sustain a healthy marriage

At the beginning of the pandemic, I heard jokes about how the birth rate would be at an all-time high. For many couples, this was an opportunity to spend time together that normally wasn’t afforded to us. What was fun and roses at first soon turned into annoyance and a deep desire to jump out the window to get some space. The walls seemed to get narrower with each passing day. I still think that there will be an increased birth rate- for people without children. For those of us with children, the coronavirus has truly tested the bonds of matrimony. Having a healthy marriage takes effort from both husband and wife. The pandemic has made that more difficult.

a healthy marriage needs love and work

Relationships need love and work to continue to flourish. The pandemic has put an increased strain on all of us. This strain cannot help but seep into your marriage. Having your children around you 24/7 with nowhere to go will make even the sanest of people go a little crazy. Having to take care of children and put work into your marriage while quarantined together? That’s a whole new ballgame.

I am happy to say that my husband and I have managed to not kill each other thus far. There are several reasons why we have stayed sane during this time and continue to have a healthy marriage:

tips and strategies to survive marriage

(1) You may not be able to go far, but you can still get some space

My husband started working from home at the beginning of the pandemic, as I’m sure many of you have done as well. Even though he is home, he doesn’t have to be around me all the time. He has an office where he stays during the day, so we aren’t together all the time. It’s nice to know that he is there if I need him, but Brielle and I typically keep to ourselves. Being around each other 24/7 isn’t healthy, and there is such a thing as too much time together!

(2) Divide responsibilities and take time for yourself

Whether you are a Stay-at-Home-Mom or a Working-at-Home Mom, the dynamics have changed because the kids are at home during the day. Take turns watching your kids with your spouse so that each of you can get your work done (whether that means job responsibilities or household responsibilities). At night, split up evening duties so you can each take a break. With all of us being in such close quarters, it is essential that we have time to ourselves. You can exercise, journal, meditate, or read a few pages of a book. Do something that is just for you. It will do wonders for your well-being to discuss with your spouse how you can each take a breather.

date night

(3) Have date nights

Remember those? With kids around, we often forget that before we had our children, it was just the two of us. Just because you can’t go to a movie or go bowling doesn’t mean that your marriage goes by the wayside. Plan a date night at home! Every Saturday evening, my husband and I rotate planning a date. One date was listening to music and relaxing, one time we did a logic puzzle together (yes, that is our idea of a good time-don’t judge). One night where we watched a movie together and snuggled on the couch. On another date night we used Alexa and did an Escape the Room Challenge . Think outside the box, and come up with ways to keep the romance alive.

(4) Talk

Now you might think this one is ridiculous because you’re around each other a lot more than usual, so of course you are talking. You might be talking about bills, work, and adult responsibilities, but are you talking about your feelings? Lean on each other during this stressful time. Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t be afraid to tell your partner if you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, or stressed. Keeping those feelings to yourself will cause resentment and tension in your marriage. Be honest with each other about how you are feeling, and don’t be afraid to ask for help (aka strategy #2).

Just as you need to talk about negative emotions, it is equally important that you talk about positive emotions. Acknowledge your partner’s efforts and vocalize your love and appreciation. Talk about lighter subjects too. Tell your spouse about the funny thing your kid did (or annoying thing, which is more probable under these circumstances). If you aren’t around each other all the time (aka strategy #1), there will always be things to share.

(5) A healthy marriage requires friendship

Even with kids around, you can spend time together cooking dinner. Share common interests (such as a board game you both enjoy) as well as supporting each other’s hobbies (listen to your spouse’s favorite band).

keep the spark alive (6) Keep the spark alive

I understand that during a pandemic most of us are living in sweatpants and haven’t put on makeup in months (or is that just me?). Just as you need to continue to have date nights, you need to put in the effort to bring sexy back. Wear a cute outfit, put on some music and slow dance, or take a few seconds to give your spouse a quick kiss in between wrangling your children. Just as friendship is essential for marriage, so is intimacy.

(7) Remember you are both on the same team

Children are great at manipulating their parents. Remember that you need to work together like a well-oiled machine to make life together work. Raising children is HARD. Life is HARD. Marriage is HARD. You need to work together to parent your kids. Being on the same page is important during a pandemic, as well as throughout your marriage. With tensions so high, it is easy for you to turn on one another. At the end of the day, remember that a win for either you or your spouse is a win for both of you. Talk through difficult issues (aka strategy #4), and try to understand and support each other through this stressful time. Conflict is inevitable, but how you resolve conflict can make all the difference.

(8) Forgiveness

This is something that is necessary in all relationships, but especially in your marriage. Stressful times can bring out the worst in all of us. We may say and do things that we regret. We need to have compassion for ourselves and each other during this pandemic. Remember you are a team (aka strategy #7), and that marriage is being there for one another during the best and worst of times.

 

 

Keeping your marriage healthy is a challenge under normal circumstances. Now, more than ever, we need to appreciate and support the ones we love. This is essential in any relationship. Implement these suggestions, and there is hope that couples can come out of this pandemic with newfound love and respect for one another.

ungrateful thanksgiving

A YEAR OF LOSS AND LONLINESS

Thanksgiving is typically a holiday that I look forward to each year. It is a day of slowing down, spending time with those you love, and showing gratitude for the blessings we have in our lives. This year is different. This year was one of loss and loneliness. It is the year of my ungrateful Thanksgiving.  

Life is comprised of a series of responsibilities. Our goal is to do the best for ourselves and the ones we love while keeping our sanity intact. Between taking care of my daughter, tackling household chores, paying the bills, and fulfilling any other life obligations, it is easy to forget to stop and smell the roses. Thanksgiving is a reminder to halt, look around, and breathe.

Although I am always grateful for what I have, this Thanksgiving I cannot stop and force myself to feel gratitude. I am not going to sit with my husband and daughter and act like Thanksgiving 2020 is the same as the one we celebrated the year before and the year before that. That would be a lie, and an insult to all we endured this year.

It is important to note that feelings are fluid. Both loss and gratitude can be felt simultaneously, but sometimes one is more predominant based on life’s circumstances. For those of you who are struggling with embracing your gratitude, I hope my words bring you reassurance.

global coronavirus pandemic

global pandemic

The pandemic caused the world to come to a complete halt. It eviscerated everything that we once considered normal and routine. Schools shut down, people were left without jobs, many got sick, and quarantining became our new reality. COVID-19 has taught me the importance of not taking anyone or anything for granted.

Contracting COVID is like playing a game of Russian Roulette; you simply don’t know what the severity will be and the long-term effects it will have on your body. Despite our masks and safety precautions, I worry that we may unknowingly catch this virus. I worry about my dad who lives in New York and is almost 70. Each time we get a package and each time we bring grocery items into our house I worry. I try to not worry, but to not take this virus seriously is even worse than worrying.

I know firsthand the devastation that this pandemic caused when my husband’s grandmother and parents got COVID-19. His grandmother, my daughter’s Great-Grandma, was one of 250,000 casualties to a virus that shows no mercy. My in-laws are now long haulers who still show symptoms 6+ months later. Our family will never be the same, and what we once had can never again be. I am ungrateful this Thanksgiving for the pain my family has had to endure.

political division in the united states

political division

This is a year also surrounded with hate and ignorance. Too many people of color had their lives ended by those that we trust to protect us.  Too many families had to bury loves ones for no other reason than the color of their skin. Racism continues to shatter an already broken world.  

The political division in this country has torn us apart as well. Instead of the leaders of our country coming together to bring some semblance of stability and safety amidst the fear, there is a civil war among the parties.  There is no bi-partisan agreement to try and help the millions of people that were laid off or furloughed because of the virus.  It is impossible to turn on the TV or watch the news without the constant reminder that our government, like its people, are in shambles.

I cannot exchange lists of gratitude while there is a tornado of fear, hatred, and death that has swept up our nation. Despite my gratitude, I will not do so in the memory of my husband’s grandmother and 250,000 others, and I will not do so when there is so much uncertainty and pain surrounding us. Instead, this Thanksgiving I will embrace my ungratefulness. 

A New Type Of List during THIS YEAR OF LOSS AND LONELINESS

The holidays under normal circumstances can be painful for some, but now those feelings are stronger than ever for even more people. I don’t believe it is helpful to tell others to focus on what they are grateful for if they are overwhelmed with grief and sadness. It makes them feel pressure and shame, and it is okay for gratitude to sometimes take the back burner.

Therefore, this Thanksgiving will be the first time our family will not state our list of gratitude. Instead we will pause and have a moment of silence and prayer. We will reflect upon this year and the loss and loneliness we each feel. We will then each share lists I never dreamt we’d make on Thanksgiving- our lists of sadness, fear, and confusion.

ungrateful thanksgiving

This ungrateful Thanksgiving we will give our daughter an opportunity to express her feelings and voice her concerns.  We will discuss the uncertainty of that day and the days that will follow. We will acknowledge the harsh reality of the world we live, and the harshness people have brought to one another.

As a parent, I want to assuage my daughter’s fears and kiss her pain away. This Thanksgiving I cannot. What I will tell my daughter is that I have faith in humanity.  I believe that there will be a future Thanksgivings where we will celebrate what we are grateful for, and what we will be most grateful for will be the change that finally took place.

parenting a child with adhd and spd

Imagine this scene: You are shopping at a grocery store, and you see someone nearby (pre-COVID, of course). That person watches your daughter touch various items in the aisle. You try to stop your child, and remind her that she can look, but cannot touch. As you push your cart, your daughter starts running ahead even though you tell her to hold your hand. The person who is watching then shakes their head and mutters something about a wild child. This is a mere glimpse into my life of parenting a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing  Disorder (SPD).

“Parents who have children with special needs, also have special needs. They need to know more than the average parent. Need to do more than the average parent. They need more patience than the average parent, and so much more.” (Parents Supporting Parents).

parenting my child with adhd and spd

The scenario I described at the top is not at all shocking for a parent of a child with ADHD and SPD. The constant struggle to support our children is something that is an everyday part of our lives. Even worse, surveyors assume our children are spoiled and not properly parented.

This makes us feel shame, not only because we feel we are failing as parents, but because our children are being judged.

The purpose of this post is not to discuss strategies, although I’ve used many, which you can find here and here. On behalf of every parent who has a child with special needs, I am giving a glimpse into my experiences with my child who has ADHD and SPD. It is important to remember that “No two kids with ADHD are exactly alike. Their symptoms can vary in type and severity… ADHD isn’t an all-or-nothing thing.” (understood.org, 2014).

My hope is that sharing some of my obstacles will make other moms feel less alone and judged by others. Knowledge is the foundation for awareness and advocacy. My aspiration is that we spread awareness to those who do not understand these challenges.

lack of impulse control and emotional regulation skills

parenting a child with ADHD

One of the biggest challenges I face is my child’s lack of impulse control. Brielle needs constant monitoring. She has hurt herself several times because she runs down the stairs. Also, Brielle jumps off couches, is unable to take a shower by herself because she tries to jump and run in it, and throws herself backwards in chairs. She already fell backwards twice, but fortunately wasn’t hurt (although I aged ten years each time). Many times she went down the stairs at night and jump on the countertops. I continue to have a baby gate at the top of the stairs for my 8-year-old daughter. Whereas other children would learn from these painful mistakes, Brielle continues to put herself in danger.

Emotional regulation for Brielle is also a huge obstacle.

She perseverates on things that cause her to worry and feel sad. Using emotional regulation tools is very helpful, but she still fixates on things and needs extra support to process her feelings and move past them. “Kids with ADHD don’t have the same capacity to manage their emotions. If they don’t have it, how do you expect them to do it? How do you expect them to respond to what you’re asking them to do? It’s like they can’t win.” (Dr. Dawn K. Brown, MD, ADHD Wellness Center, 2016).

As I illustrated in my earlier scenario, taking Brielle with me on errands is a recipe for disaster. She is overly stimulated by all the things in the store and wants to touch everything. Due to her short attention span, she gets very frustrated when having to stay next to me and walk calmly. I only bring her for quick errands while providing redirection and encouragement. If my errand requires me to talk to a cashier or salesperson, Brielle will get restless and try to run around.

parenting a child with adhd who has endless energy and craves sensory stimulation is very difficult

sensory stimulation

Brielle plays outside every day as an outlet for all her energy. However, when playing in the yard, she runs up the driveway towards the street despite my consistent reminders. She tries to take her scooter and sit on it instead of standing. She’s fallen down the driveway on multiple occasions.

Brielle craves sensory stimulation.

She is always seeking out “more.” I am fearful at parks because she climbs up objects without looking where she is putting her feet. She jumps off of high places (I will never forget the time I had to catch her when she walked off a beam midair), and runs around without looking to see if any object can hit her. As a result, I can’t sit at a park and relax. It is imperative that I am hyper alert everywhere. Looking away for a few seconds is the difference between safety and disaster.

From morning until night, Brielle is always on the go. That means that from the moment she wakes up, she is immediately energized. She goes from 0 to 100. No matter my exhaustion or mood, I have to be alert. There is simply no laying low with her.

lack of focusing and difficulty playing independently 

independent play

Everyday Brielle loses her stuff because she is always on the go. She doesn’t remember where she puts her things, so keeping her stuff organized is a must. When she had dance class, there was always at least one item missing. As a result, I had to go on a scavenger hunt with her to find her shoes, her leotard, or her tights. Teachers needed to assist her in making sure that her folders and materials were packed in her bookbag. There were two occasions where she brought her folders back to school and proceeded to misplace them.

They were lost for two months.

Brielle rushes through activities and moves on to something else very quickly. She needs numerous reminders to stop before jumping to another activity. She will leave books on the floor, clothes on the bed, and toys all over unless she is redirected.

Playing independently is a huge challenge for her because using her imagination requires higher level thinking. She has difficulty coming up with safe ways of playing independently due to her sensory issues and impulsivity. I limit her choices to only a few items when she does “quiet time,” and I check in on her regularly.

If I don’t check on her, she does things such as jumping into the tub and turning on the water, spilling water all over the floor, and/or going into closets and taking things out.

Due to her lack of impulse control, she will interrupt and tap me when I am in the middle of something. I cannot look at my emails, talk on the phone, or have a conversation without Brielle trying to get my attention or get into something if I am preoccupied.

Boredom in a child with ADHD and SPD equals trouble. She has gone into my room and looked inside my drawers, in my closets, and through my jewelry. There have been many incidences where she accidentally shattered hung pictures on walls and items on floors because she is running around. I give verbal and visual prompts that she needs to wait for her turn, but this is something she struggles with daily. What may appear to others as being demanding or a troublemaker is actually a child who struggles with delayed gratification. Brielle always acts before she thinks.

inattention and executive functioning

Brielle has difficulty focusing and learning, as well as executive functioning issues. She has an IEP because she needs constant redirection, individualized instruction, and the use of multiple prompts to learn new information. There are times when she is unable to grasp new material because of her processing issues and poor memory.

She has a different learning style than others, but that does not mean she can’t learn.

Brielle has difficulty sleeping because of her sensory issues with her bladder. She will have accidents because it doesn’t register that she has to go to the bathroom. Most often, she uses the bathroom every few minutes because she is overly sensitive to the sensation.

Brielle’s body doesn’t register exhaustion like other kids, so she becomes hyperactive (more than usual) when she gets overtired. She also has difficulty falling asleep because her body and mind won’t quiet down. As Sarah Young explained, “Living with ADHD is like being locked in a room with 100 televisions and 100 radios all playing. None of them have power buttons so you can turn them off and the door is locked from the outside.”

 

 

childs advocate

There are many ways of supporting kids with special needs, and Brielle has made huge strides.

She is not defined by her ADHD and SPD; rather, she is a smart, funny, sweet, loving, sensitive girl who has ADHD and SPD.
“No mom who is actively trying to understand what their child is going through should ever feel like they are not doing enough or they are a bad mom. Your child is very lucky to be loved so unconditionally by you. Some day they will look back and say, ‘I got here because of you.’”

( ourADHDstory.com, 2014).

 
We are our children’s biggest supporters and greatest advocates. Wear that honor with pride and hold your head up high. Remember that your kids are lucky to have a parent who tries as hard as you do.
self love is so important

Self-love is important for all of us. It is crucial for us to learn how to love ourselves.

Self-Love and acceptance are keys to your mental and emotional wellness

We live in a culture that is obsessed with success. It is a never-ending hamster wheel of doing more, working harder, and being judged by our achievements. It’s no wonder that many of us feel like we are failures when the bar is set higher and higher. 
 

I know I felt like a failure when I made the decision to stay home with my daughter rather than work. I felt like I needed to provide some sort of explanation/justification as to why I was choosing not to pursue my career.

There’s also a revolution out there of increasing mental awareness. We are not only expected to do it all, we are expected to win the Olympics of mental fortitude.
 

The truth is, I used to get annoyed when I’d read articles about self-love, self-care, self-help, self-anything. I was barely hanging on by a thread trying to keep my mental faculties somewhat intact. I didn’t need a reminder of the things I wasn’t doing and didn’t feel capable of achieving.

It is the ultimate catch-22; we can’t love ourselves unless we are kind to ourselves, and we can’t be kind to ourselves unless we love ourselves.
 
This leads to the million dollar question: How can we learn to love and be kind to ourselves?
 
Answer: Accept that you are a work-in-progress.

we are all a work-in-progress

work in progress

“We’re all a work in progress, and I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t have it all together – I really don’t think anyone does.” (Adrienne Bailon).
 
We are flawed. Every single one of us. Some might hide it better than others, but there isn’t a single person on the planet who doesn’t struggle about something.
 

If we can admit we are flawed, then we are one step further in our goal towards self-love.

having a healthy relationship with yourself

love yourself

Self-love is essential because if we don’t have a healthy relationship with ourselves, that opens the door to dysfunctional relationships with others. Relationships with friends, spouses, parents, siblings, and even our children are impacted.
 

Codependency often is a byproduct of not loving ourselves. Lack of self-love can lead to looking for others to “complete us.” We can shut others out because we are afraid of getting hurt. Letting people in requires true intimacy, and that kind of vulnerability is difficult if we don’t love ourselves.

 
“You’ve got to love yourself first, and until you value yourself enough and love yourself enough to know that, you can’t really have a healthy relationship.” (Joyce Meyer).

When we don’t love ourselves, we are unable to teach our children how to love themselves. It is our job as parents to set a healthy example for our children. We need to learn how to love ourselves so that our children can love themselves.

self-love is being perfectly imperfect

imperfect

Self-love is looking at every flaw, every wrinkle, every extra pound, every trigger, every fear, every doubt, and every heartache and knowing that you are exactly who you need to be in that moment. You are perfectly imperfect, and that imperfection is what makes you loveable.
 
You see, my sweet friends, self-love isn’t about thinking you’ve got it all together, it’s about knowing THAT YOU DON’T.
 
“Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at.” (Pema Chodron).
 
Learning how to love ourselves doesn’t happen overnight. Giving ourselves permission and space to try to love and accept ourselves is a huge first step. Take it day by day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute.
 
Self-love and self-kindness are both works-in-progress and THAT IS OKAY. What is not okay is giving up on ourselves. Take a chance and invest in yourself. It is the best investment you will ever make.

*To help support your self-love journey, I’ve created a self-love workbook.  To print, click here:

Self-Love Workbook: Support and Maintain Your Self-Love Journey.

its ok to not be ok

I had a topic that I was all set to write about… and then life got in the way. It’s ok to not be okay.

Things were going well in my life. My husband and I were making our daughter nauseous with all of our PDAs, I was getting back into the groove of homeschooling Brielle, my daughter was miraculously complaining less and cooperating more, and I found out another article of mine was getting published in The MIGHTY. I was feeling pretty darn good, folks.

There is a Yiddish proverb, “Man plans, and God laughs.” Well, my plans went right out the window, and I wasn’t laughing. It’s ok to no be okay.

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.” (Paolo Coelho).

On Wednesday I got a rejection letter from an agent I queried regarding the children’s book that I wrote. I really loved what this agent brought to the table, and I spent a month hoping that she would represent me.

i was not okay

My daughter didn’t get enough sleep on Wednesday night, and she acted like she was possessed all day on Thursday. By the end of the day, I was emotionally, psychologically, and physically exhausted.

i was not okay

facebook

On Friday, Facebook sent me a notification that they couldn’t recognize the device I was using. I had set up this notification after the last time someone hacked into my Facebook account. The problem was that the device in question was my own cell phone. I confirmed that my phone was an acceptable device. This action clearly annoyed Facebook, and next thing I knew, any comment I made flashed an exclamation mark saying it was denied. I tried to put something on my Surviving Mom Blog Facebook Group. That was also denied. 
 
Unlike the last time Facebook banned me, this time there was no message sent to my inbox to alert me that I was banned in any way. My account showed that I had full access to Facebook, yet I had restricted access to Facebook.

i was not okay

Social media is very important and necessary when you are in the early stages of creating a blog. I have a Facebook group that I post on nearly everyday to stay connected to my readers. Now what was I supposed to do? My husband had to post on my behalf.

i was not okay

On Saturday evening at approximately 11:45 pm, my husband jumped up and ran to the phone. He got an email from the Apple Store that someone had charged $2200 on our debit card to purchase a laptop. Spoiler Alert- neither one of us had made that purchase.

i was not okay

credit card theft

Two other fraudulent purchases were made to two different credit cards in the past three months. One was to purchase a Groupon, and one was a gas charge at the gas station we always use. Pretty creepy, right? We cancelled our credit cards and got replacements, but our debit account? How is that possible?
 
Even creepier, the person who used our debit card put down my husband’s email address and my phone number when making the purchase online. You use our debit card, but keep our contact information? What kind of hacker does that?

i was not okay

I have talked about wellness in many of my posts. I’ve given tips on how to boost self-confidence in ourselves and our children, given numerous suggestions for self-care, and written about tools to help with regulating emotions. I have written about ways to improve our relationships  with our significant others through love languages, and given strategies for bedtime and parenting children with special needs.

Those strategies and tools, albeit helpful, were not going to give me a lobotomy. I was not able to alleviate my concerns and fears about someone being able to access thousands of dollars from our debit account by doing deep breathing and journaling.

i was not okay

This is the moment of truth, my friends.
 
Life is going to throw us a series of curveballs, often when we least expect it. As much as I am a believer of getting up when life throws us down, I am not going to pretend that everything is sunshine and roses.

it is ok to not be okay

its ok to not be okay

“Make room for all emotions – including negative ones. It’s ok not to be happy all the time. Give yourself time to be sad when you are sad, mad when you are mad.” (Heather Schumaker).
 
One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn in life is that there are times when all we can do is hold space for whatever we are feeling and allow ourselves to feel it. Sometimes we need to ride the wave of messiness, anger, hurt, grief, and/or anxiety in order to get through it.
 

It is crucial to take care of our emotional well-being and implement  strategies and tools. I will use those tools to help me get through difficult moments, not to eradicate my feelings.

it is okay to not be okay

My daughter is not always going to see me smiling and carefree. I want her to understand that life is taking the good with the bad, the hard with the easy, the pain with the joy. She sees that I sometimes struggle, and that it is okay to struggle. I model the coping mechanisms I use to help me during those difficult times so that she can also use coping mechanisms when she is struggling. I will not hide the negatives from her because they are part of life, and to hide that would be doing a huge disservice to her.

she needs to know it is okay to not be ok

it's ok to not be ok

 

For every mom who is struggling, for every person that is taking one step forward and two steps back, for every person that is feeling frazzled, this post is for you.
 
Sometimes life is learning how it’s ok not be okay. It is sitting with those negative feelings and accepting that it is okay to feel that way. There is so much pressure out there to do it all, and to be so much to so many, that somewhere along the line we forget that we are human, with feelings, emotions and hardships.
 
Sometimes we can’t laugh and smile our way through life. There are times when our children are going to frustrate us beyond belief, times when we will have an argument with our spouse, our coworker, or our friend, and times when we will feel sad or lost or unsure.
 
There will be hard hours, hard days, even hard months. We must give ourselves permission to feel badly and accept that we aren’t failures because of that. Accepting all parts of ourselves means accepting that sometimes we are going to feel like **it, and the only thing that isn’t okay is judging ourselves for it. It’s ok to not be okay.
 
“You don’t have to be brave all of the time. You are not damaged or defeated. Have patience. Give yourself permission to cry and to heal. Allow a bit of compassion, you’re doing the best that you can.” (Mike Bowman).
 
I am not okay, and I’m going to allow myself to not feel okay. I will take care of my responsibilities and also give myself the time I need to feel better.
 
I’m flawed, I’m imperfect, I’m emotional, and I feel deeply.

guess what? that’s okay.

emotional abuse

This post is incredibly hard to write because I am sharing something private and very painful. This is my story of surviving narcissistic emotional and psychological child abuse and stopping the cycle of abuse. 

a cautionary tale about surviving emotional and psychological CHILD abuse

I wish I could say that I had a happy childhood, but that would be the furthest thing from the truth. I grew up with a mentally unstable mom who was narcissistic and had Borderline Personality Disorder.

At a very young age my role was to listen to my mother’s marital problems. She and my dad were always arguing (sometimes physically, but most of the time it was screaming at one another). I developed a very codependent relationship with her. It was my job to listen to her problems, support her emotionally, and take care of her. I did not set any boundaries with her, as I felt my well-being and safety were completely contingent on my mother’s well-being. When she was upset or wanted nothing to do with me, I felt worthless.

I wanted nothing more than my mother’s approval, and as a result I would parrot a lot of what my mother said to me and try to emulate her. My father was very resentful of this, and growing up he was angry at me most of the time.

As a result, I grew up feeling that my father didn’t like me or care about me.

 

psychologically damaging

At the age of 8, my mother started throwing me out of the house when she felt I misbehaved. The first time this happened it was dark outside, and I walked a block to a nearby park and sat on a bench. I felt helpless, unloved, and discarded. My father came out at some point and told me I could go back inside. The memory of sitting on that bench for the first time will forever be etched in my mind.

This became my mother’s go to way of punishing me. The amount of time I wasn’t allowed inside varied from minutes to many hours. I felt unsafe and incredibly degraded each time I had to leave and then beg to come back inside. It made me view the world as a very scary place. I had nobody to protect me, and I felt very lost and alone. I could not understand why the person who was supposed to look out for me was the one who was hurting me.

My father was complicit and would follow my mom’s instructions.

I always voiced that what was being done to me was wrong, but my mom would tell me that I brought it on myself by not listening to her.

stop the cycle of abuse

My mother was abused as a child, and in turn, my mother abused me. I vowed that the emotional and psychological cycle of child abuse would stop with me. I vowed to give my child the love and support I never got, and make sure she knew she was loved unconditionally. In order to end the cycle of abuse, I had to face all of the horrors I endured so I would know what to never do to my child. I go into more details about how I stopped the cycle of abuse in my post about parenting.

My parents divorced when I was 24, but as an adult, I still had the belief system that it was my job to make my mother happy. I tried to do everything possible to get her love and approval. As a result, I completely enabled her behavior and set no boundaries. This pattern of codependent behavior was so dysfunctional that I spent two hours of my honeymoon trying to calm my mother down due to her recent breakup. Her feelings were always prioritized over mine, and I felt it was my job to make sure she was okay.

We were the definition of codependency.

Shortly after my parents divorced, I met my husband, Matt, on Jdate. He was the first person who I felt loved me unconditionally. With him I finally felt home. We got engaged a year after we met and married the year after that.

A few years into our marriage we decided to start a family. I got pregnant, and my husband became terrified that I would miscarry.

He started drinking heavily, and once I found out about it, he moved onto pills.

Due to my husband’s battles with substance abuse, I spent the first 4 years of my daughter’s life raising her by myself.

We moved to Atlanta to get a fresh start, but soon after I realized he was abusing drugs again. I reached out to a therapist that specialized in addiction. I didn’t want my child growing up in that kind of environment.

My husband and I went to the therapist together, and for the first time someone besides me told him that he was an addict and needed to get help. It was the wake up call he needed, and he bravely made the decision to seek treatment. My husband checked himself into an outpatient rehab center. He received individual and family counseling and learned heathy coping strategies. He has been clean and sober for the last four years. You can read more about my story of loving an addict here.

I have a wonderful daughter who I love more than life itself.

I have been a Stay-at-Home-Mom since my daughter was born. In school I advocated for my daughter to get a full assessment (and subsequently, an IEP) due to numerous symptoms including inattentive behavior, difficulty processing instructions, and poor short term memory. Brielle was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). I decided to homeschool her to give her the support that she needs. My daughter has made huge strides, and I’m so proud to be her mother. I’m proud to say that I kept my promise to end the cycle of abuse.

I went no contact with my mother two years ago. I did not want to subject my daughter to the same pain, confusion, and heartbreak that I went through. Brielle needs to know that love isn’t something that ebbs and flows based on a person’s whim. It is something that is everlasting, and a mother’s love should be unconditional.

My entire childhood was spent feeling my identity was taking care of my mother.

I managed to break free from that, but somewhere along the way I forgot who I was besides being a wife and mother. I wanted to have something that I did which was separate from those two roles and just for me.

not all scars are physical

Very few people knew about my abuse, and it was typically glossed over because people felt uncomfortable about it. I decided that I wanted to reach out to foundations for abuse survivors and use my love of writing to try and help others. What started out as writing about abuse for monthly newsletters soon turned into my blog.

I always felt that what my mom did to me was wrong. It took adulthood to grasp that what she was doing was emotional child abuse.

Emotional/psychological abuse is often taboo and harder to recognize by others because the scars are internal.

There needs to be more light shined on emotional and psychological child abuse. The lack of openness and education about this made it easier to see my mother as a wacko rather than to see her as abusive. There isn’t enough widespread knowledge about the various cycles of abuse. There are numerous ways abuse can rear its ugly head.

For most of my life, I felt intense shame about what happened to me. I felt scared and anxious all the time. I went to numerous therapists to figure out how to get “fixed.” I tried medication, hypnosis, brainspotting, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Somatic Experiencing.

Different therapists told me that I needed to accept myself to heal and grow. This made no sense to me, and I felt frustrated and confused. How could I accept myself and change at the same time?

One day a lightbulb went off in my head.

I realized that I needed to show compassion to all parts of myself and accept that the damage that was done to me was not my fault. I finally understood that anxiety and fear does not define me. Just as my daughter’s ADHD and SPD do not define her, my anxiety and fears do not define me. I am defined by the person that I am. I am proud of the person that I am. That is something that can never be taken away from me.

I am sharing my story because I want to take my horrific past and use it to support and help others. My hope is that something good can come out of something terrible. It doesn’t make what happened to me any better. I am taking control over my life by speaking about it.

Many cannot relate to what I endured, and I am glad for those who are unable to do so. That said, all of us have gone through some sort of trauma. I want you to know that you aren’t alone. We don’t get to rewrite our past, but we get to decide our present and future.

Emotional and psychological abuse leave scars that only their victims can see. They are there nonetheless. I hope reading my story will encourage you to reach out and tell someone yours. With advocacy and awareness, we can give a voice to those invisible scars.

personalized placemat craft

Now that the weather is getting chillier, I wanted to share a fun craft for your kids.

Drumroll please….it’s a personalized placemat!

I LOVE this personalized placemat craft for so many reasons!

1-It can be modified for nearly every age and ability. I first did this project with Brielle when she was two, and at 8 she is still excited to make them (the picture above is her latest one).

2- For those of you that have young kids or kids with a limited attention span, you know you’ve hit the craft jackpot when your child actually WANTS to focus on an activity for more than five minutes. It’s like a breath of fresh air to see your child eagerly working on something!

3- It is SO easy to do. Your can put more or less detail into it based on your child’s preference, but the basic directions are super simple to follow.

4- It is something they/you can keep for years to come (just make sure to clean it regularly), and it is a wonderful gift for grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.

I can continue to ramble about why this art project is a favorite of mine, or I can cut to the chase and start explaining it! Without further ado, here is what you will need to make your personalized placemat:

Materials

1- Clear contact paper

2- Construction paper

3- Scissors

4- Markers, crayons, colored pencils, and/or paints

5- Stickers (optional)

6- Glitter (optional)

7- Wasabi tape (optional)

8- Buttons, confetti paper, or anything small and relatively flat that your child would like to include

9- Fake maple leaves (optional)

10- Fake snowflakes (optional)

11- Fake flowers (optional)

12- Glue or tape

Most of the materials are optional, which is fantastic because you can basically use whatever craft supplies you have around your house!

The first few times my daughter made her personalized placemat, she only used leaves and stickers. This time she decided to use snowflakes, leaves, and flowers to represent all the seasons. Of course, the placemats don’t have to have any seasonal theme at all. It is completely up to your kids and their imaginations!

directions to make a personalized placemat

1- Cut two pieces of contact paper per placement. It can be cut based on whatever size your kids prefer, but ours is 11×18 inches.

2- Unpeel one sheet of paper, and leave the sticky side up. This will be where you stick your materials.

3- Modify the project based on age and ability. If they are too small to use scissors, they can rip construction paper or confetti tissue paper into pieces and scatter it across the contact paper. Another option is you can cut shapes for them, and they can decide where to place it. There is no right and wrong way to do this. It is whatever works best for your child!

4- Your child can scribble, color, paint, write or design the cut-outs. They can use stickers or any item of their choosing as well.

Here are some shapes and decorations she used when she was younger:

Below are some of the designs she used for the placemat she made a few weeks ago. She decided to use flowers, leaves (cut outs and fake), and snowflakes (I drew the snowflake, and she colored it in). Some she painted and others she colored in with crayons.

5- Once your child finishes designing and picking items, it’s time to decide where to place them. Let your child spread them around the contact paper.

Brielle designed and spread these out when she was younger, and she asked me to write her name on one of the leaves so this would be her designated placemat:

7- Unpeel the second piece of contact paper and place the sticky side on top of the objects so that the objects are enclosed on both sides by the sticky part of the contact paper.

8- If necessary, trim the edges to make sure both sides are even.

9- Measure the wasabi tape so it goes around each of the edges to adhere them .

Another option is to glue or tape the edges to ensure they don’t unravel with time.

That’s it! Let your kid take a step back and admire their handiwork!

It’s the simple projects that are the most fun for the kids AND the parents! I love that this is something Brielle can mostly do on her own, with minimal input from me (I trim the edges and the wasabi tape).

She can take pride in knowing that she decided what to use, as well as the design and placement. It gives her a huge sense of accomplishment that she is responsible for the final result!

I can’t wait for your kids to design them. I would love to see your personalized placemats. Post and tag me on Instagram @survivingmomblog with the hashtag #survivingmomblogcraft.

I hope your kids enjoy this personalized placemat craft for years to come!

Self-confidence is something we all want to build and something many of us are lacking. It isn’t surprising that we lack confidence as adults. Many of us were told as children that our best was not enough. Others didn’t get any motivation or encouragement to step out of their comfort zone or try something that was challenging. What was once our parents’ voices soon turned into our inner voice/critic. As a result, the story we believe as adults is that we aren’t good enough. The good news is that there are strategies to build self-confidence in yourself and your children.

my struggles with self-confidence

I grew up with a mom that expected perfection. When I was 5 years old, I had a small writing assignment for school. I was extremely proud of what I wrote and showed it to my mother. Her response was to rip it into pieces and instruct me to write it again. That experience rattled me and will forever be imprinted in my mind. The lesson I learned was that I should feel intense shame if my best wasn’t perfection.

My struggle with perfection crept into every facet of my life. In first grade there was a competition that whoever read the most books by the end of the month would get a box of crayons. I was determined to be the winner. So was another girl in the class. Eventually other classmates stopped participating in this contest, but neither me nor this girl would relent. Finally, the teacher stopped the contest and declared that we both were the winners.

I defined myself and my value based on how well I did in school.

I would beat myself up over any mistake I made. In my mind, nothing other than an A was an option. Eventually my mother told me that I didn’t have to get top grades as long as I was trying. By this point her words rang on deaf ears; the bell could not be unrung. I was terrified of not getting the top grades in exams and I was ridden with anxiety every time I had to write a report or do a presentation. I always agonized that I wasn’t good enough despite the number of times that was proven to be untrue.

Shame, not self-confidence, became my constant companion. I feared everything because I didn’t believe that trying was what was most important. In my mind, if the result was unsuccessful, the effort was worthless.

the inner critic that creates guilt and shame

Regardless of our childhood circumstances, I know that many of you live with that same inner critic. If we try something and it isn’t a success, we beat ourselves up over it rather than feel proud of ourselves for trying. It only reinforces that we shouldn’t put ourselves out there or reaffirms our belief that we are failures.

It is often easier to look at the laundry list of mistakes or flops rather than focus on how hard we tried or the things we did well.

This way of thinking starts to take on a life of its own, and eventually we tell ourselves that we are failures instinctually.

When we speak and feel this way about ourselves, is it any wonder that our voice becomes the inner voice of our own children? It is an endless cycle of guilt, shame, and self-contempt. In order to teach our children to have self-confidence, flaws and all, we first have to believe that about ourselves.

What if we changed our inner voice? Told ourselves that we are enough just as we are? Applauded our efforts rather than our successes? What if we recognized that what matters most is putting ourselves out there? What if our determination and resiliency was how we judged ourselves rather than a tally of achievements?

self confidence

ways to build self-confidence in ourselves

ways to challenge your inner critic

Obviously, this is much easier said than done. Stopping and changing the story we have told ourselves constantly isn’t going to magically vanish. Luckily, there are ways of building self-confidence in ourselves and our children:

(1) Change your inner dialogue

Our inner voice is determined to rear its ugly head any time we feel guilt or shame. We can counter those thoughts by putting new ones there. Each time that we try something, no matter what the outcome, we need to acknowledge that putting ourselves out there is an accomplishment in of itself. Showing up and trying is something to be proud of. Counter your thoughts of shame with thoughts of recognition for how hard you try.

This way of thinking applies to our children as well. Instead of commending our children for their grades on a test, applaud them when you see they are studying and taking it seriously. Acknowledge the effort, not the result. Success isn’t a guarantee, but it takes great courage to put oneself out there and try. Our children deserve recognition for the journey instead of the destination.

(2) Fake it until you make it

This new message that you are telling yourself doesn’t align with the inner critic you’ve lived with for years. It takes time to truly feel what you are now saying. Reaffirm this new way of thinking with mantras such as “I am enough,” “I can do hard things,” and “I am brave,” and say them to yourself and your child. Counter those shameful thoughts with confident ones.

Make a list of these affirmations with your child. Explain that this list is to be used daily and when we feel badly about ourselves or are afraid to try. Let your children see that you are using this list and encourage them to use it as well.

(3) Don’t give up

I remind myself and my daughter that no matter how many times we get knocked down, all we can do is keep picking ourselves up. It is inevitable that we will make mistakes. What we do with those mistakes is what matters.

I wrote a children’s book, and the road to getting an agent is far harder than what I anticipated. My daughter has seen me send query letter after query letter. She has asked me why I don’t give up. I told her that some of my greatest accomplishments are the ones I had to work at the most to achieve. My hope is that my daughter sees that what truly matters is perseverance and believing in yourself.

(4) Instead of focusing on your failures, make a list of the things you accomplished despite feeling afraid or self-conscious.

Ask your child to make a list of things he/she worked hard to achieve. The next time you or your child feel badly about yourself, look at the list of reminders of how brave you are. Remind yourself and your children that it takes great courage to put yourself out there.

how to build self-confidence in yourself

(5) We all have strengths and weaknesses

We are human, so we are flawed. It is inevitable that there will always be someone that is able to do something better than us. As a recovering perfectionist, I remind myself and my daughter that all we can strive for is to be the best versions of ourselves. Perfection isn’t the goal, but courage and strength of conviction is everything.

(6) Self-care is necessary to incorporate into our life and our routine

Encourage your children to explore what they enjoy and to devote time to it. Our emotional well-being is the foundation for learning to love ourselves.

(7) Don’t rely on others to validate you and feel proud of you

Feel proud of yourself for trying regardless of what others say and do. Remind yourself and your children that there are people that will try to say and do things to make you feel badly about yourself. It is imperative to be your own supporter and cheerleader.

I remind my daughter often that she is not defined by any labels. She is defined by who she is as a person. That means that she should strive for inner beauty instead of focusing on her appearance. My hope is that she believes in herself as much as I believe in her.

(8) Be your own friend

When I feel shame or guilt, I often ask myself what I would say to my friend if the same thing was happening to her. I tend to give others far more support and understanding than I give to myself.

When I notice my daughter is being hard on herself, I ask her what she would say to her friend if that person was in the same situation. I then ask her to say those words to herself. That often helps her to put things into perspective.

Giving kindness and compassion to ourselves is crucial in building self-confidence. We need a gentle reminder that we deserve better than how we are treating ourselves.

 

 

The journey to building self-confidence is a long and difficult one. There will be easier days as well as days that are more challenging. Be mindful of the story you tell yourself and the example you are setting for your children. It is inevitable that we will fall down along the way, but like everything in life, we must pick ourselves up and try again. You are enough. We are enough just as we are.

tricky people

As a former New Yorker, I am always cautious when it comes to strangers. We learned about stranger danger growing up, but the tricky people concept can be a better way to teach kids to stay away from sketchy adults.

I’m a very petite female, so I understand others can pose a threat to me. That said, the most important people in my life were once strangers. My husband was once a stranger, and his family (now my family) were once strangers. One might say that strangers are friends you haven’t met yet. 

my daughter’s numerous encounters with strangers

My daughter absolutely subscribes to this way of thinking. When she was very young, she would smile and wave to everyone she saw at the grocery store. It made a quick trip to the supermarket a huge ordeal as everyone would smile back and begin to chat with her/me. As she got older, a greeting followed suit. I explained to her that we shouldn’t start up a conversation with people we don’t know, but she looked at me baffled. In her mind, it was an opportunity to meet and engage with new people.

my daughters encounters with strangers

When Brielle was 3 years old, we went to a neighborhood park with my husband and my in-laws. Brielle was (and still is) a bundle of energy, and there was a big field where she could run around. It was deserted until a couple of well-dressed men in suits showed up. I was speaking to my in-laws when my husband tapped me on the shoulder. To my horror, Brielle had gone over to these men and interrupted their conversation. The men were smiling at her and clearly found her amusing. Before my husband could stop me, I ran over and apologized for the intrusion and dragged her away. My husband informed me after the fact that these well-dressed men were doing a drug exchange when Brielle ran over. I aged 10 years in that moment.

I explained to Brielle the importance of 911, and she was told to only dial those numbers if the person with her is unresponsive and/or she is in danger. She knows our phone number and address in case of an emergency. To my shock and terror, she started telling cashiers at the supermarket our phone number and address. That incident aged me another 20 years. Luckily after another conversation about privacy and the importance of keeping contact information to ourselves, she no longer did that again.

i had to teach my daughter how to be safe

I wish I could say that those were the last times Brielle put herself in harm’s way, but that would be a lie. When Brielle was 5, Matt went across the street to ask our neighbors a question, and I told Brielle to go into her playroom so I could take a quick shower.

I went into the bathroom and turned the shower on. At that point, a feeling of doom came over me. I don’t know if it was maternal instinct or divine intervention, but somehow, I knew something was wrong.

I immediately ran out of the bathroom to check on Brielle. She wasn’t there. I screamed her name, but there was no answer. At this point I opened the door and started screaming on the top of my lungs for her. To my relief, I heard Brielle come to the front porch. After I gave her a huge hug and composed myself, I asked her where she had gone. She told me she went outside to find Matt, and she heard my voice right before she left our driveway.

I knew I had to instill in Brielle an awareness that it is not okay to wander outside or talk to strangers. However, there is a fine line between being cautious and being fearful, and I wanted to make sure that I treaded that line carefully. It was at that point that I spoke to her about “tricky people”.

teaching kids about tricky people

teach kids to identify tricky people

Pattie Fitzgerald, the creator of the website Safely Ever After, Inc., came up with the concept of tricky people. I know some people explain it as “stranger danger”, but I feared that explaining it in that way would make my daughter feel that all strangers are dangerous.

I told Brielle that a grownup is trying to trick her if she is approached by one for help. If a safe adult needs help, they will ask another adult, not a kid. Pattie explains, “Instead of looking for the boogie man, a child should look for the person asking them to do something that doesn’t sound right or ask if the adult is trying to get them to break one of their family’s safety rules or trick them.” She lists her “Super 10, Play-It-Safe Rules for Kids and Grownups” here: https://safelyeverafter.com/prevention/#tab-886fbe060b867e5ba61.

how i teach my daughter the tricky people concept

I informed Brielle that most people are not a threat, but it is important to understand the concept of tricky people. I explained that tricky people are the ones who try to trick you into doing something you shouldn’t do, such as getting into their car, or telling her they have a toy/animal in order to take her. She knows that I would never tell someone to pick her up or ask her to leave without talking with her about it in advance, and in the case of an emergency I would tell this person the password.

The password is a word I thought up as a code word that only my daughter and I know. She is not allowed to tell anyone the password, and only someone who received my permission to take her would know it. We have acted out different scenes of what a “tricky person” might say to try to convince her to go with him/her, and how she should handle herself in those situations. As much as I have tried to drill this awareness into her, she still is very trusting, and I worry.

internet predators and teaching kids about other types of tricky people

internet predators

Brielle uses the iPad on weekends to watch pre-selected shows. I discovered that she was going onto fan groups for these actors, and chatting with others on a fan board. When I tried to discuss the dangers of speaking with strangers online, she was puzzled. She didn’t understand how anyone could hurt her when the only interaction was from a computer. She said that they can’t jump out of the screen; therefore, she was in no imminent danger.

I looked up different tricky people scenarios that are meant for children and showed it to Brielle. I explained to her that tricky people can be on the computer as well. Her IPad usage is closely monitored, but I know I can’t monitor every action that she makes.

it’s our job as parents to teach kids about tricky people and to be cautious, not fearful 

It seems like life is an endless game of whack-a-mole. Every single time I discuss the dangers of one situation, another one pops up. It makes me want to lock my daughter in our house and throw away the key.

It is our job as parents to teach and guide our children. Despite all our best efforts, there are still monsters out there. Some are in the playground, others in a car, and some are on the computer. The world is a scary place, but being scared of everything isn’t a way to live. Ignoring harsh realities aren’t okay either.

I will continue to try to instill in her that although there are many kind people, there are also some whose intentions aren’t pure. Tricky people can be anywhere – from the grocery store to an online chat room or kids game. It is my job to protect her from the tricky people in the world, but it is also her job to be mindful of those people and to not put herself in harm’s way.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. The world is a better place because of our children’s trust in the good of people. All we can do as parents is keep pointing our kids in the right direction, be diligent about their safety, and teach them to be cautious, not fearful.

Jdate (a Jewish online dating site) is full of success stories. I’m a Jdate online dating success story, after all. That said, I had to meet many-a-frog before I met my handsome prince. I felt it was only right to share with you my greatest Jdate online dating flops so you could get a full picture of what I went through to meet Matt. It is also worth noting that I was the first person that Matt met on Jdate. He had no idea what I went through to meet him, but he does now…

My JDate Online Dating Disaster Stories

 

evan and little evan – a psychologist’s dream

Don’t worry, it’s not that kind of story (get your minds out of the gutter!).

Evan was the first guy I met on Jdate that I actually liked. He came to my house to pick me up and say hello to my parents (I would never get into a guy’s car that I didn’t know without having my parents meet him first). My mom didn’t like that he wore a pink shirt (I thought he pulled it off quite well). He was charming, attractive, and seemed to have his act together. He was only 24 and had his own apartment in Brooklyn Heights. I don’t recall what he did for a living, but I believe it was something in finance.

evan and little evan

Our first few dates went quite well. He informed me that his last girlfriend was very attractive, but not the brightest bulb in the box. What concerned me was that he said that was the type of girl he typically dated. I’m no Albert Einstein, but I’d like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent person.

After several weeks of dating we went to his apartment to watch a movie. We actually did watch the movie, for what it’s worth. Afterwards, he started talking about himself, his life, and what makes him happy.

It started off fine, but somewhere it took a turn to Crazyville.

He started explaining that it was his job to make Little Evan happy. I admit I’m a complete hypocrite because my mind went exactly where I told you not to go. He explained that Little Evan is his inner child. He then said he asks Little Evan what he should do all the time. For example, if Evan wanted a sandwich, he needed to first consult with Little Evan to find out what kind of sandwich. If he wanted to watch a movie, he’d check in with Little Evan.

This monologue went on for about 5 minutes, most of which I spent trying to hold in my laughter. I’m all for taking care of your inner child, but hearing someone refer to themselves and their inner child in third person regarding every decision under the sun was more information than I cared to know.

After he finished his speech Evan and Little Evan got me a cab. I was told that next time I came over he’d get some sour pickles because he knew how much I loved them. I’m unsure which Evan relayed that information, but I never heard from either one again. I do send both Evans well wishes.

the jdate online dating therapy session

the therapy session

I agreed to meet a guy in Sheepshead Bay (for those of you that have no idea where that is, it’s an area in Brooklyn). He seemed fairly nice based on the few exchanges we’d had. I stood outside the train station at our agreed upon location and waited. A few minutes later a guy started towards me. I am a firm believer that the kind of person you are is far more important than your looks, but the guy in front of me bore no resemblance whatsoever to his profile picture.

We agreed to walk around the bay because it was such a lovely day. Some guys are shy at first. That most certainly was not this guy. He immediately started talking. Normally I would say that was a good thing. I want to get to know the guy I date, after all. However, his topic of conversation was not one I expected to hear mere minutes after meeting him.

He started telling me that he just went through a breakup. Before I could even respond, he started telling me all about their relationship. He spoke of how long they dated, what she looked like, how much he loved her, and how much he missed her. Next thing I knew he was crying on the sidewalk with people staring at us quite strangely.

I wasn’t sure what to do, so I gave him a tissue and patted him on his back while he continued to blubber about his misfortunes.

Each time I would try to intercede, he would talk over me. I spent 45 minutes listening to his life, his woes, his failures, and mostly about his ex. I wanted to put in earplugs, but I didn’t have any on me. Lesson learned.

When he came up for air I told him that it was getting late, and I should probably head home. I told him how sorry I was about his breakup. To my utter amazement he asked me if we could go out again. The only explanation I could fathom was that he was looking for another free therapy session. I was tempted to tell him he owed me money; instead I told him that I got the impression that he wasn’t over his ex ,and he should probably hold off dating anyone until he was able to move on. He looked at me quite perplexed as if he had no recollection of his emotional breakdown. I wished him the best of luck and ran away quickly before he could confide in me about anything else.

the psoriasis, racist guy

I know this one sounds like quite the catch.

I met this gem of a man at a local diner after receiving an instant messaging from him through the jdate online dating site. He seemed nice enough at first, and he told me he liked my pedicure. Most guys don’t even know what a pedicure is, let alone notice one, but I thought it was nice that he paid attention to detail. I thanked him and we sat down.

I had become a pro at small talk from the unimaginable number of online dates I had gone on. We talked about ourselves and had some friendly banter. I soon noticed that when he shook or moved his head, white stuff fell out. I tried not to stare, but it was quite the scene. As he told me about his hobbies I pretended to listen.

What I was actually doing was stare at the pile of flakes that were on his shirt as well as the table.

It was too big to be lice or dandruff. I had no idea what was falling out from this guy’s hair, and frankly it was started to freak me out. He noticed I was staring (I’m sorry, but it had landed in clumps on the table!), and he told me that he had psoriasis. I asked him if it was painful, and he said that it was mostly itchy and uncomfortable, but not painful. Mystery solved.

Our food was taking awhile to arrive, and he was getting noticeably upset. He started complaining to me that obviously this place was run by minorities, because white people would be smart enough to have their act together. If he saw my look of disgust, it clearly was not a deterrent. He then complained that he couldn’t stand fat people, and they probably were probably responsible for the delay as well.

I told him that his comments were offensive and terrible, and I was taking my food to go. I walked out the door, and luckily never saw him again. Psoriasis was one thing, but ignorance and prejudice are always deal breakers.

the silent, creepy guy

I met this man at a coffee shop. Again, he stole someone else’s profile picture, but by this point I would have been shocked if someone actually looked like their picture. We sat down and began to talk.

To be more accurate, I should say that I began to talk. He simply looked at me as if I was speaking another language. When I asked questions, he gave one-word answers. I was a Jdate veteran, but even I didn’t know how to have a one-person conversation.

What baffled me the most was that he wasn’t giving off the shy vibe. Not only was he not talking, but as I spoke he kept staring me up and down. Frankly, he was giving me the creeps. When I didn’t speak the staring intensified. I felt like a deer about to get pounced on by a lion.

Warning bells went off in my head.

I basically threw the coffee down my throat and told him that I should be getting home.

He texted me later that evening that he really enjoyed our conversation (say what?!) and that he’d love to take me to his place next time. I felt like responding, “Over my dead body”, but I feared that might be what he had in mind.

last but not least, the mental patient

jdate online dating

I decided to save my best one for last.

Scott was a guy who lived in New Jersey about 2 hours from where I lived in Brooklyn. He was very outgoing and offered to drive the 2 hours to meet me in my area.

On our first date we had a seamless conversation. He was a good listener, had a good sense of humor, and seemed very sweet. The only caveat was that he had recently gotten out of a relationship.

I already had my share of encounters with guys who hadn’t gotten over their ex-girlfriends (Guy #2, Guy #2!), so I was cautiously optimistic about him. He had a job, but still lived with his parents, which was understandable given that he was only in his early 20s. No red flags yet.

After about a month of dating, we discussed going on a trip together.

In retrospect, I probably should have gotten to know him longer before making travel plans with him. My rationalization was that we spoke on the phone for hours everyday, and he already had told me he loved me. That was probably a red flag, but I optimistically told myself that perhaps I was just that loveable.

I payed for half of the trip, and he payed for the other half. Everything was booked, set and ready to go. That is, until I received a phone call. Scott informed me that he had done some thinking and realized he needed to get intensive professional help. He still was thinking about his ex as well as a lot of other things, and he wanted me to wait for him until he was ready to date again. To quote a line from Sex and the City, “I wanted a guy that would commit, not a guy that was committed.”

I honestly didn’t know what to say to him. Besides the mention of his ex on the first date, he never brought her up again. I told him that I had paid for half of a trip and that If he wanted to back out of the trip, I deserved to get reimbursed for my half.

There was radio silence for four months until he reached out to ask me out again.

I told him to contact me when he had my half of the money. Shockingly I never heard from him again.

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My dear readers, you now have gotten a mere glimpse of the awful, the terrible, and the very, very painful online dates I endured. Some I’ve actually blocked out of my mind because they were so horrible. Many I wish I could block out, but alas, I cannot.

To anyone who is dating online, I wish you the very best as you go into battle. Some dates will make you want to run and hide under the covers. Others will make you question if putting yourself through the first circle of hell is worth it. Others may offer glimpses of hope, only to have the door slammed in your face (or in my case, the door of an outpatient psychiatric hospital).

JDate Online dating is not for the faint of heart. It is frustrating, annoying and exhausting. That said, I would do it all over again because it led me to Matt. I wouldn’t wish those kind of dates on anyone else (except maybe my husband so he could experience the horrors that I endured), but all in all, everything worked out in the end. If you are willing to persevere, you too will be able to look back and laugh (and cry) at all you went through to find the person you love.