How You Talk To Your Partner Matters

Halfway through the meal, Richard stopped. “I was writing down everything you said,” Richard confessed. “It was a homework assignment for school.” My first reaction was to PANIC.

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And How Are You Crazy?

Helen Fisher says that couples want to know everything about a potential life partner before they tie the knot. But when I first met my husband, I didn’t care if a closet door was left open. People change. And maybe that’s the point.

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From The Core- One Year Anniversary!

BLOG-ONE YEAR AND COUNTINGIt’s been a year! My first From The Core post appeared July 28, 2014.

I was scared and unsure:

Would people like what I wrote and how I wrote it?

 Was I ready for the world of social media?

 What if I made a grammatical mistake?

Well, I did make errors. Some I was able to fix, others I wasn’t.

And remarkably, I survived.

Reader comments kept me going.

Some of you responded directly on the blog site, some on Facebook, some on Instagram, some by private text message and many in person: at the grocery store, at parties and on the street.

(You’d be surprised how many people are hesitant to comment through social media. I was happy to learn, I wasn’t the only inhibited one.)

Tuesdays became my favorite day of the week as I woke to other bloggers liking my post and tracking how many people had read.

I heard from people I hadn’t talked to in 20 years, from people all over the country and yes, even an old boyfriend.

My work was read in Australia, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Spain, France, Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Israel, Lebanon, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and more.

A special thanks goes to my friends and family who let me write about them, their outrageous stories and vulnerable moments.

All year, friends teased that they had to watch what they said in front of me for fear they’d end up in a post.

I heard everything from, “Shhh, she’s going to write about you” to “It’s good Corie’s not here.” (Yes, people repeat these things to me.)

Looking for material or attempting to drum up good conversation, this blog has been the impetus for many a dinner table debate.

Over the course of this year, I wrote about topics that mattered to me.

Equal rights- Gay Marriage

Empathy- Still Alice

Marriage- Why Are So Many Marriage Essays Going Viral?

Parenting- Parenting Gone Well

Friendship- Friendship Matters

Sex- Masters of Sex

Education- Doodle Power

Addiction- Monkey See, Monkey Do

Writing- Writing: It Could Come Back to Bite You.

The Environment- Earth Day 2015.

I wrote about topics that peturbed me slightly- Pouting Face Emoji

And things that annoyed me greatly- A Tip for My Uber Driver.

I wrote about what I found comical- Braces: The New Chastity Belt and Are You A Control Freak Parent?

And things I feared- Fear: The Good The Bad and The Ugly.

Writing about these topics made me focus on them, and in writing Gone Girl No More, I faced my apprehension, put myself out there, and finally got headshots!

Daring greatly (I'm a Brene Brown lover) I'm posting them here.

Help me choose the new From The Core photograph so I can get rid of the blurry one on my About Page.

HEADSHOT #1

HEADSHOT #1

HEADSHOT #2

HEADSHOT #3

 

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the night my husband asked me to marry him so this is kind of a double anniversary for me.

And it’s appropriate that my blog about relationships and my marriage share an anniversary because as long as I’m married to my husband, I’ll always have plenty to write about!

Wink Emoji

P.S. Thanks for reading!! And don’t forget to pick a headshot favorite!!

Traveling With Friends

BLOG-CAVESWe play the Newlywed Game even though we are the opposite.We are four couples– all married close to three decades.

We travel Italy on a boat. Close quarters.

From the moment we step onboard, until the moment we get off eight days later, we are together—morning, noon and night.

We take turns, three years in a row, getting the Master Bedroom. This year was my turn.

For a week straight, we don’t wear shoes. Boat rules.

We dance on deck to Marvin Gaye. We laugh at shrewd one-liners.

Everything we eat is delicious: arugula, pasta pomodoro, figs. All different than in the United States.

One bright morning, Italian men in row boats paddle us inside the Blue Grotto singing, “Volare oh ohhhh, Cantaree, oh oh ohhh.” The light through the cave, glorious. We swim– the sea electric blue.

We know each other: The Control Freak, The Picky Eater, The Electronic Genius, The Bloody Mary Lover.

We share everything. We negotiate and compromise. For this week, we are married to each other.

Late one night, we journey from Ponza to Sardinia, a 16 hour, overnight, expedition.

We sit at the bow and stare at the stars looking for: Orion’s Belt, The Milky Way, The Big Dipper.

I am uneasy because we are alone in the middle of the sea, no land in sight. I think about Columbus, the bravery. No electricity, no radar, no knowledge of what lay ahead.

The night wind blows, the sea waves break against the boat.

Around us, darkness—the only light from the stars above— and the Shabbat candles, four sets, burning bright in the main cabin.

Let's Talk About Sex

BLOG-Let's Talk About ItI was never one to talk about my sex life. I thought discussing sex was distasteful. Where did I get that notion?

According to the New York Times article, Let’s Talk About Your Sex, I’m not alone. Even couples therapists don’t talk about sex.

Or at least, they didn’t until recently. And shockingly, couples therapists aren’t required to have any training in sex.

But there are provocative voices emerging in the field of couples therapy and the questions these therapists are asking and the ideas they are probing are gaining my attention.

A few months back, in a blog post titled, Your Brain and Love, I recommended Stan Tatkin’s book, Wired for Love. The premise of the book is that if you understand your partner's brain and attachment style, you can defuse conflict and build a secure relationship.

I am now reading Hold Me Tight, by Sue Johnson. She is the developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy and believes we are emotionally attached to and dependent on our partners in much the same way that a child is on a parent for nurturing, soothing and protection.

Both books emphasize safety, loyalty and attachment as the foundations for intimacy.

But the New York Times article also mentions therapist, Ester Perel, who I wrote about in a blog post called, Desire and Marriage: A Pardox? She believes that the current conversation around intimacy and sex are limiting, that while an affair can be an act of betrayal it can also be about expansion and growth.

Dr. Nelson, the author of The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity, is also noted.

Both Ester Perel and Dr. Nelson believe that a marriage is not over after an affair. They are broadening the conversation, not speaking in absolutes, asking important questions. They are curious, studying.

In regards to an affair, Ester Perel speaks about being an investigator as opposed to a detective. A detective wants to know where and when and with who. An investigator wants to get to the meaning of the affair.

The New York Times article attempts to position Sue Johnson against Perel and Nelson and I’m wondering why we feel the need to turn their ideas into opposing ones, a battle of it’s either this or that.

Why can’t we look at their ideas as this and that?

All of the therapists mentioned above are adding to the conversation about what it means to partner with someone you love. They are changing the dialogue, challenging old rules and supporting new ways of being in relationship.  Some of their beliefs (like how an affair can draw a couple out of deadness or that your couple bubble comes first, even before your own children) can feel frightening or downright outrageous.

But they are talking, stretching our beliefs, and I admire that.

Not too long ago sex wasn’t taught in school. People feared that talking about sexuality would encourage kids to have sex prematurely. But some were having sex anyway so why not educate them, give them information that could prevent them from contracting a disease or getting pregnant.

Dr. Nelson trains therapists to ask a couple about sex in the first session. “If you’re not talking about sex, you’re perpetuating the idea that they shouldn’t be.”

So in an effort to move out of darkness and into possibility, I agree, Let’s talk about sex.

Gay Marriage

BLOG-Delcaration-760x760“Who’s happy?” one of my friends said over drinks this past weekend in regards to marriage. He wasn’t being facetious. He was really asking. Okay maybe he was being a bit tongue-in- cheek since he is actually happily married.

But as I looked around at my group of friends, I saw something I’d never really seen before:

A friend who was divorced and with her new husband. A friend who was there alone because she was in a fight with her spouse. A friend in the middle of a divorce. A friend who is widowed. And one married couple.

That same day the New York Times reported: 5-4 Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide.

So of course, this historic news came up in conversation with my friends.

“It will be the new normal,” one of my friends said, a bit concerned or at least unsure. “It’s all the children of today will know.”

“That’s okay,” another friend responded. “Fifty years ago Blacks and whites didn’t share the same public restrooms and then that became the new normal.”

How was that reality even possible?

I guess it’s a good thing that situation feels antiquated and, more to the point, it is evidence that in time we'll look back and wonder how we could've denied marriage rights to any particular group.

I must admit I stared for a long while at the twelve photos of the same-sex couples on the cover of the newspaper, wanting to know their stories, imagining their lives— what it was like for them before this vote and what life would be like for them now.

I took a hard look at these people, happy for them, feeling celebratory that they’d accomplished this goal—to be together, openly and legally.

And now they had what we had.

Marriage.

And yet here we were a handful of mostly married people: all living our own individual lives, all making different choices, at different turning points.

What did we all have in common?

Choice.

Maybe the divorced friend would remarry, maybe not. Maybe the married couple would stay together, maybe not.

I recently read that the word gay has become so prevalent in meaning homosexual that people hesitate to use the term in its original sense to mean happy or joyful.

I’d like to use the word in its original meaning here.

If it’s what you choose—Gay Marriage for all.

Your Brain and Love

BLOG-BEATLES QUOTE 3What would it look like if you put your marriage (or love relationship) first? (Before work, before your friends, before yourself?)

What would it feel like if you could count on your spouse for security and safety?

(No matter what.)

What if your marriage/ partnership wasn’t about you?

What if it was about itself?

These are some of the questions presented in Stan Tatkin’s book, Wired for Love.

Tatkin, writes about “conscious partnership”, which is a commitment to the needs of the relationship rather than to the needs of the self.

He suggests couples create a Couple Bubble, a mutually constructed cocoon that holds a couple together and protects each partner. The Couple Bubble Agreement is, “We Come First”.

Tatkin discusses attachment theory, which focuses on the bonds between parent and child. Tatkin suggests that how individuals attach as children (securely attached, insecurely avoidant, ambivalently attached) has a direct correlation to how one will bond in a romantic long-term relationship. Those early experiences, where we get our sense of safety and security, are the blueprint for our relational wiring.

The bad news is that if your early experiences didn’t go well, your adult relationships might suffer.

The good news is that in this new paradigm for couplehood, which integrates recent brain research with ideas of attachment theory, you can rewire your brain; and realize a secure and healthy adult relationship.

Basically, it’s using science to make your love relationship work.

Wired for Love proposes ten guiding principles, which I found highly beneficial.

Ultimately your partnership has the potential to minimize each other’s stress and optimize each other’s health.

I wish I’d had this book early on in my relationship.

I might’ve done so many things differently.

But I have a bunch of weddings coming up and I can’t think of a better gift.

Why Are So Many Marriage Essays Going Viral?

Oprah Winfrey I want my marriage essay to go viral.

Why You’re Not Married, written by Tracey McMillan went viral.

Marriage Isn’t For You, written by Seth Adam Smith went viral. It has over 30 million views!

Both Tracey and Seth have book deals, and Tracey was on Oprah!

At the time of his post, Seth had been married for only a year and a half. Tracey’s been married 3 times.

Okay, I’m happy for them. Really I am. And I’m not suggesting they don’t have anything to share or teach; but come on, I’ve been married for 32 years!

If staying together is the goal (which I guess is questionable as far as goals go) I’ve got the credentials. I’m the one who should have a marriage essay read by millions. I should be on Oprah.

I mean really, where are the people who’ve been in long-term marriages? They’re actually not on Oprah.

Exception: Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want. He’s great, and his book is awesome, and he’s been on Oprah a number of times; but we need more role models. Good ones.

And fast.

Because marriage is getting a bad rap.

People are choosing not to get married at all, as in NEVER. Or they talk about first marriages like it’s a bachelor degree, something they will eventually move on from in order to pursue a second marriage, their graduate degree.

There are some misconceptions I’d like to clear up:

Long-term marriage doesn’t mean 10 years. Ten years is a phase, a bleep in a life, like adolescence. Long-term means you go through all the developmental stages together: playing house, raising children, growing old, facing health issues, dying. A lifetime.

A partner is not someone who stays home changing diapers and cooking you dinner while you pursue every dream you ever had.

Respecting each other’s differences doesn’t mean you’re awesome because you don’t change the music when The Carpenters are on and you prefer Eric Clapton. (Okay, full disclosure- that’s my house.)

And monogamy is a full-time job. If you do it part-time there’s less insurance and fewer benefits.

Look, I’m not judging. My philosophy is that everyone should be happy. And what would make me really happy is to have my marriage essay, or any of my essays for that matter, go viral!

But back to my initial question: If marriage is on the decline why are essays with marriage as a keyword wildly popular?

Why was Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus on the topseller list for 121 weeks?

Why is the book, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts a hit?

Why are we watching Dr. Phil? Broken Nose, Broken Marriage. Dr. Phil, Save My Marriage, Save My Life.

Why when I saw a friend on Facebook had taken a test that told her who she was married to in her past life, I was intrigued? I shouldn’t have cared but she got Jim Morrison. I wanted Jim.

I thought about taking the test but worried I’d get Barry Manilow.

I had to know.

I took the test.

And I got John Lennon. I couldn’t have been happier. He’s a peace-loving artist. And he’s cool.

You’d think I had better things to do with my time like write a really great marriage essay. One that would go viral. But no. I needed to know who my fantasy husband from a different life might’ve been.

Here’s what I think. Even though marriage is on the decline, for many of us, a fascination exists. There are things we want to know about relationship: how to make it last, how to make it better, how to fix what’s broken. Aha! The “in” for my marriage essay- When Your Marriage Breaks.

Maybe it’s physiological or sociological or biological or historical but there is something in us that yearns to unlock the mystery of marriage. We want to get it right.

Granted, I’ve never been on Oprah but here’s my marriage advice: Relationships have their rough spots and you have to figure out how to navigate those moments like jujutsu.

For example: when your spouse stops listening to you when you talk, (which is inevitable, even if temporary) start writing.

And pray it goes viral.

Masters of Sex

Sex QuoteWe all know them. Those women who fake a migraine or stay in the bathroom long enough for their husbands to fall asleep.

They are masters of sex all right, masters of getting out of it.

But why?

According to Denise A. Donnelly, an associate professor of sociology at Georgia State University, who studies sexless marriage, an estimated 15% of married couples haven’t had sex with their spouse in the last 6 months to one year.

Isn’t that strange? We live in America, the land of the free, and of hot Hollywood sex. We are a sex-craved culture. So, what’s up?

It seems that even singles are affected wanting less from partners, preferring to hookup rather than to build a relationship. But interestingly, hooking up is on the decline as singles choose virtual relationships, flirting via phone or computer with no intention of meeting one another.

It’s true hearts are unreliable; but are humans going through a metamorphosis, evolving into beings that don’t need intimacy?

Can we really protect ourselves from the fact that someone could stop loving us, leave us (emotionally or physically) or they could die?

In the Showtime series Masters of Sex, and in actuality, Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson pioneer studies in human sexuality, devoting their lives to sex research. But their real life story feels like a cautionary tale. Virginia Johnson gave up her dream of getting an education to work with Masters. She submitted to a sexual relationship with him as part of her job; and ultimately, she married him. Only to be left years later when he fell in love with someone he knew from his youth.

The lesson to be learned seems evident: You can’t be left if you leave first, or if you abstain, and never show up in the first place.

Sure it’s scary to connect deeply with another person; but maybe then engaging becomes worth it.

Sex therapist, and author of Passionate Marriage, David Schnarch, helps partners maintain a connection during sex. Read an interview with Dr. Schnarch who says that good sex is not about elevating your heart rate; it’s about elevating your heart.

Quickies, sexting, hookups and sex with your eyes closed keep us from emotionally attaching and being vulnerable.

Now that’s what I call safe sex.

Desire and Marriage: A Paradox?

800px-Small_Red_RoseMy friend sent me a text at midnight: I need therapy. She’d just had dinner with a couple that have been dating for three months. She’s been married for twenty-five years.

My husband doesn’t look at me like that. We have to discuss this. Why doesn’t my husband look at me like that?

Laughing so hard I thought my stitches would pop, I wrote: I just sent my husband to buy me stool softener. Maybe that’s why.

(In thirty years of marriage I’ve never asked this of my husband but post-surgery...)

Anyway, isn’t that the point? When you live with someone, share a life with someone, a real life, can there be mystery?

My final text before going to sleep was, You can’t compare three months of dating to twenty-five years of marriage.

But I woke thinking about this.

According to Ester Perel, a NYC therapist and best-selling author of Mating in Captivity, “Desire needs distance, freedom, dream, mystery. It is that very freedom that allows us to maintain desire that also has the risk to separate us. The freedom posits risks but without freedom we don’t maintain the intensity of desire.”

It seems impossible to have distance, freedom and mystery in an intimate long-term relationship. But Perel writes, “Reconciling the erotic and the domestic is not a problem we can solve; it is a paradox we manage.”

There is a well-known cartoon by Sam Gross that was printed in the New Yorker. Two snails are talking. They are staring at a scotch tape dispenser and one snail says to the other, “ I don’t care if she is a scotch tape dispenser. I love her.”

The shapes of these things appear the same but what else is known? This is what we do in the beginning of a relationship. We see some things and we conjure up the rest; part fantasy, part denial. And the distance and mystery stokes yearning.

Ester Perel asks an important question in regards to her work on desire.

Can we want what we already have?

 

The Other Woman

I resist technology. My family jokes that I can’t turn on the television but that’s not true. What is true is that I like some hi-tech advances and refuse to go along with others. I’ve stopped calling 411 and now use Google; but I still insist on looking out the window instead of using a weather app. In France, last summer, Mark reserved a rent a car with GPS. I hated the sound of the woman’s voice. She kept barking out orders and interrupting every conversation.

“Can’t you turn that thing off?” I asked. “No, we need it,” Mark insisted. “No we don’t. She’s always wrong.” “That’s ridiculous.”

Call me stupid or old-fashioned but I wanted to get us where we were going. I wanted the challenge. I get that going it on our own wasn’t imperative, and could be construed as unnecessary as someone insisting on memorizing a cell phone number instead of adding it to contacts. But getting lost and finding our way, I claimed, was part of the journey, wasn’t it?

Mark likes to call the shots, do things his way. It’s difficult for him to accept influence from me; in life and in the car. So when the GPS told him to take a left and I said to take a right, he listened to the GPS, defending the voice from the navigation system with vigor.

“I can’t believe how you’re sticking up for this thing,” I said pointing at the dashboard. “It’s like there’s another woman in our car.” The GPS voice droned on. “Marguerite. That’s what I’ll call her.” “Call who?” Mark asked.

Before long, we were lost. I know you must be thinking that’s not possible. But that’s the thing about technology, if the program or setting is off, if the computer is inadvertently told to do the wrong thing, you’re going to end up with a problem. So, we got lost. Marguerite had us going in circles.

“I told you to take a right,” I said. “You have to use your head and common sense. You can’t follow blindly. Bad things happen when people follow blindly. Look what happened during World War II.” “Don’t you think that’s a bit dramatic?”

Eventually, with my help, we found our way to the highway. We zoomed on, parallel to the sea, Mark going way too fast. Instead of enjoying the beautiful flowers and trees along the roadway, I sat stiff and kept imagining my funeral, wondering if the upcoming tunnel was like the one Princess Diana died in.

“You’re going too fast. Please slow down.” “I’m going 110 kilometers. Everyone in France drives this way.” “Please slow down.”

When you sit in the passenger seat, you give up control. I had flashbacks of the time our rent a car soared over a cliff in Colorado; Mark, me, and four of our children inside. The car landed on a boulder, perched like a bird in its nest, instead of rolling and rolling, but it was totaled; a huge crack in the windshield where my bare foot had landed. I’d tried to control the situation, stop the car from going over the cliff, by stepping involuntarily on imaginary brakes. Remarkably, other than my sprained ankle, we were all fine. (Although my son, Richard claims he bit his tongue.)

Mark slowed down and for a few minutes I was able to relax. He was okay when a Lamborghini sped past us but lost it when a Fiat whizzed by. Ultimately, we got where we were going.

“Marguerite did a good job,” Mark said pulling up to our hotel. “She got us here.” “You’ve got to be kidding. I got us here.” “You’re jealous! I can’t believe you’re jealous of the GPS voice,” he laughed. And if I am honest, I was. I wanted him to listen to me. But instead I said, “That’s ludicrous.” “She does have a lovely voice,” Mark instigated. “Well then you can have dinner with her,” I said half-kidding, half-hurt. “She’s not perfect,” Mark said. “She doesn’t have your legs.” “She’s a controlling, manipulative, bitch who always thinks she’s right. She’s always telling us what to do and where to go.” “But when I drive the wrong way, she doesn’t yell at me. She nicely helps me find the right way.”

We just bought a Tesla. It has an app that lets you change the temperature in the car from your cell phone. It’s meant to be a helpful feature, one that allows you to warm up your car while you wait in your house on a freezing cold day. But I’m miserable about it. I envision Mark sitting behind his desk, at his office, changing the temperature in our car from his cell phone while I’m driving and there’s no one even in the passenger seat.