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Weather Check

Yesterday marked one-month since we arrived in Los Angeles and started living with my parents. One month with all of our belongings in boxes in their garage. One month of shared dinners and shared errands and shared Sundays. One month of little dogs with muddy feet on white linen slacks, one month of cats leaping from dark bookcase corners.

My parents are incredibly gracious. They even seem to enjoy having us here, and thank goodness, because being able to land here, with them, to have a home base while we gather ourselves together and get ready to move on to the next phase in our life has been invaluable. And wonderful.

Friends keep asking how the apartment hunt is going, but we haven’t even started looking. For one thing, I’ve been too busy at work to do anything else, and as long as Mike is still looking for an apartment manager job, why should we sign a lease? In the meantime we’re enjoying the shared dinners and shared errands and shared Sundays. Mike’s been wonderful about chipping in with chores and cooking, and I’m trying too. The dogs are enjoying the backyard and the cats are taking full advantage of sharing a room with us. They spend their nights tracing our faces with their whiskers, leaping back and forth from our bellies to our pillows and back again.

I’m sure it’s not easy for my parents to share their home with another family, especially one that consists of so many animals. But every time I ask them if we’re driving them crazy yet, they just laugh and insist that Mike’s cooking is worth it. And honestly? I’m a little surprised at how easy it’s been for Mike and me to adjust to sharing our life with another family. Granted the other family is our family too, but I was a little worried that we wouldn’t have enough privacy, or we’d impede on their privacy, or Theo would pee all over the garden furniture and drive my mother nuts, but so far it’s been fine.

Mike and I started running in the mornings, and since he started a part-time job our run has become our one chance to touch base during the day. He’s working nights, I’m working days, so it’s morning runs or nuthin’. As close as we are, it’s become really important for us to have the opportunity, every day, to clue each other in as to how we’re feeling, what’s going on, and where our heads are at. I’ve found that when we miss that hour alone together too many days in a row, I end up feeling disconnected, insecure, and uneasy. Then when we  run we get awkward. We trot side by side, talking small about the weather, our plans for the day. But by the end, sweaty and out of breath, we’re excited and talking about our future, the fixer-upper we hope to buy, the trip to Nepal, the degree Mike will earn, the family we hope to begin.

Do a “weather” check during the day Call your partner at home or at work to see how his or her day is going. This is a great way to adjust expectations so that you’re more in sync when you connect after work. For instance, if your partner is having an awful day, it might be unreasonable to expect him or her to be enthusiastic about something good that happened to you. — From 10 Tips for Happy Couples, by Dr. Mark Goulston.

Mike’s working in a restaurant, so calling him at work is out of the question. And I really don’t feel comfortable taking personal calls while I’m working, because they distract me too much. But the idea is what’s important, and for us, the hour of running is what is keeping us in tune. So what about you? What do you do to stay connected to your partner? Do you have a weekly date night? Do you share a daily meal? How do you manage sharing a life with opposite schedules?

Thursday Night Family Dinner

family party 2006

A family gathering, November 2005

One of the reasons I am so excited to move home is because finally, finally after three-and-a-half years, finally I get to participate in Thursday Night Family Dinner. My mother always spends Thursday afternoons with my niece, and then my brother and sister-in-law come over for dinner, and often times, at least when I’m in town, most of the other siblings and their partners and various off-spring come over, at least whoever is free that night, and we all sit around the dining room table and eat something wonderful and talk about our day and what’s been going on lately, and sometimes we end up reminiscing and telling family stories, and those are my favorite times of all.

Other times we have a big family fight and someone stomps out of the room and everyone whispers in hushed tones and the person who said something to make the other person mad goes upstairs to apologize and then the mad person and the apologetic person come downstairs and we all eat ice cream. Or graham crackers with peanut butter and honey.

When I was growing up, my parents and I sat around the dinner table every night, ate a meal my mother cooked, and talked about our day. Which usually led to us talking about other things, like something great that happened, or something that was bothering us. Dinner time was our time to reconnect as a family. When I was really little, I would get sleepy listening to Mama and Papa talk and I’d crawl into Papa’s lap and lay my head on his chest and the deep rumbling of his voice would lull me to sleep.  Later he’d carry me upstairs, say my prayers with me, and tuck me in. In the mornings Mama would wake me up singing, she’d fix me breakfast and pack my lunch and Papa would walk me to the bus stop so we could spend a little extra time together. In the afternoons I walked home with the other kids and Mama would be waiting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper and we’d sit and have snacks and visit and then I’d do my homework while she cooked dinner and when Papa came everyone smiled and laughed and kissed and hugged and then we ate dinner and talked about our day. Family dinner made my childhood better.

Mike and I eat dinner together at the table every night we possibly can, which for the last year and a half has been nearly every single night. I adore our dinners together. Next to when we finally curl up at the end of the day, dinner is my favorite time of day. Dinner is when we reconnect, talk about our day, the great things that have happened, something that’s bothering us. It’s our one guaranteed hour of quality time in the day. It’s a gift from one to the other.

When something is bothering me I need a little time to warm up before I can talk about it. I can’t just pin Mike down at the end of a busy week and dump my heart out. I’ve got to spend a little quality time with him, talk about the weather, the dogs, something stupid, anything. I’m slow to warm. Which is not to say I don’t feel safe with Mike, because if there is anyone I feel safe with, it’s him. That man has known me through some of the ugliest moments of my life and he has always stood next to me, arms open and ready to catch me the moment I fell. I’m no psychologist, but I believe that open and honest communication is the only way to have a solid relationship. And open and honest communication only comes when you are able to communicate on a regular and frequent basis, because communication = human connection. Therefore family dinner = human connection = happy marriage = happy family.

I was not at all prepared for the loss of connection with the people I love the most when I moved to New York. Of course we’ve all made the best of it, found ways to connect through social media and lengthy emails and photos and regular visits. But it’s going to be so much better when I’m not so far away! And also more annoying, probably. There is nothing like seeing someone on a regular basis to make you feel like they’re driving you crazy. Even that considered, I’m really excited to go home and take part in Thursday Night Family Dinner. I can’t wait to hear about everyone’s day, what’s on their mind, what’s going on. I can’t wait to be a part of their lives again, and have them a part of mine. I can’t wait for everyone to get to know Mike better, and for me to get to know his family better. And also? I can’t wait until the day we get to bring our own off-spring to dinner, Thursday nights and every night.*

*That’s at least twenty-two months away,** so don’t get excited.

**Not that I’m counting or anything.

Help Wanted

Have you been over to RonandRobertonDivorce.com?  Well, have you?  Because in the last week alone I’ve written about infidelity (twice!), fighting fairly, I’ve posted videos of my father being interviewed on CNN practically before I was born, and I shared an interesting podcast on divorce, for better or for worse.  I’ve been a very busy, very serious girl.  So busy and serious I’ve developed a raging case of Serious Scowl as a result of my many hours of intense concentration.  I am now in danger of developing a permanent case of The Furrow.  Please see Exhibit A attached:

The Furrow

Exhibit A -- The Furrow

You may have noticed that I’m using my BlackBerry to take photos a lot lately.  That’s only because I can’t get the damn thing out of my hand long enough to grab the camera.  I still can’t type on that tiny excuse for a keyboard, but I had that thing in front of my face for so long today that when I finally sat down to write tonight I was shocked by the ridiculous largeness of my 13 inch MacBook.

Anyway, I need your help.  Up until recently most of the content I’ve put together for RonandRobertonDivorce.com has been information I’ve gleaned from various sources; more a compiling of someone else’s writing than my own actual writing.  However, I was hired for my writing skillz and I’ve been given the freedom to write and post my own material, and what I’m really interested in is how divorce has affected you.  With divorce being as common as it is, I find it hard to believe that none of my readers have had some experience with it, whether it’s their own divorce, a parent’s divorce, or a friend’s divorce.   We’re all different people with our own unique views and needs and desires.  We all have our own ideas about marriage and divorce and I’d like to know what yours are. If you’d like to participate, feel free to share your thoughts as a comment or if you’d like to remain somewhat anonymous, email me at Trish@TheLawCollaborative.com.

And now a list of questions to help lube your thought processes:

  • When do you think divorce is necessary?
  • What are your views on divorce?
  • Is divorce an option in your relationship?
  • If you could imagine a perfect divorce (if there is such a thing) what would it be?  How long would it take?  How much would it cost?  What would it look like?  How would it start?  What would be required?  Would there be any conditions?
  • If you are a child of divorce, how did your parents divorce affect you?  What did you learn from it?  Did they remarry?  What was it like to grow up in a divorced family?
  • If you have been through a divorce, what would you do differently if you could do it over again?  What was your experience?  What did you learn from it?  How do you feel about marriage?

Of course you don’t have to share if you don’t feel comfortable.  And if you do share, I will most likely want to post whatever you’ve shared on the Internet for the Entire Universe to read, so please keep that in mind.   It is my intention to treat all your thoughts and stories with the utmost care and respect and I really do appreciate your participation.

Thank you!  And goodnight.  (And now I will collapse into bed and sleep like a dead person for the next seven hours.  Heaven.)

Still growing

theacorn

treasured little things

In the last moments of our final couples session before we moved to the City, our therapist gave us a tiny silver acorn.  When we’d started couples counseling we’d been dating for close to two years but didn’t know where the relationship was going.  She gave us the acorn to remind us that we had been like the tiny seed, but we’d worked hard and now were a young green sapling.  She told us that we had the tools, the knowledge and the love that we needed to nurture our relationship so that it could grow into a strong old oak.  I keep that silver acorn, with the boutonniere Mike wore on our wedding day, in a vintage ashtray that belonged to my great Aunt Sue.  Symbols of things worthwhile; treasured memories.

***

After Mike and I had been dating for a year, we started having disagreements that would go on for days at a time.  I wouldn’t call them fights because we never threw any punches or anything, but something would come up and one of us would get upset and then the other one would get upset and then things would be really awkward for a while.  After a week or so we’d meet up for coffee and try to talk about it and things would be ok for a few weeks but then something would come up and we would get all weird again.  After several months of being fine one minute and awkward the next, I started worrying that if we didn’t learn how to communicate effectively our relationship would fall apart.

I knew that I loved Michael and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.  I knew this because we had the same values and the same goals, we made each other laugh, we had common interests, we respected one another.  But I couldn’t spend another week in awkward silence, so I suggested we try counseling.

“I would really like to go to couples counseling with you.”
“Why?”
“I think we need to learn how to communicate better.”
“We don’t need counseling.”

And that was that.  For six months.  Six months of dancing around topics we couldn’t talk about because if we did we’d end up in tears or screaming or breaking up.

Then, one beautiful spring morning, Mike looked at me over coffee and said the three little words I’d been longing to hear: “Let’s start counseling.”

We had our first appointment the following Thursday.  Within a few weeks, Thursday’s had become our favorite day of the week.  They were our day.  A day we devoted to spending quality time together and getting to know one another.  Every Thursday I’d leave work early and drive to Sherman Oaks where Michael would be waiting for me with my favorite Starbucks latte. We’d walk arm-in-arm to our therapist’s office and no matter how the session ended, regardless of if we were weeping or glowing, we’d go to In N’ Out for dinner and talk about what came up during the session.  And every Thursday, even if we’d started dinner in tears, by the time we kissed goodbye we were holding hands again.

Talking honestly about one’s feelings can be very difficult, but it’s a significant and important step towards learning how to communicate.  We soon discovered that the thing we were refusing to talk about, the thing that had become the fat ugly beast hovering in the room, the thing causing all those weeks of awkward silences was Marriage.  Mike had asked me to move in with him every month for the last six months and each time I’d said, “I won’t move in with you unless we’re engaged.”  I wanted to marry him but I didn’t want to give the milk away for free.  Mike fully intended to marry me, but he needed to know that we could live together without killing one another.  His hesitance to propose wasn’t a reflection of his feelings for me and my refusal to move in wasn’t a reflection of my feelings for him.  We both wanted to live together and we both wanted to get married, we’d just been too scared to talk about it.

A few months after our first counseling session Michael asked me to move in with him and I said yes.  Two months later we were sitting at the top of the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier and his hands were shaking as he held out a tiny blue velvet box.  The stars were flung over our heads, the night air was cool and filled with the scent of the sea and somewhere someone was playing a guitar.  It was the most romantic proposal in the history of all marriage proposals.  I blame it on couples counseling.