rendition of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and we racked up millions of frequent flyer miles. Hindsight is 20-20, so we can all look back and see moments where our marriages were especially vulnerable.  But, boy, has it gotten so much easier.  The men have proven themselves and despite the current economy, simply do not need to work as hard as they once did.  We are not dealing with the back breaking season of parenting that includes diapers, spit up, car naps, double jogger strollers and train set clean-up.  Instead we’re trying to raise bully-proof kids and teens with loads of self-esteem.  Rather than pondering what to make for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we’re trying to figure out when to allow facebook and ear piercing and how to raise musicians without becoming tiger moms. We are all thriving in our various roles.

And then he walked out.

Our friends have three children. She has not worked outside of the home in fourteen years.  The court awarded her $2500 a month in child support and no alimony or any part of his 401K.  For fourteen years he has worked his way up the corporate ladder and has arrived.  She will eventually get there, but she has a long way to go and is beginning this working journey late in life.  And seriously, if you are looking to hire an entry-level professional, are you likely to go for the forty-five-year-old mother of three whose last work computer did not include the Internet, or a fresh college graduate?

While I was driving my husband to work last week, I slammed my hands on the steering wheel and my voice became a little yelly as I got him up to date on what the other slime ball-used-to-be-our-friend husband has finagled.  Here’s the deal, I said to him.  I am trusting you not to do this to me.  Every day that I choose to work a part-time job, volunteer precious hours at your children’s school, cancel my plans when they are sick, or stay up late helping with a school project is a day I am trusting you.

Last year’s popular essay by Katy Read tried to address the imbalance of the working father and stay-at-home mother.  It shook me up then as much as it shakes me up to call my friend right now and feel what she is feeling.  When I read it last year I remember saying to a friend.  Yeah, we’ve put all of our eggs in one basket haven’t we?  She said, Yep, and we put them all in our husband’s basket.

Last night when I told that sweet man I wanted to write about marriage, I didn’t mean to imply that we’ve got a great one, or that I think I’m holding the key. And I don’t mean to suggest that stay-at-homing or working are better choices.  We’ve all got to figure out the best plan for each of us and for all of our kids.

I guess I’m writing because I want my husband and all the husbands out there to understand this:  Your wife trusts you.  Buddy, don’t screw it up!

And just to my own long-suffering, patient one I need to add this: I know it’s not always easy for us, but thanks for sticking it out with me thus far. I want to take walks with you when we’re eighty-five-years-old, and I hope we still want to hold hands.

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