My parents cutting the cake at their 1978 nuptials. © Photo courtesy of the Di Meglio family
My parents may as well have had an arranged marriage. My father's family knew my mother's family back when they all lived on the small island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples in Italy. When they all moved to the United States, their families would get together for big Sunday lunches replete with antipasto, meatballs, and lots of conversation. After relatives tried to fix up my father with women, who still lived in Italy, he told them he was going to ask for my mother's hand. He returned to the United States, brought a rabbit (for eating because that's what our people do) to my mother's father and asked for her hand in marriage. My grandfather, who had lived in the United States for a while at that point, responded, "You want to date my daughter, not marry her." My father insisted he wanted to marry her and dating was not necessary. My mom, who had gone to school only in America and was a working woman, said no the first few times my father asked her to marry him. Then, when the families were on the verge of war (Italians do that for this sort of thing), both my father's parents and my mother's parents agreed that the kids had to get together one more time to make peace. At the "peace treaty negotiations", my mother told my father that if he still wanted to get married, she was willing. Within six months, they said, "I do." And 10 months after the wedding, I came along. The rest is history. They've been married 35 years and never looked back. I consider theirs to be the greatest love story I know.
Why am I telling you this? Well, my parents didn't have some great courtship. There's no imaginative engagement story. There was a ring, of course. But he just gave it to her at the beach after she finally agreed. They didn't do all the navel gazing, self-reflection, or educational experiences that any of us did (and still do years into our marriage). They didn't even consider having that one year of marriage without kids replete with babymoon. They never dated other people. They jumped right into it. Now, I'm not saying this is right for everyone. Certainly, nowadays, things are more complicated than they were back in 1978 when they wed. We're not all coming from the immigrant background of my people, which supported this way of life. So, I'm not recommending you let your families fix you up and marry the first dude that comes along or anything like that. I think, however, that we make too big a deal out of everything, and I'm guilty of this, too.
Maybe we all need to take a step back, give ourselves a break, and realize that love grows over time. You don't have to feel like a lightening bolt just hit you to have a great love story. You just need to find someone who will care for you, respects you, and tries to make you happy. Of course, it has to be a two-way street. If your spouse will miss you when you're gone, then you should consider yourself lucky in love. It's pretty simple really.
Passover has already begun and we're smack in the middle of Holy Week with Easter right around the corner on Sunday. So, lots of people are going to be spending time with their in-laws. It's an opportunity for bonding and an easing of tensions. Or it can be a time of stress and arguing. It's up to the people involved how the day goes. Here, we've offered some advice, so everyone survives and maybe has a little fun to boot:
My husband and I have had to live on different continents at various points in our marriage. But until yesterday, we had been together for our longest consecutive stretch ever - one and a half years. Now that he's gone again, I am contemplating distance and the heart. When you're together every day, you do tend to take each other - or at least the fact that you're in the same room in the same country - for granted. When you're apart in a long-distance marriage, you remember to treasure every glance, every hand held, every kiss, and all the rest. I guess what I'm saying is that it is true - at least for us - that distance makes the heart grow fonder. What about for the rest of you in long-distance marriages? Does distance make the heart grow fonder or just angrier?
Trust is the crux of a good marriage. It makes you feel secure in a world that is anything but secure. Once trust is gone, it's tough to get it back. That's why I was intrigued to hear about how one couple is facing a breach of trust and an empty nest at the same time. When the wife turned to an ex-boyfriend after her daughters went off to college and she was left at home with hubby, who no longer seemed to have much in common with her, the marriage faced crisis. Her husband found out about her confiding in her ex and now the uphill battle to regain that sense of security is on. Find out what their chances are in "Empty Nest and Breach of Trust."
Cell phones and other technology threaten your relationship. © Photo by Francesca Di Meglio
My husband is happy to play with his phone all day long. Seeing him lying on the couch with that thing on his hand has become the equivalent of nails on a blackboard for me. I have the urge to grab it from his hands and throw it out the window, especially when I'd prefer he play with our son, help me with some chores, or actually talk with the people sitting in front of him. But technology is part of our lives. In a few days, he's going to be returning to his native Italy, and my son and I won't be joining him for a couple of months. We're staying put in the United States. This means that technology will become our friend again. It will be our means of communicating and staying close despite the ocean between us. So goes my love-hate relationship with this digital age.
Other couples have their problems with technology, too. It's easy to let e-readers, laptops, phones, and other gadgets get the best of us. It's not fair to our spouses. So, I got in touch with April Masini, the relationship guru of AskApril.com, and turned her advice into rules for the digital age. Check it out and save your marriage from modernity.
I realized marriage wasn't at all as I had imagined it about an hour into mine. We were in a lovely hotel room on the beautiful Italian island of Ischia, the birthplace of our ancestors, and I had 3,000 little elastics that needed to be removed from my hair, a dress the size of the island that I couldn't get off, and I needed to fart...badly. So, I let one go, and I told my new husband that he married me for better or worse, in sickness and in health, and that meant flatulence was part of the deal. It also meant, he'd be helping me get out of this get up and all those elastics. He did, and it was far from the last time that marriage wasn't so pretty.
If you're recently married or about to get married, I don't want to sugarcoat things for you. Marriage is hard, and it can be ugly. Often, it will include one or both of you feeling gassy. While I encourage you to enjoy every minute of wedding planning and engagement, I think you need to realize that the magic of one day is just that - the magic of just one day. That's the first step in facing the realities of a lifetime of commitment. The hard work really begins after that one day. In the hopes that you can learn from the mistakes of many a bride and groom before you, I've published, "5 Ways to Ruin a Marriage before It Starts." Read it and avoid being that spouse. Please.
Marriage is tough. Marriage when you are parenting is tougher. My son is only 2, and my husband and I have already had disagreements about his upbringing. We mostly agree on the big stuff. But the every day discipline - should we do time out yet or wait until he's older, what is the proper way to teach him to share? - gets us to argue sometimes. It's the kind of thing we can get past. We are doing time out for two minutes when absolutely necessary, and we're practicing "my turn, your turn" with his cousins on the sharing front.
As they say, "Little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems." So, I'm bracing myself for the future disagreements about parenting. And I've already seen how serious problems with kids can get in the way of a couple's marriage. Here's some help with parenting and marriage:
A long while ago I wrote a story about how to deal with the differences that arise when you and your spouse have different religions. Since it's the time of year, when religious holidays, such as Easter and Passover, might bring up some of these issues, I decided to update the article by adding helpful links to other relevant content. You can check out the changes at "7 Tips When You Marry Outside Your Religion."
The New York skyline welcomes couples every night of the year. © Photo by Francesca Di Meglio
I've decided to take back the night. This phrase has held many meanings over the years, namely on college campuses as a pro-women shout out calling for safer streets and protection from crimes against women, such as rape. I'm all for safety and security of women, both inside and outside of marriage, but this time around I'm talking about taking back the night for my husband and me. There was a time in our life when we had joy and romance and things were exciting. We spent a lot of time discovering New York City (see photo above), which is close to our home and my old stomping ground. Granted, I expected things to slow down and get a little more routine once we were married, and especially now that we have a son. But every once in a while I decide to take back the night, to insist that we break out of the routine. During the last two weeks, we have gone out to eat twice, and we did some light shopping over the weekend. We even held hands in the car once. Our son tagged along, but that just made the time together even more precious. And it has me encouraging all of you to take back the night, too.
A bride kisses her groom in Ischia, Italy. © Photos by Elite Foot
Folks around here are gearing up for wedding season, which is just around the corner. To get myself ready for the big white dresses, sparkly receptions, and make-me-cry vows, I decided to surf the Internet. What I found was totally unexpected. It's kind of dark, but I just couldn't turn away, very much like a train wreck. I came across wedding confessions on various sites. Of course, the confessions are anonymous, so there's no fact checking on this stuff. But there was a bride who lost her virginity on her wedding night... to the limo driver instead of her groom. Another groom who slept with the bridesmaid. And a wedding guest who had slept with all the groomsmen and the groom. I'm not sure I'd have the guts to attend such an event, but I digress. Beyond sex, there were people who enjoyed partying with their friends and family well after the wedding ended (hurray!) and brides who thought the groom would have been better off with someone else (so sad!). You can visit the confessionals yourself. Here are some of the lists that turned into my guilty pleasure this afternoon:
And the most revealing (err, disturbing) of the lists -