The Relationship Post Mortem

I spoke of my friend yesterday, and how she doesn’t love the relationship that her daughter is in. The update is, the boyfriend broke up with the girlfriend on Monday (coincidently right after his graduation weekend)

You would think my friend would be relieved, which she is, sort of. Of course her first thought was – “I wish I knew why he broke up with her.” (of course my first nasty thought was – maybe his Mother didn’t like her- I know- I’m bad)

So here’s the question for today:

Do we really want to know why someone ended a relationship?

There are millions of reasons why two people break up. My sister once ended a relationship because she didn’t like the way he brushed his tongue. Some are tangible, logical reasons: they drink too much, they live too far away, they don’t treat me well. We can put a name to these: there is one specific thing that makes the relationship not good. But what about when there is no “big” reason?

Ok- the boyfriend broke up with the girlfriend. What if the reason is seemingly silly, like the tongue brushing thing. Do you need to know that a guy thinks you have some little quirk that is harmless but a problem for them? What if a woman thinks you have a hobby that is silly? What’s the point of knowing? Are you going to change?

See- that’s my thought: Is knowing why someone broke up with you beneficial? Are you going to stop the behavior they don’t like, or start doing something that they do like? Or in general- will it be a catalyst to some sort of change? Will it make you think about yourself more clearly? Or will it make you feel bad about who you are?

In theory, I guess there’s something to closure. I broke up with you because of A, B, C, F and G. Thank you next. But how much time are you going to spend dissecting the reasons? Are you going to question why you behave that way? Are you going to overanalyze your characteristics to the point you question everything you do? Are you going to beg the other person to come back because you vow to change?

Do you need to change because someone doesn’t want to continue dating you?

We also have my favorite answer to why I’m breaking up with you:

It’s not you, it’s me.

Is there a worse line in the history of stories we tell one another?

What does that even mean? It’s not you, it’s me. Why would you ever say that to anyone? Is that an actual reason to stop dating someone? I’d rather someone not tell me a reason than to say that tired, tired, lame excuse. Don’t insult my intelligence.

Of course, there is one step lower than INYIM: ghosting. When did it become acceptable behavior to just stop communicating with someone? And I don’t mean after one date- I mean people that have been in a relationship and then just cease communication. Did people start ghosting to get out of explaining why they no longer want to date someone? Did the relationship post mortem expectation become so intense that people feel it’s easier and better to just walk away?

I know I threw a lot at you today. But what are your post break up expectations?

 

 

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Really?

I was talking to a friend the other day- the incident she was talking about and the ensuing discussions have been tossing around in my mind for awhile. I still don’t know how I’m going to express my ideas today, so bear with me. I know there will be a point eventually.

My friends 19 year old college daughter was dating a guy she knew in High School. They didn’t date in hs, but were “best friends” ( I italicize this because that is probably going to be a whole other blog). While they were at two separate colleges in two separate states that are reasonably far apart for a college student they decided to begin dating.

The dating began a few months ago- with girl A going to visit boy B. Fine. He then asked her to come back for his frat formal in April and then again for his graduation in May. Let’s start out with how much grief this caused my friend. She did not understand why her daughter was going to either of these events. I looked at her: why wouldn’t a guy want his girlfriend to be at these events? And why wouldn’t the girl want to go?

Well, it turned out this was all a red herring. She didn’t care about the events. She just doesn’t like the guy. Apparently he’s a history major (the shame and the horror) and he’s not going to go to law school (NOOOO) and his parents are questionable. They make too much money and go to the Caribbean too much. (Can you imagine New Yorkers wanting to go to the tropics? For shame) And the big thing was – “he doesn’t have ambition. He’s not a go getter like my daughter.” Side note- perfectly nice girl, lots of adjectives to describe her but go getter is not one I would add to the list. And then the kicker: “How will he support my daughter?”

See- she was already thinking they’d get married. Because, you know, they were dating for three months in college.  And that is surely exactly what every 19 and 21 year old are thinking. (sidenote- my friend married her first real boyfriend from college- unsuccessfully I might add)

so…

Are we allowed to have expectations of who our children date? Are we allowed to have expectations of how those relationships will play out? Outside of abusive relationships, do we have the right to tell out children who they can and can not date?

My Husband is Jewish and I am Catholic. I think both sets of parents would have preferred that we married within our actual faiths. They didn’t say anything directly, but there have been some passive aggressive references from my Mother in Law over the years. Trust me: she is not thrilled that we put Christmas decorations up. I know this because she actually said “Why are there Christmas things up?” She has commented about how we eat ham on Easter (from the woman who lives on bacon, but all of a sudden its bad to eat pork….) I am pretty positive she is not happy about my daughter attending a Catholic college….

My MIL expected her son to marry a Jewish girl. Is this wrong?

My friend expects her daughter to marry the first guy she’s in a relationship? Wrong?

My friend expects her daughter to marry someone who will make a lot of money. Is this wrong?

What can and should we expect from the pairings our children make?

I am the Most Boring Person Ever

I had a busy day yesterday and when I got to read the comments I noticed that many of them were of a similar thread. So instead of answering everyone individually I am writing a post addressing some of the comments. If I missed your comment/query, don’t worry- there’s always tomorrow…

  1. My worry about empty nesting is not about being bored. I have lots of hobbies that I love. I have absolutely no problem exploring a new interest. I don’t think I’ve said the words “I’m bored” since I was 17.  I’m not worried about the seemingly free hours ahead of me.
  2. Though I love to travel, finances are a consideration. College costs a lot of money.
  3. My Husband and I have been doing “dates” for years. We go out at least one evening a week and usually spend at least one day/afternoon together on the weekends.
  4. Husband and I do theme things: he loves food and I love exploring different neighborhoods, so we meld this together. Over the winter we did our own ramen tour. We found a list (Thrillist) of the best ramen places in NYC and we tried a whole bunch of them (not all on the same day- we did one a week). We would find a theater or exhibit or something fun in the neighborhood of the ramen shop, and make a day of it. Previously we’ve done sandwiches, hand pulled noodles and pizza.
  5. We get along really well. We are not the couple at the restaurant who just stare at one another. We talk. In fact we talk a lot. We laugh. We have fun. But is that enough?

My concerns:

  1. I am a very different person than the one I was 18 years ago. I no longer like hanging out in bars. For the record, if there is trivia, or arcade games, live music or tastings involved, I am right there. I do not like to sit at a generic bar and drink. My husband has friends that love to do this. I mean, this is their idea of a fun night out. To be clear, I am bored after five minutes.
  2. I have become a day person. I like to get out of the house- but I greatly prefer being home at night. Again, my husband is sort of the opposite.
  3. We do not have many couple friends- I have friends and he has friends, but our groups don’t overlap. How do you make couple friends?
  4. We’ve known each other for 25 years- how much more is there to talk about?
  5. My daughter is not a buffer, yet she is. It’s just the way life is set up. She’s at the dinner table with us. She’s on vacation with us. She asks for help with things. It’s having a kid and being a parent. We’re a family- a unit. When one leaves the dynamic shifts.

So…

What’s the secret to long term relationships? What makes some couples work and some implode?

And you know I’m going to overthink and analyze this, so….

The Tale of the Bread and the Bagel

Once upon a time there was a Queen who ruled over her kitchen with a mighty hand.  On Sunday evenings, the Queen liked to clean out the fridge and utilize all the leftovers and veggies that were left. The Queen liked to start off the week with a clean slate. The Queen was a little weird this way…

So one Sunday Eve, the Queen took out a container of lentil/tomato  cassoulet, and a small bowl of rice and set to reheating them. After glancing at the freezer and the cabinets the Queen made a royal decree:

“I have tuna and cheddar, rye bread and bagels.  Who wants what?”

The Princess answered “Tuna, cheese and bread please.”

The King responded. “Bread.  Tuna.  No cheese.”

And the Queen took four slices of rye out of the freezer, and got the tuna down from the shelf. She then began assembling the hodgepodge that would be called “Dinner”. As she stirred and reheated, the King entered the kitchen.  He looked at the griddle where the bread was heating and stated:

“Where’s my bagel?”

And the Queen looked at him askance.

“You said bread.” The queen responded.

“Bagel is bread” The King retorted.

And the yes it is, no it’s not went on for a few rounds until the Queen said:

“If I send you to the royal market and ask you to pick up bread, are you coming home with a dozen bagels?”

The King got a little red in the face and sort of stomped his feet like a petulant toddler. Finally he said:

“Ok.  I see your point.  Maybe you are more correct in this incident.  But you have to understand my point of view.”

And the Queen just looked at him for a second, then put two slices of rye bread on each plate and said:

“Just make the tuna.”

And she walked out of the kitchen and lived happily, and correctly, ever after.

 

 

 

Relationship Goals

I don’t do resolutions: I set goals.  I try to figure out areas of my life that need help, and then I attempt to fix them, sometimes more successfully than others. In the upcoming year, my goal is to get better at relationships.

What do I mean by better at relationships? On the surface it would appear that I do OK in that department.  I have reasonably successful relationships with numerous people: friends, family, partners, etc.  I have a fatal flaw involving relationships though.  I tend to push people away.

Luckily, I have been blessed with friends who just push their way in and keep nudging, friends who hold onto the back of you collar tightly and pull you back into the fold. But you see, I’m really good at pushing away the people in my life that matter. Do you know how the majority of my closest friends found out that my Dad has cancer?  In my blog. I can talk about a lot of things (trust me- I can talk) but I have trouble talking about the most important things. I don’t particularly like opening myself up. I have trouble letting people in.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I feel that if I let someone in, they might hurt me. Ironically, I end up getting hurt anyway- because who wants to be friends with someone not committed to a friendship.

So, I’m going to concentrate of talking less about silly things, and more about things that matter. I’m going to listen better- I don’t think I’m a particularly good listener. And I’m going to try to let the people that mean the most to me into my world. I think it’s worth the risk.

 

A Different Type of Gratitude

When I jotted down notes for today’s blog my intention was to complain about something my Husband did. Nothing major, just something annoying.  Then last week I was talking to a friend, and I asked if in my blog I wasn’t particularly nice towards my husband.  The response: well, you do sort of paint him in a negative light.

So I thought about that. And I realized it’s true. When I blog about my Husband I tend to complain, or write when he does something wrong.  Of course, sometimes the stuff he does is so stupid it’s funny, other times it’s because he’s really pissed me off. It’s easy to write about these things- funny and angry practically write themselves- the words just flow onto the page.

This is the thing about long term relationships (19 years)- it’s easy to pick on the flaws- you’re just more aware of them.  At the onset of a relationship you sweep the negative under the rug, you figure you can work on it later.  The beginning is all about the good: presents, sex, fun. But as years go by….

On Saturdays I have been trying to focus on the good parts of my life- the little things that I am grateful for. And I admit, even when I am trying to focus on all the good in my life, I still undercredit my Husband. I forget about the things he does which make my life easier and better. It becomes so easy to miss all the good because it’s so easy to focus on the bad or annoying.

So…going forward…I am going to try to think about the good things my Husband does. I am going to try to not let the little stuff drive me crazy (and as I write this I’m annoyed because he did something insignificant to most but to me it took my out of my morning ritual and it’s eating away at my brain) but I’m going to try to remember the good that he does.

I guess that’s the key to successful, long term relationships: the ability to let the positive shine thought and let the negative slide to the background. There should be a relationship journal where every night you must write down one bad thing and three good things about your significant other. This way, you get to vent, but you also get to praise. You get to look at your SO in a better light, while accepting that they are human and have faults. It’s all about perspective: how we choose to view the people we are with.

When the Rules Can’t Work

I have rules and routines and procedures for everything.  You know this.  My daughter does too- so much so that is what she wrote her common app essay about.  We thrive on having lists and often do things rote.  It works for us.

One of the oldest rules we have is my meal rule.  When my daughter was in pre school, the year when the stream of activity begins, I made a rule.  Unless someone was out of town, we had to eat three family meals.  It could be breakfast, lunch or dinner, but the three of us had to be around the table together three times per calendar week.

Last week, for the first time in thirteen years, we were not able to do this.

When I was doing my Sunday prep work a few weeks ago, I looked at my calendar, looked at everyone’s commitments and shook my head. Work outings, college meetings, prior engagements, busy lives,  equaled the three of us barely being at home at the same time.

And it made me think of the future.

This rule has gotten us through my daughters formative years.  It has helped us as a family – because we were able to check in with one another- we knew when something was troubling us, we knew what was going on in one another’s lives.  Spending facetime, no phones or electronics, does really help communication.  And we all know communication leads to relationship success, or increases your chance of success anyway.

But I have now faced the harsh reality. Our days of family meals are almost over.  My days with my daughter living down the hall is almost over. There will be new rules and procedures put in place (you know I will have some sort of weekly phone call plan) but my life is about to change.

Ready or not, here it comes.  Glad I have seven months to prepare.

Grand Gesture- Take 2

A few weeks ago I wrote I post – “The Grand Gesture”.  I was not happy with how this post turned out.  It didn’t convey the message that I was trying to express.  Now I’ve written a lot of posts in my short blogging career, and obviously some were better than others. But, I was always proud of them because for better or worse, they said what I wanted them to say.  Until The Grand Gesture.  I realized the problem with the post was that I was holding back on something: I had an idea in my head but I wasn’t ready to share that idea with the world.  And it reflected in my writing. Now, I’m still not sharing the catalyst for that post, but I do have an anecdote that I think will help convey my message.  If for any reason it doesn’t, expect a take three in about ten days….

When I was in my twenties I was still unformed. OK- I’m still unformed- so let’s say I was a big ball of goo back then. I met a guy.  I went out with this guy.  And one day we were walking home from a party and he said “Ok. Let’s do this.  When do you want to get married.” No ring.  No prepared speech. No dinner. Not even really a question. In my very gooey brain, I thought- wow- he must love me.  He cut through all the romance and the nonsense and just cut right to the chase.

Stupid.

Needless to say, he would eventually become my ex husband.

So what did I learn from this experience? First off, I may have been at the forefront of a brilliant career, and I may have been really great at my job, but personally I was a mess. I had no idea how to navigate a relationship. I had about a thousand licenses from various government agencies saying that I could be trusted with your money, but I could not be trusted with making rational decisions of the heart. I thought that nonchalance equated to love. I later realized that nonchalance equated to not giving a damn.

Enter: The Grand Gesture.

I think if you love someone you must do something big to show it.  Now, big is a relative term.  It does not have to be renting out the scoreboard at a sporting event.  It does not have to be hosting a party for a thousand of your closest acquaintances. Expensive jewelry need not apply. What big is in this circumstance is meaningful.  You must present the one that you love with something meaningful. And meaningful means different things to different people.

So

You must present the one you love with something meaningful that is unique to their personality and is an expression of your love of them.

You must create an intimacy that is specific to your relationship.

Because you need to show that person how much they mean to you.

All relationships go through ups and downs.  Obviously, the ups are easy to ride out- it’s all rainbows and unicorns. But the downs. How do you get through the downs? What is the thing that makes weathering the downs bearable? I think it’s that expression of love that holds you through- the memory of an event, that piece of whatever they gave to you- I think that expression of love is what makes you remember what you are fighting for. And sometimes you need a reminder of what you are fighting for.

So no matter what stage of a relationship you are in, show the person you’re with how much they mean to you. Tell them. I don’t think there’s a limit to how many times you can show someone that you care, that they mean the world to you, that you love them. Just make it meaningful, from the heart. And make it something your person with like.

Solid relationships. Appreciation. Love. These are not things to be nonchalant about.  These are things to cherish.

Good, Better, Best

Have you ever played the board game “Say Anything”? It’s a favorite in our house for family game night.  Basically, someone asks a question, and the other players pick what they think the reader will answer.  Then the reader chooses which answer is most correct. When faced with LA trivia so to speak, my Husband knows me pretty well.  When given the question- “If you could start again, what occupation would you have?” Husband knows that the correct answer to that question, for me, would be “FBI Profiler”. Yes- you heard it hear first- if I was entering college, I would take the necessary steps to become a profiler (not a writer as you all may have thought).  He knows my favorite dessert (mille crepe cake from Lady M bakery), and that pink is my favorite color.  We have had many long conversations in our years together, but just because he knows the LA trivia file, does he know me best?

When discussing relationships a few weeks ago, Leslie talked about who knows you better, your friends or you significant other. And while it’s true that my Husband knows the facts, are facts the only thing that goes into “knowing” someone?

Last week I most definitely woke up on the wrong side of 50.  I was out of sorts.  Husband- well- he did not notice a thing.  Daughter though- she was all over me.  She knew within a minute of talking to me that not all was right in my world. She was able to read my body language and facial expression, and I guess interpret what I was actually thinking behind the glib words that I had thrown out that morning. So, while she might not know all the facts about me, she can definitely read my moods better. Does this mean that  she “knows” me better?

I have a friend “G”.  I called her a witch last week. (yes- witch with a “W”) and I meant it in the best of ways.  We were having a simple, pleasant text  conversation about the colleges our daughters are applying to and her kitchen renovation. And then she asked a question- basic question, but it was exactly the thing on my mind (and needless to say it had .nothing to do with kitchens or colleges).  I said “How did you know I was thinking about that?” and she wrote back “LOL. I woke up this morning and thought that. Figured I’d ask while we were chatting.” So, does her intuition about me show that she knows me best?

What do we mean when we ask “Who knows me best?”? Is it facts, is it sense of mood, or is it just knowing without saying a word? Does it just depend on who the person is, as some are more emotionally connected or more intuitive by nature? When you say you “know” someone, what do you mean by that?

The people in my inner circle- I think I know them well, but I admit, some I know better factually, while others I just connect with on an emotional level.  I’m not sure what the real difference is. I’m not even sure if there is a difference. But I guess what really matters is the connection that we forge.  And maybe different relationships are supposed to be on different levels…

OK- I’m throwing this over to you: Who knows you best? Family, friends, partner?

 

Out Of Control

Control: determine the behavior or supervise the running of. (dictionary.com) Such a simple word.  Easily defined.  Yet, the connotations are often a little negative. Outrunning my Demons, Claudette and I have been running around the ideas of planning, micro managing and controlling. So what does control actually mean? How does it affect us?

To start, there is one place I am definitely always in control…. But, trust me, that’s a whole other blog topic…

One person in charge.  One person calling the shots.  One person dictating how all others should act. One person who would get really angry if someone else tries to do something without consent. This is how control gets a bad name.  No one wants to be called controlling. If you hear someone being called “controlling” the prevailing theory is that you should run away from that person as quickly as possible. Why would you want to spend any time with a person who’d main goal is to control every aspect of your life?

So- controlling is bad.

Or is it?

Don’t we need people to be in charge?  Don’t we need to have someone who is willing to  take responsibility for what happens, both good and bad?

Think about parenting for a second? What happens when the tail wags the dog, when the kids take over all the decisions in a household? How does that work out for anyone? What happens in a household where the parents are not in control?

Teachers? Same thought.  Does anyone learn anything if a teacher is not firmly in control of a classroom? If the teacher hands out a syllabus, what happens of all the kids toss that sheet in the trash without even looking at it?

So- are we all agreed that sometimes someone has to be in control?

But then we have the bad side.  Sometimes parents can dictate a little too much.  If your kid has a 92 average, do you have the right to tell your kid that they are capable of getting 96’s? Can you tell them who to hang out with, how to spend their time, which classes they should take? Where is the line?

How about with your spouse.  I’ve stated that I don’t feel comfortable telling my adult husband what to do with regards to social situations- to be that is too controlling.  Or is it? Can you tell your spouse that you don’t like one of their friends? What is the line with what you can and can’t tell your significant other?

How is controlling different from micromanaging? To me, micromanaging is having a task and expecting it to be done in a specific, step by step manner.  It’s usually task related.  When I think of a controlling person though, I think of someone who is manipulative, a puppet master.  I see controlling as telling someone what to wear, how to act, not allowing someone to think for themselves. They are the people who will get hostile if you don’t obey them. Those are the people I don’t like to be around.  Those are the people that I do try to stay far away from…

So….control…controlling…

Discuss…