My husband and I steal a smooch during the holidays at Rockefeller Center in 2004. © Photo courtesy of the Gerenini Family
Since we're knee deep in the holiday season, I've been coming up with all sorts of seasonal activities for my family. As a result, I had a few light-bulb moments for couples, too. So, I've added five more suggestions to the "Holiday Date Nights" story. This story focuses on how to get closer to your spouse, de-stress during this stressful season, and get back to love. It's as easy to cozy up to as a cup of steaming hot chocolate with those little marshmallows floating in it. Grab some for yourself and start planning next weekend's holiday fun. It's Monday, so you know you wanna.
'Tis the season of hustle and bustle. But sometimes life happens to you and forces you to slow down. Perhaps, you get a bad cold or someone you love passes away or a serious challenge confronts you and has you questioning everything you've ever known. When this happens, you have no choice but to take a deep breath and refocus. Recently, all of the above happened to me. You might have noticed that I've slowed down. While there may be a blog missing here or there, I am still chugging along. And these experiences are making me stronger and enlightening me. I hope I can share some of my newfound wisdom with you in the next few weeks and months. Here's what I've already revealed:
NEW - What Does Your Gut Say?
Find out about a new study that exposes how effective your intuition about your marriage really is.
Read about a couple who recreated lost wedding pictures as the groom grappled with a terminal illness.
Learn - and relate - to my struggle of trying to be both good mother and good wife.
UPDATED - How to Create Holiday Traditions
Get the full scoop - replete with new links - on how to mingle your holiday rituals with those of your spouse.
While I was working on these items, here's what my colleagues were up to:
Sheri Stritof, the Marriage Expert, shared a story of her mother's engagement ring sinking during the attack at Pearl Harbor.
Daydream about (or actually plan) a dreamy honeymoon in St. Lucia, thanks to the advice from the Honeymoons Expert.
Bake your problems away like I've been doing. Get Christmas cookie recipes from the Baking Expert.
I just wanted to point out that I recently updated the story, "How to Create Holiday Traditions" to include links to other helpful pieces. My hope is that these suggestions inspire you to make this your best holiday season yet. I know it's hard to get into the holiday spirit when there's so much to stress about - all the cookies you want to make but have no time for, the decorations that aren't going to put themselves up, affording gifts for everyone on your list, and everything else you always have to do. But if there is one thing I've learned, especially recently, that you never know how many holiday seasons you have with the ones who you love. So, it's important to make every one as special as possible. It all begins with those traditions - the things you do that don't necessarily cost you a penny. What holiday traditions have you and your spouse started?
I'm still a relatively new mom. My son is only two years old. I work full-time as a freelance writer, editor, and reporter, do the majority of household chores (my own dang fault both because I like things a certain way and because I feel obligated), tend to my son (which can mean anything from crawling on the floor and roaring like a dinosaur to giving him a bath, depending on the time of day), and aim to be a good wife (replete with long talks, romantic dinners, cuddling and then some). But 24 hours is simply not enough for all this.
My husband is a wonderful father. He wants the best for our son, but he wants some of my time, too. After Thanksgiving, I started to make an effort to spend a little time with my husband on the weekends when our son is taking a nap. Normally, I might have cleaned a bathroom or washed the floors during that time. But I decided my moments are too precious, and I need to invest them in things that really matter. So, my floor is not as shiny as usual and the bathroom might have to get cleaned while my son is next to me unwinding an entire roll of toilet paper. (It's a new favorite activity of his.) So, what? At least, I will have cuddled on the couch with my husband while watching bad Italian TV or good American TV dubbed in bad Italian.
This plan is good for my son, too. I reason that he'll build immunity from playing on the dirty floor. Even more importantly, he will thrive if our marriage thrives. Every night, our 2-year-old boy sits between us in bed and pulls both our heads toward one another to make sure my husband and I kiss. Granted, he pushes my husband away after about two seconds and then he has to kiss me himself. But he makes the point that his parents should be in love. Even at two, he gets that. And I imagine those kisses give him a bit of security. You know what? They give me some security, too.
The holiday season has begun, which means it's an extra nice time to hear a warm-and-fuzzy story. That's why I was thrilled to read about a couple, whose wedding pictures were lost at the Walgreens, where they had them developed. The couple did not have the money to pay for professional photos of their big day, and the groom is dying. His bride was devastated at the thought of not having the pictures to keep her memories of him - and the short time they will probably have together - alive. A local photographer offered to retake the pictures for them, which he did. In the meantime, the Walgreens found the missing pictures, according to a story on CBS Sacramento.
What this lovely little story teaches is that it is never too late to take photos or document the important moments in your life. I encouraged couples to take selfies long before it was trendy. And I still think it's a good idea. This year as you gather with your loved ones, be sure to snap a few shots and maybe even write down a few words about the memories you're making, the traditions you are following. None of us knows how much time we have together, and every moment spent with your friends and family is precious and sacred and worth your full attention.
A new study proves that newlyweds' gut instincts about their partners is a good predictor of the marriage's success or failure, according to an article in the New York Daily News. This is not all that surprising. Our guts have a way of speaking volumes to us about a number of issues in our life, so why not marriage, too? What I found interesting about all this is that so many of us seem able to lie to ourselves. We ignore our gut, marry despite reservations, and try to convince ourselves that we'll be happy and everything will work out. But then it doesn't.
The lessons here are that you have to be honest with yourself and you can't ignore your own instincts. I think this is true in your relationship but also in everything else in your life. Your lies - whether to yourself or others - will always catch up with you.
It's a hard knock life for married folk, too. While we are lucky to have a support system in our spouse, we face numerous challenges. Keeping it together during the hard times can bring you down, especially during the holidays. Last week, I was reminded to give thanks for what I do have and try put the rest out of my mind. My husband and our son are the top priorities in my life. And that's it. As a result, I unplugged my marriage a bit in honor of Thanksgiving. Even though I blogged a little less, I was still thinking of all of you and thankful to have you reading my work and most importantly working on your marriages. I want us all to keep up the love as best we can. That's why I churned out these helpful articles last week:
Find out how one couple struggled with the wife's intruding mother and sisters to save their marriage.
Learn how one couple overcame the wife's lies about spending and money she was earning and their spender-versus-saver habits.
Discover how one man hit rock bottom when he lost his job, all his money, and his wife.
While we were all giving thanks, the About.com bloggers were hard at work. Here's some of what they have been sharing:
The Interior Decorating Expert offers up a lovely little entry on choosing a theme for holiday home decor or entertaining. One of her friends hosts a holiday luncheon with the theme of love every year, which would be perfect for newlyweds.
Did you have a simple case of cold feet or was your gut trying to tell you something on your wedding day? Find out with info on a new study about those gut feelings, which was featured on the Marriage Expert's site.
If you're heading south for the winter but still want to experience the chill associated with the holidays, then consider a trip to Gaylord Palms' ICE! in Orlando, Fla. The Florida Travel Expert has the full scoop. I've been and it's a trip. Hubby and I slid down the frozen slides and sat on Santa's icy lap. Don't forget to warm up with hot chocolate afterward.
Unemployment can hit a marriage like a ton of bricks, especially nowadays. It's getting harder and harder to secure a job. Everyone needs money to live, but we also look to our jobs as a symbol of our status, not to mention self-worth. For some reason, lots of companies (or at least many I know) tend to make lay offs and terminations common practice around this time of year. They have practical reasons for doing this as the year ends and they look over their financials. But it's particularly cruel because now we're aiming to please family and friends with gifts (completely unnecessary but a tradition nonetheless), and we're looking at our own financials and hoping for the future. Everyone would like a better tomorrow for themselves and their families every year.
With this in mind (not to mention the friends I have who recently lost their jobs), I began to contemplate how unemployment influences our relationships, particularly our marriages. Around the same time, author Robert Cantrall, who lost his job and his marriage around the same time approached me about his book. So, I conducted a Q&A with him that I think you might find interesting and perhaps even helpful. If you have lost your job, remember that money does not make the person. That is the job of your heart. Love on.
In a perfect world, money wouldn't be as much of a hot-button issue as it is. But we all know this isn't a perfect world, and we need money to live, to survive really. You need it for food, shelter, clothes, and the like. I don't have to tell you. But it also can elevate your status in society. And help you buy items that say something about yourself. And we all have different views on money. Because of this it can cause lots of arguments between spouses. Recently, we chronicled the therapy of Stan and Lucy, who are divided by their money habits. Stan is a saver. Lucy is a spender. She has committed financial infidelity, and the couple is coming to terms with their differences. It's a problem many face. You probably can relate on some level. I know I did.
I know someone who lived with her in-laws and whose sister-in-law walked in on her - without knocking - while she was on the toilet. That's the most obvious example of having in-laws with no boundaries. But there are more subtle ways in-laws step over the line. If you're not living together, then unannounced visits or even too many phone calls can get in the way of your marriage. As an Italian American, I've long had to deal with extended family being very involved in each other's lives. Unannounced visits, inappropriate comments about how to raise your kids and keep your spouse happy, and one family event after another are part of our culture, our way of life. It usually freaks out the folks who marry into it. I don't blame them. It's always nice to have a united family, but it can drain you and keep you from providing enough attention to your immediate family.
For all these reasons and more (I also really want everyone to just get along), I'm thrilled to be able to share the story of Sally and Rob from a recent "Will This Marriage Survive?" column. They too had to confront meddling in-laws. Find out what they did and if they managed to keep their relationship and the one with their extended family intact. And remember to lock the bathroom door when the in-laws are visiting and especially if you're all living together. Lesson learned.