This upcoming August, my husband and I will celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. We have been together for almost 14 years. I’ve shared many personal posts before, but this one is different. I’d like to tell you a love story about how I met my husband…..
I had to kiss a lot of frogs before I MET MY HUSBAND
I was single for about two years prior to meeting Matt and using a Jewish dating service called Jdate to meet men. In my master’s degree program, there were only women. I went on online dates, LOTS of them. I basically dated everyone in the tri-state area. Sometimes I went on one or two dates with some of the men before deciding we weren’t a good match, and others I dated for about a month. None of them amounted to anything substantial. After I reached my quota of bad dates, I would go off Jdate for months at a time.
I was once again contemplating going off Jdate when a man sent me a message. His profile picture was in poor lighting, and he was wearing a multicolored striped shirt with a very loud tie. I had dated online long enough to know that if a guy is hiding in his picture, it’s never a good sign. On top of that, he kept bragging about how wonderful he was and how he was waiting for the perfect woman. Bad profile picture + arrogant= loud warning bells.
I had a rule that I would only meet men on my turf (Brooklyn) for the first date. I once had a guy drive for two hours to meet me. This guy told me he worked in Manhattan, and if I wanted to meet, I’d have to travel to him.
I don’t know how this conversation turned into me consenting to take the bus and train to Manhattan to meet him. It is one of the great mysteries in my life. Was it divine intervention or did I have temporary insanity? One will never know for sure.
my love story: how i met my husband
All I know is that on October 25, 2007 at approximately 6pm, I stood in front of an H&M waiting to meet this guy. I remember cursing myself out in my head for agreeing to this until I saw a man walking towards me smiling. With that one look, my love story began.
The best way to explain it is that I felt like time stopped at that moment. It was a feeling I had never experienced. I think I stopped breathing as I looked at this guy and knew instantly that my life was about to change forever.
He gave me a hug, and we went to a restaurant to eat. The food was terrible, but the conversation more than made up for it. He was extremely attractive, but more importantly, he was smart, funny, witty, and down to earth; nothing like how he came across in his messages.
i knew i WOULD MARRY HIM
I excused myself, and I joked with him that if I didn’t come back in ten minutes, that I had probably climbed out the bathroom window. Then I walked to the bathroom, took out my phone, and told my mom that I had met my husband. I was going to marry this man I had just met named Matthew.
He suggested that we go bowling, but the bowling alley was only taking reservations. We decided to go to Central Park instead, and we walked over to the Belvedere Castle. It was where we had our first kiss. Afterwards we sat on a park bench and talked for hours.
It was getting late, so he hailed me a cab. He told me to text him when I got home to ensure I arrived safely. I was in a haze the entire ride home.
We were pretty much inseparable after our first date, and it was only three weeks later that he told me he loved me. As silly as it might seem, I felt that way too.
OUR FIRST VACATION WAS FILLED WITH MONO
Within a few months we planned a weekend getaway upstate. The evening that we arrived at the hotel, Matt started feeling unwell. By the next morning he had a high fever, and we immediately returned home. Bloodwork was drawn, and the tests revealed that he had mono. We were told that adults who get mono can get very severe symptoms, and Matt proved to be no exception.
The poor guy was so weak that he could barely move. He was unable to work and had to go on short term disability. Subsequent symptoms included a severe case of strep throat, fatigue, and nausea. I remember one day when we had to rush him to the emergency room because he broke out in hives all over his legs. They informed him it that he had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics he was taking.
When we got back to his apartment, I put calamine lotion on his legs to help with the itchiness. He then stood up and asked me to dance. He put on David Gray’s “This Year’s “Love”, which became our song. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, we were together, so we were happy.
Although I technically lived in Brooklyn, I was constantly taking the train back to Manhattan to take care of Matt. He couldn’t take care of himself and lived alone, and so I became his caregiver. I cooked, cleaned, and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. I did all this while going to graduate school in Brooklyn, and I hadn’t known him for very long, but there was never an option in my head to not be there for him.
After a month of taking care of him (and only a few months into our relationship), we decided that it made sense for me to officially live with him since I was there all the time anyway. I think it was the first time that mono resulted in speeding up a relationship.
fate brought us together and love has kept us together
After a year of dating, Matt took me to our favorite Italian restaurant and ordered some wine. I am not a big drinker, so I was tipsy by the second glass. It was a beautiful night, so I suggested going to Central Park which was nearby. He then took me to the spot at the castle where we had our first kiss. He took out his iPod, played our song, and asked me to dance. Suddenly, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. It was magical. It was so magical that we almost forgot that I spent the entire walk there talking about the high divorce rate. I don’t know how that topic even came up, and I blame it all on the alcohol.
We were married on August 2, 2012. We had planned an outdoor wedding, but to my horror the skies opened up that morning and didn’t stop. Although the wedding didn’t go as I planned, the sun did come out during the reception, and we were able to go outside. Despite the anger I felt about the rain, our wedding was magical. I wouldn’t change a thing about our love story.
Our wedding was very symbolic of marriage. Whatever your dreams of marriage might be, life will inevitably get in the way. I learned that although our love story is beautiful, what makes our love memorable is that we navigate life’s roadblocks together.
It still amazes me that somehow, against all odds, a guy I never would have met under any normal circumstances became the man I now call my husband. That’s the beauty of life. It may throw curveballs (as well as mono and rainstorms) at you, but sometimes it also throws you a home run.
We hide things from our kids. Each and every one of us does this. We do this for a variety of reasons, and our intentions are usually good. We want to protect our kids, we may feel certain topics are inappropriate, or we ourselves are doing something that contradicts what we tell our kids. Despite our hearts being in the right place, the very things we hide from our kids are sometimes what would help them navigate through life. For each of these suggestions, it is important to be mindful of the age, language, and the extent of information we share with our kids. There is a line between exposing our kids to the realities of the world and putting adult problems on their shoulders. With that in mind, these are the 14 surprising things you should not hide from your kids:
(1) Making mistakes
Oops, I’ve done it again. I said a bad word, forgot to call my friend back, misspelled a word in a professional email, or a myriad of a million other things. As tempting as it may be to gloss over it and go about your business, showing your children that you aren’t wonder woman (or superman) is actually a good thing.
You are going to mess up. All of the time. You are going to make mistakes repeatedly throughout life, and so will your kids. Despite our best intentions, we are never going to get everything right. What we can do, however, is show our kids that making mistakes is natural, inevitable, and okay.
The next time you make a mistake, you should not hide it from your kids. Let your kids know that you did your best, but that mistakes will still happen. Show them that being disappointed or frustrated is totally okay, but that nobody is perfect. This shows your kids how to handle their own mistakes.
There are also mistakes we’ve made in the past. Don’t be afraid to share the lessons you had to learn the hard way. Perhaps they won’t make the same choices if they are given the opportunity to learn from the error of your ways.
(2) Healthy conflict
I want you to have a disagreement in front of your kids. Yes, you read that correctly. I know many of us go to great lengths to curtail our conflicts with others. I’m certainly not suggesting you have heated arguments or conversations that are of adult topics while your kids watch. However, showing your kids how to respectfully manage a difference of opinion with your spouse, friend, family member, etc. is actually to their benefit.
If you never expose your kids to any disagreements, then how are they going to have the tools to manage conflict when they are older? Additionally, how will they know if conflict is healthy or unhealthy unless we model for them the proper way to resolve differences?
Show your kids how to listen to another person and work together to compromise. Model empathy, validation, and compassion. Set an example for how you should be treated by others, and how you should treat others. It is a lesson that they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
(3) Resolving problems
If your kids have witnessed a more intense conversation, what should you do? Many times we will stop in the middle of the argument and take it elsewhere, or put a pin in it and finish after kids are asleep. The problem is that once that bell is rang, it cannot be unrung. Your kids have seen and heard something that they will not forget. We cannot turn back the hands of time, but we can do our best to make it a teachable experience. Do not hide resolution from your kids.
Although I am NOT advocating your kids witnessing explosive tempers, if your kids do witness a heated conversation, let them see how you resolve it. That means expressing your feelings in a respectful way, apologizing, and kind words, hugs and/or expressions of love.
There will be times in life when we don’t calmly express our discontentment with another person. Our children need to know the importance of taking ownership of our actions, asking forgiveness, and working to repair our relationships.
(4) Apologizing when you are wrong
I grew up with a mom who felt that because she was my mother, she did not have to apologize. She feels that kids should always apologize, but parents should not. I think that is a load of crap, to put it bluntly.
Apologies are something that anyone of any age should express. It is an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, intentional or otherwise. Let your kids see you apologize to those you have wronged, whether it is a neighbor, a friend, etc. Apologize to your kids if you have done something wrong to them. This models for your kids the importance of taking responsibility for your actions, and teaches them to admit when they are wrong.
(5) Managing finances
Again, this is something many of us do in private. We discuss our finances away from our kids in an effort to protect them, and/or because we feel it isn’t their business. While I do agree that your kids do not need to know all aspects of your finances, managing finances is something you should not hide from your kids.
Let your kids see how you create with a budget. Teach them about the importance of paying your bills on time. Discuss with them what a credit card is, and how it shouldn’t be used to buy more than you can afford. Explain what interest is and how it works. Navigate them through the importance of savings and setting aside money for the future. How do we expect our kids to navigate bills, loans, etc. if they are not given the knowledge to do so? As long as you tailor it to the age and level of the child, finances can and should be discussed.
(6) When you are emotionally struggling
I’ve discussed this in numerous posts, and I keep mentioning this for a reason. I’ve witnessed so many parents who feel they need to hide their feelings of sadness, anger, grief, or any other negative emotion from their kids. They put on a happy face, and act as if they are fine no matter what the circumstances.
I know you mean well and are trying to protect your kids. You don’t want them to worry about you. However, it is okay to not be okay. It is imperative that your kids see that life is not a bed of roses. If you do not show your kids that life is full of disappointment and an array of positive and negative emotions, then they will not be equipped to handle their own difficult emotions.
The next time you are struggling, teach your kids the importance of acknowledging your feelings. Label your emotion, show them that it is necessary to accept how you are feeling without judgment, and then model how you cope with your feelings (for example, doing yoga, taking a few minutes to yourself, writing in your journal).
I’m not suggesting you share your life’s problems with your child. However, letting your child know that you are feeling anxious about an upcoming meeting and need a few minutes to do some deep breathing helps your child learn that feelings are nothing to run away from.
(7) Prioritizing yourself
I want you to make your happiness and needs a non-negotiable. That doesn’t mean ignoring their well-being or not parenting them. However, I want your kids to see that you take time for yourself and your well-being.
Implement a self-care routine daily. Take time to do something that brings you joy, whether it is reading a book, taking a hot bath, or lying on the couch and doing absolutely nothing. Make sure your kids are somewhere safe and then focus on you.
Part of prioritizing yourself is setting boundaries. Do not hide from your kids that you say no to something that isn’t in your best interest. Teach your kids to never apologize for setting boundaries and expressing your needs to others.
Demonstrating the importance of prioritizing yourself shows your children that their well-being is their responsibility. It also teaches them that their own self-care should be prioritized as well. We cannot be the best versions of ourselves if we neglect ourselves on behalf of everyone around us. That only causes burnout, emotional, physical, and psychological duress, and resentment. Openly take care of yourself and encourage your children to do the same.
(8) Asking for help
Many of us see asking for help as a sign of weakness. Our society promotes a mentality of us being able to do it all, no matter the cost to our well-being. On the contrary, I believe asking for help is a sign of great strength. It is being vulnerable and humbling ourselves to the reality that we all need others. Asking for help is something you should not hide from your kids, whether it means getting professional help or asking your spouse to help out more. Encourage your kids to be honest about their struggles, feelings, and needs. Teach them to reach out and ask for help if they need it. We want our kids to try their best, but we also don’t want them to feel they are failures if they need assistance from others, whether that means getting tutoring or coming to you with their emotional struggles.
(9) Seeing us fail
Just as mistakes are par for the course, so is failure. We are not going to succeed at everything, no matter how hard we may try. Teaching our kids how to deal with failure is necessary for the hurdles they will face in life. If we hide our failures from our kids, then they will not be prepared for the failures they will inevitably face. Let your kids know when you have failed, and be honest about how it makes you feel. Let them know that all we can do is try our best, and that the rest is out of our hands. It is important for our kids to know that we cannot have success unless we also have failure.
Just as it is important to not hide failure from our kids, it is also important to show our kids the importance of resilience. Life will knock us down innumerable times, and we must keep getting back up again.
I wrote a children’s book, and I have been querying agents for awhile now. I have gotten rejection letter after rejection letter. My daughter asked me why I keep trying, and my response is that I will keep querying until I get an agent. I may never get an agent, but I can keep giving it my all. I want my daughter to know that she should always believe in herself, and that she needs to keep fighting no matter what life throws her way.
(11) Eating junk food
I am a huge junk food lover. In the early years of my daughter’s life, I would wait until she was asleep to eat my chocolate. However, I realized that there is no need to hide this from her. Instead, I want to teach her the importance of eating in moderation. She can absolutely have sweets, just as I do. She also sees me eating healthy foods and exercising. I want her to have a healthy relationship with food; therefore, I model healthy eating habits and show her that eating junk food in moderation is perfectly okay.
(12) Puberty and sex
My daughter is 8, and I have been very open with her about what is is like when I get my period. She understands that changes will happen to her body in a few years.
If children ask questions, answer them honestly. Give more or less detail depending on the age and development of the child. For example, you can explain that adults use a razor to get rid of hair on their legs, face, underarms, etc. The important thing is to encourage your children to come to you with any questions they have.
As your child gets older, explain puberty and sex. Let them know how their bodies will change and how it will feel. Discuss the importance of not being afraid to say no, birth control, and that they can come to you with any questions. It is necessary to discuss sex so that they understand the responsibilities that come with having sex, and the importance of having safe sex. Knowledge is power, and you want your kids to have as much information as possible.
We all will eventually lose someone that we love. However, death is something that we should not hide from our kids. The extent of the conversation should vary based on age and development, but even young children should have the opportunity to ask questions and be able to understand the concept of loss on some level. Just as it is important to teach kids that difficult emotions are part of life, they need reassurance that feeling grief is normal and healthy.
When my husband’s grandfather passed away two years ago, it was the first time my daughter dealt with death. She saw me and my husband cry, and we explained to her that her Great-Grandfather had died. We discussed how she felt about it, and I answered any questions that she had. I told her that there is no right or wrong way to feel and experience loss, and I reassured her that she could continue to come to me with any questions or feelings. I reminded her that we keep him alive in our minds and our hearts by thinking about him and talking about him.
We live in a world where discrimination and violence take place. Children are naturally curious, and they ask about differences out of pure observation, as opposed to contempt.
I remember the first time my daughter met a person of color. She looked at him and asked him why his skin was a different color than hers. He explained that people are a variety of colors, and that those differences are what make the world special. My daughter nodded, her eyes big, and then she gave him a hug.
When my daughter saw a man in a wheelchair for the first time, she asked me what it was and why he was using it. The man saw her looking at him and asking. My first thought was that her questions were making him uncomfortable. It took me a few seconds to realize that wasn’t true. I was the one who was uncomfortable.
Differences are not something that we should hide from our kids. I realized that if I shied away from her questions, it was sending her a message that others that are different than us are to be avoided. Worse, it could portray those differences as something to be disliked or feared. It is important to talk to our children about prejudice and that it is not okay to mistreat others who look or act differently than we do. We need to stop ignorance and promote change by encouraging open dialogue with our children.
The suggestions above are by no means easy to show our kids. It is very understandable why we hide these things from them. However, it is often the most uncomfortable topics that lend themselves to the greatest life lessons. However, when we stop hiding things from our children, we allow them to have a better understanding of the world and be better equipped to handle whatever life throws their way.
I remember the first time someone asked me when I was having another child. Brielle was about a year old, and I was pushing her on the baby swing at a nearby park in Brooklyn. A woman looked at me and asked, “So, when are you having another child? She needs a sibling.” I was completely taken aback at this stranger’s question. I politely said that I didn’t know if/when I was having another. She then started telling me that she had four children, worked, and that it was my obligation to have more kids. I felt my face turn red as I felt a combination of anger and shame. Choosing to have only one child was my decision. What right did this person have to meddle into my life and tell me what was best for my family?
I wish I could say that was the one and only time I was asked to justify my choice of having only one child. Honestly, I always imagined I would have two children. It never occurred to me that life would have other plans for me.
I love my daughter with every ounce of my being. From the moment she was born, I have had my hands full. Taking care of my child is my number one priority, and my husband’s inability to help due to his addiction resulted in me having to take care of her by myself for many years. It wasn’t until she was four that he got clean, and by then we already saw the warning signs of behavioral and learning issues.
enough with shaming parents for their choices
I think about the women who didn’t think they could have any kids, and were blessed with one child, and how they must feel to be interrogated about it. I certainly don’t think I should have to explain my husband’s addiction or my daughter’s special needs to people; yet everywhere I go, it seems to be a question that people think they have the right to ask.
One time that stands out to me was was at the airport. The TSA agent looked at the three of us and our passports and asked, “Where’s your other child?” to which I replied, “There is no other child.” The look of confusion and bewilderment on his face made me feel like I wanted to crawl under the covers and hide.
When did it become okay to tell people how many children they should have? When did it become appropriate to question people’s life choices? What if I was having difficulty conceiving another child? Why is it ok to judge and dictate what women do with their own bodies?
Not only have I received questions about why I don’t have any more kids, but I’ve also been told that at this point it would be detrimental to Brielle to have a sibling because of the age difference. Say what?! I’ve also had gynecologists tell me that I better try to conceive now because the clock is ticking (I’m 38).
I would understand if I asked someone’s opinion, but why is it open game for anyone and everyone to tell me what is best for my family? I have had strangers ask, parents ask, doctors ask, as well as friends and family. It seems like it is a hot topic for everyone.
to the mom who chose to have only one child, you are not a lesser mom
For those of you that chose to have only one child, or no children, for whatever personal reason, I want you to know that you shouldn’t have to justify yourself to anyone. If any of you have a clever retort to the endless questions about having children, please send them my way.
I wish I could say that I’m used to people inquiring about my procreation. Unfortunately, that would be a lie. My latest response is, “If and when that happens, you’ll be the first to know.”
The truth is, I don’t know what life will bring, and I hate to use the word never. Maybe I will have another child. Maybe I won’t. I do know that whatever happens, it is a decision that will be made because it is the right choice for us, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Until someone has walked in my shoes, other opinions are simply white noise.
“Ignore the noise and follow your own choice.”- Anonymous
I want to send a warm welcome to new readers of my blog and say hello to old friends! The posts that I write are often serious in nature, but this is a different type of post. I wrote some things about myself when I first started this blog, and I wanted to take the opportunity to re-introduce myself again and tell you some fun facts about me:
10 FUN FACTS ABOUT ME
(1) I love animals
I have two cats and one very hyper dog #iliveinazoo. My husband and I got our first cat and our dog from a shelter. Our other cat, Willow, actually popped out of the bushes and came over to us when we were outside. She was more interested in getting attention from us than getting food. She also had no street smarts, and she would wander into the street and lick herself. I knew that this was a cat that would not survive outside. We took her in, and she is complete lap cat.
My daughter has had the privilege of growing up with animals her entire life. She tells people she has two sister cats and one sister dog. 😊
(2) I am an introvert
Most people would not think that about me, as I come across outgoing and energetic. The truth is that I have a lot of social anxiety (I have generalized anxiety too). I prefer talking 1 on 1 with people rather than in groups, and after social events I am always drained.
(3) I am an INFJ in the Myers Briggs Personality Test
A fun fact about me- I have the rarest personality type in the world. Only 1-3% of the population have this personality. I was honored when I found out I share this personality type with Martin Luther King Junior! If you’ve never heard of Myers Briggs, the “I” stands for introvert, the “N” stands for intuitive, the “F” stands for feeling, and the “J” stands for judging. This type of personality is labeled the “advocate.” INFJs are very empathetic and sensitive, but always strive to do the right thing and will speak up and try to help others and make a difference. If you haven’t taken the test, you can go online and take it for free: www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test
(4) I never thought in a million years that I would start a blog
Writing has always been an outlet for me, but it was something I did privately. It didn’t occur to me to share it with others. In fact, I am a very private person in nature.
I have been a Stay-At-Home Mom ever since my daughter was born. I feel very blessed and grateful that I’ve had this time with her, but somewhere along the line I forgot who I was besides being a wife and mother. As a result, I wanted to have something that I did which was separate from those two roles.
As I wrote about in my post about why I started blogging ,I decided to reach out to foundations for child abuse survivors and use my love of writing to try and help others. What started out as writing for monthly newsletters soon turned into my blog. I realized I had a story to share, and I wanted to use my writing to provide support to others.
(5) I am terrible with technology, which poses a big problem when you are writing a blog
My husband had to create all of my social media accounts (partly out of kindness and partly because he didn’t want me spending endless hours screaming at the computer). Thanks to my tech savvy husband, I have a Facebook group (Surviving Mom Blog: Motherhood, Relationships, Wellness & Self Care Support), a Facebook page (@Survivmomblog), an Instagram account (@survivingmomblog), a Pinterest account (@Survivmomblog), and a Twitter account (@survivmomblog). #whereistheonbutton?
(6) I love to play strategy games
7 Wonders is my favorite. When my husband and I lived in Brooklyn, my dad would come over, and we’d play it for hours. We loved it so much that my daughter’s first phrase was “pick card.” You read that right, folks. #iamnotobsessedyoureobsessed.
(7) I never drank coffee until I had my daughter
No joke. I obtained my almost 4.0 GPA in college and in graduate school without any coffee, but once I had my daughter, I needed every energy source available to keep up with her. #coffeeisstillisnotenough
(8) I can’t sleep at night without a sound soother
I never grew up with one, but my husband uses it to sleep. Very soon I grew accustomed to it. When guests sleep here overnight, they have the privilege of hearing loud rain via my sound soother. My daughter has one that plays the sound of rain as well. When people sleep over our house, it sounds like they are sleeping in a giant waterfall.
(9) I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
My only craving during pregnancy was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. As a result, I ate them daily when I was pregnant with my daughter. Even now, it is my go-to sandwich when I’m in a rush. Don’t judge.
(10) When I was in third grade, I started a petition at my school because I felt we were overpaying for the pizza we got on Fridays
We payed full price, but our slices were half the size of normal pizza slices. I felt this was an injustice (cue INFJ personality type), so I went around to all the kids (which terrified me) and asked them to sign my petition for increasing the size of pizza slices. I then presented my petition to the PTA. Unfortunately, nothing came from it besides having the President of the Parent Teachers Association put me on her watch list.
I hope you enjoyed reading a lighter post and learning some fun facts about me. As always, feel free to reach out anytime to let me know some things about you!
You can learn to love yourself. However, learning to love yourself is like learning to walk; it takes time, patience, and a lot of falling down and getting back up. The tips below are helpful in your pursuit of self-love. Give yourself a mental high five with each step, and remember that when we practice self-love, we are teaching our kids to love themselves too.
10 Tips on how can learn to love and respect yourself
(1) establish and set boundaries
I don’t know about you, but everywhere I look someone is talking about the “b” word.
I used to find the concept of boundaries very overwhelming. In reality, boundaries aren’t as intimidating as they seem. What I now realize is that it is important to love yourself enough to set boundaries. The beauty is that there’s no one-size-fits-all boundary. They will vary from person to person because needs differ from person to person.
Boundaries are a good thing; actually, they are a great thing. Why? Boundaries mean determining what you need so you can feel secure in your relationships. Boundaries are necessary in all types of relationships, not just romantic ones. Whether it means letting your friend know that you won’t answer the phone after 11pm or telling your parents that certain topics are off-limits, they are meant to set clear expectations so that you can have healthy relationships with others. It is crucial to love yourself enough to set boundaries.
Making a list is often a great place to start. Write down some things that you would like to establish with the people in your life. Start with something small, and then you can work your way up towards bigger boundaries.
Share your boundaries is a loving, clear way. Remember that change takes time, and that you may have to restate your boundaries. Also understand that relationships are a two-way street, so healthy relationships mean giving boundaries as well as respecting the boundaries set by others.
At first it might feel awkward to set boundaries with others. You may not be used to expressing your feelings and needs to others. The important thing is to try to stand by the boundaries you set. Remember the importance of respecting and loving yourself enough to set boundaries. If you falter, that’s okay. You’re a work in progress, remember? The more you practice giving and sticking to your boundaries, the more comfortable you’ll feel. With time and consistency, you can learn to love yourself enough to set boundaries.
“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.” (Anna Taylor, Goodreads).
A cranky, sleep-deprived person is not going to feel great about anything, let alone themselves. If your kids are keeping you up or you’re a troubled sleeper, try some of my sleep strategies.
(3) Accept your weaknesses along with your strengths
At some point you realize that you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by repeatedly hitting your head against a brick wall (metaphorically speaking). No matter what, I am going to make mistakes. There will be times where I am going to do things wrong. I am going to be emotional and anxious and sometimes needy.
I am flawed. Deeply. Wishing it away and hating myself for it isn’t going to make it go away. So how do you learn to love yourself? You can learn to love yourself by accepting those flaws and reminding yourself that you are doing the best you can. The key to happiness is acceptance.
It might be that I may never love those parts of myself, but I can love myself for WHO I am. I am not defined by my anxiety and my fears. I am defined by who I am as a person. My name is Randi and I feel anxious. That’s very different than thinking, “My name is Randi and I AM anxious.”
Try to show yourself compassion. When you feel badly or angry about something, argue with those negative thoughts. Remember you are trying and give yourself space to grow without forcing it. You can learn to love yourself and accept yourself. It simply takes time.
As strange as it might seem, try embracing your imperfections. We are the sum of all of our parts, but our parts guide us rather than define us. Imperfections are what make us unique.
“Loving yourself doesn’t mean you think you’re the smartest, most talented, and most beautiful person in the world. Instead, when you love yourself you accept your so-called weaknesses, appreciate those shortcomings as something that makes you who you are.” (Andrea Brandt)
Part of prioritizing your feelings is taking time to invest in your emotional well-being.
Read that book that got buried in your closet. Go for a run. Take a relaxing bubble bath. Listen to music. You can’t like or love yourself if you aren’t willing to invest time to care for yourself.
(5) daily affirmations
I’m a big believer in faking it until you make it. If you play a role long enough, you’ll can actually learn to love yourself.
Make a list of positive affirmations such as, “I am enough.” “I deserve love.” “I am worthy of happiness.” “I am proud of how hard I try.” You can make these lists with your children as well.
Write them on a piece of paper and read them aloud. Write them on a post-it and stick it on your mirror so you see it everyday. Whenever you are judging yourself or feel badly about yourself, grab that list.
This is something that comes up often with my daughter, especially around bedtime. I have to remind her that she should be kind to herself about her sleep issues and comfort herself as she would a friend.
When I am harsh with myself, I try to think about how I’d feel if the circumstances belonged to someone else. Most of the time, I would be far more compassionate and supportive than what I’m telling myself.
“When you are your own best friend, you don’t endlessly seek out relationships, friendships, and validation from the wrong sources because you realize that they only approval and validation you need is your own.” (Mandy Hale).
(7) Rediscover your hobbies
We get so enmeshed with our children and our loved-ones that we often forget what brings us joy. Not your kids, not your spouse, you. What are things that you like to do? What can you do for yourself to learn to love yourself?
Commit to spending even 5 minutes a day doing something just for you. Sometimes our hobbies are a form of self-care (such as journaling, listening to music). Sometimes hobbies are different than our self-care. Hobbies are meant for fun, whereas self-care is about focusing on your emotional well-being.
(8) Prioritize your feelings and look out for yourself.
That is a frightening notion for some of us. If you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your life focused on the well-being of others. My feelings fell by the wayside because I felt responsible for taking care of everyone else’s feelings.
It was a hard pill to swallow that I had to focus on myself first and foremost. That sounded incredibly selfish to me. People depended on me. I would be okay as long as I was taking care of my responsibilities, which meant making sure others were okay.
I didn’t realize how codependent that way of thinking was, and that I could never be the kind of mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and person I wanted to be unless I took care of myself. The truth is that all my best efforts can never fix/save others, and others aren’t responsible for my happiness either.
I want my daughter to stand up for herself, and that means I have to set the right example and do that for myself. I need to be my biggest supporter and cheerleader because if I don’t look out for myself, how can I expect others to respect my feelings?
You can’t be the best version of yourself if you are pouring from an empty cup. If you treat yourself as insignificant, it is not shocking if others treat you that way too.
Prioritizing your feelings may also mean taking time to calm down when you feel angry, stressed, or overwhelmed. Whether it’s telling your spouse, your child, or you friend that you need a moment, sometimes you need to simply walk away. If you can get outside and take a walk, great. Give yourself space to take some deep breaths and practice some relaxation exercises , even if it means putting your kids somewhere safe and locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes.
(9) ask for help
Learn to love yourself by reaching out to others if you feel overwhelmed and need to recharge. We put so much pressure on ourselves, and society puts so much pressure on us, that we feel like we are failures if we are struggling. Part of loving ourselves is accepting we cannot do it all, and there are times when we need the support of others.
(10) Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you are feeling
It is okay to be sad, anxious, or angry. You are not a robot, so you will experience a whole spectrum of emotions. It is part of life, and burying those feelings or judging yourself for them is only going to make you feel worse. It is okay to not be okay .
Self-love isn’t linear. You will likely take several steps forward and then several steps back. Some days you’ll feel on top of the world, and others you’ll feel like something that is getting scraped off the bottom of your shoe. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and new ways of thinking take time. You are going to make mistakes, but what matters is that you are trying.
“I gave myself permission to feel and experience all of my emotions. In order to do that, I had to stop being afraid to feel. In order to do that, I taught myself to believe that no matter what I felt or what happened when I felt it, I would be ok.” (Iyanla Vanzant).
The hard truth is that learning to love yourself is no easy achievement. However, the greatest achievements in life are meaningful because of the journey required to achieve it. The journey of self-love is filled with road blocks and hurdles, but it is a journey that is worth traveling.
My husband, Matt, is an addict. His addiction and his recovery are both an important part of his journey, and they are a part of our journey as a couple. Matt has been sober for five years. I am grateful that he is clean and has stayed clean, but there is so much more to sobriety than not using. I assumed that once he was sober it would be smooth sailing.
THAT IS SIMPLY NOT THE TRUTH.
I asked my husband to share his struggle and perspective on living a sober life to provide insight for loved ones of addicts and to support others on their own sober journey.
Read his story below:
Recovering from an addiction is anything but easy. You feel alone, lost, afraid, and have no identity other than what you used to be in active addiction. A lot of your feelings are negative, and your coping strategy of using is gone. As a result, your normal way of dealing with negative emotions is no longer available. Every 24-hour period an addict is drug and/or alcohol-free is a gift. No matter what else happened that day, you can be proud of yourself that you didn’t use. It is a beginning of a long road, but it is a road worth traveling. Being in recovery and living a sober life will help reshape your life into one of confidence, health, and healing. However, staying sober is only half the battle.
LIVING A SOBER LIFE IS NOT JUST ABOUT ABSTAINING FROM SUBSTANCES
It is a misnomer that recovery is just about abstaining from the substances you used in active addiction. That is just not true. It is also recovering from behaviors and facing feeling that you used addiction to mask. In addition, there are new and emerging feelings of shame, regret, sadness, and anger that will surface, all of which were previously dealt with by burying them under the cover of drugs, pills, alcohol, etc. You need to evaluate which people will help you to live a sober life and which will not. You also need to learn how to communicate to others that you are in recovery to avoid uncomfortable situations that might put you in a position to relapse.
The first part of living a sober life in recovery is to find a 12-step program and meetings that you enjoy. There are so many different types of meetings out there that it can be extremely overwhelming. In the beginning you need to attend as many meetings as you can. Therefore, it is a good idea to bounce around until you find one that helps you gain insight into yourself through what others share. When I was first starting out, I was told to just listen to different people share at meetings and see what resonated with me.
When you find a meeting you like, the next thing you must do is find a sponsor. At the beginning, finding a sponsor is the most important tool in living a sober life. It is impossible to stay sober on your own during the first few years of recovery. You need that guidance and support during those tough times. A sponsor will help you work the program in a meaningful and insightful way. They have been through the 12 steps before and are a tool in helping you stay sober.
With that said, recovery is an introspective exercise.
You must be able to work on yourself and work on behaviors and habits that drove you to use in the first place. It is something that you have to do for yourself each and every day. There is no one-size-fits-all method that will work for everybody. Each person needs to do what is right for them. You can have different people give suggestions and guide you, but the end result is in the work that you put into it and what you are able to change within yourself. If you put the work in every day to work on yourself and stay sober, you will be able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of each day and say, “I stayed sober today; I am proud of myself.”
for the 12 steps to work you must leave your ego at the door
To be honest, I had tried 12-step programs several times prior to becoming sober. Each time I would attend several meetings and then stop going. It was primarily my self-centeredness, my ego. By that, I mean selfishness, resentments, fear, the things that engulf people with drinking and addiction problems. The steps are designed to look at the world from a different point of view. There has got to be that internal surrender for sobriety to happen. That scared me, and I wanted no part of it. I didn’t have any intention of looking internally to see the root of where my addiction came from, which are my insecurities and faults.
The shame I felt was more powerful than my will to stay sober, so each time I would leave the meetings and continue my destructive behavior.
As you might have read in my initial post about how I became sober, I finally hit rock bottom and knew I had to change or else I would lose what was most important to me. I want to an outpatient rehab center 3 evenings a week for 4 months. It was a solid foundation for me to begin my journey in sobriety, and I learned a lot about myself during this program. I found a meeting that I enjoyed attending, and found a sponsor that I was able to connect with. I started working through the twelve steps with him.
The twelve steps are about spirituality. They’re not about sobriety. They’re about growing along spiritual lines, and sobriety is a by-product of that. Living by spiritual principles does not mean you have to be religious or have any religious affiliation. It means that you believe in something greater than yourself. The steps will help you look inside at yourself and the things you have done wrong that led you on that dark path of addiction. It helps flesh those things out so you can see what needs to change to be able to live a sober life.
THE PROGRAM WILL GIVE YOU TOOLS TO HELP LIVE A SOBER LIFE
After a while, I learned some helpful tools. For example, I learned how to breathe. I also learned how to check in with my body to see how I was reacting to different situations: Is my heart racing? Are my palms sweaty? I learned that I could remove myself from any situation that could affect my sobriety. My wife has been my rock throughout my sobriety journey. I know that it would have been an incredibly difficult journey for me to stay sober without her in my corner.
As time wore on, my frequency at meetings as well as my meetings with my sponsor became less and less frequent. My sponsor enabled me to blame others for my actions rather than help me hold myself accountable. I had to sever ties with him, and over the next several years I tried working with two other sponsors that I did not have success with. My meeting frequency also went from 3 times a week to once a week, then to once every two weeks. Now, I’m lucky if I go to a meeting once every 2-3 months. I stay sober by doing the inner work. I try to understand my habits and behaviors in different situations that cause me to react inappropriately.
What I have today is a better awareness of the things I’m thinking and feeling. I’m aware of when my mind sends me a signal like, “The situation I’m in is not good for me, and it would be much easier to check out by having a quick drink or taking something I shouldn’t. Or even better ten drinks in a row.” I have a better sense of how unbearable I found most situations. Any time I was going through something that would make me the slightest bit uncomfortable, I wanted to use. These behaviors were well worn grooves in my psyche, developed over years of repetition.
What I know today is I don’t have to act on any of these self-destructive impulses.
I don’t have to drink or take drugs. In making the choice to live a sober lifestyle, I have choices. One important choice I always have in my pocket is to do absolutely nothing. If I must decide between going somewhere that might make me uncomfortable or stay home, I can decide to stay home and keep myself safe.
Breathing and meditation taught me how to sit with a feeling for a period of time, dipping my toe into uncomfortable emotional territory. I know that if a feeling becomes unbearable, it won’t stay that way. No matter how angry or sad, anxious, or happy I become, time will pass. Either I won’t feel that way or the feeling will become different, something more thoughtful and less desperate. Being open to the fact that things change helps me make it through those tough moments. Then, before I know it, it’s nighttime and I can get into bed knowing I’ve made it through another day sober. For me, that is the best part. In the morning I will wake up to possibility instead of a massive hangover.
you will need to work on yourself every day
Here’s the thing though; I make mistakes all the time. Tons of them. Sometimes tons in the same day. I will react to different situations poorly. There are days where I react out of spite and anger, doing things I will regret over time. Other days I will become distant and not want to talk to anyone. I will take things and people that I have in my life for granted, and not act in a way that I should in a given situation. There are many days where I still lie about things because I am afraid of sitting with those negative feelings and emotions. I am afraid to have conversations that deal with feelings because I still have the want and need to bury them so that it will not affect me.
These are all things that I struggle with and continue to work on to this day.
The one thing that has never wavered is that I am determined to remain sober. When I wake up every day, I make that choice. I take life in 24 hour periods. I never try to look too far ahead because that can be very scary.
During my years of living a sober life, I have been able to live life in a healthy and more manageable way. I have found a career that I love and am proud of the accomplishments I have made every day. I have been able to have a closer relationship with my wife, which helps me to stay balanced and even keel in this topsy turvy world that we live in.
It is very rare when I feel the need to use. There are times when I get that itch in the back of my brain. I now have the tools to handle those temptations in a healthier way. Life is never easy, and there are times when it is a struggle to get through some days. During those times, I dive deep into doing what I love: spending time with my family, watching sports, listening to music, running, and working out. I have learned how to cope with my disease rather than succumbing to it. I was not able to do so during those dark periods in my life.
Long-term sobriety means working on yourself every day.
A lot can and will happen to you that has the potential to derail you. Addiction is a chronic disease, not a personal failure. There is a human face behind every example, and there is real hope that addiction recovery can change your life. No matter how many times you need to try, please know there is always someone out there that will listen. There is someone out there that can help you get through those difficult times and help you get on the path to living a sober life.
Do you remember how it feels when you first fall in love? That feeling is one of pure euphoria. It gives you more spring in your step, it always feels like the sun is shining, and you walk around with a ridiculous grin everywhere you go. The “newlywed” phase of any relationship is one of obsession. You are smitten with each other. You wake up and fall asleep thinking about that person, and you are positive nothing can ever tear the two of you apart…
Eventually that phase ends and reality takes its place. The blinders are off, and you do not like what you see. What was once endearing to you is now annoying beyond belief. The person who made you feel happy and loved is now the person who makes you feel unappreciated and angry.
Love used to be enough, until it isn’t.
how understanding your love language can help improve your relationship
The idea of love languages was invented by a therapist named Gary Chapman. His book, The 5 love Languages- The Secret to Love That Lasts, explains that all of us have a love language. Just as a relationship won’t work if you can’t communicate because of a language barrier, how can a relationship work if each of you speak a different love language?
Now I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes. We’ve already read enough about men being from Mars and women from Venus, so now we’re being told that we don’t know how to love properly? Don’t we do enough?! I know I’ve bent myself in so many directions that I feel like a human pretzel.
The truth is that your efforts are unrecognized because you aren’t speaking your partner’s love language. If you are going to put effort into a relationship, don’t you want to do it in a way that matters to the other person? If not, what is the point of trying?
my husband and i were speaking different love languages in our relationship
I know I was a skeptic when I first heard about love languages. I tried so hard, but my husband and I were still bickering all the time. No matter what I said or did, I felt like he wasn’t listening and didn’t care. I felt like I wasn’t appreciated at all.
Change came from ending our codependent behavior, but a huge part of the problem was that both of us felt like we weren’t respected or valued by our partner. There was a huge disconnect, and that was because we were speaking completely different love languages.
Just as you need to focus on your own well-being so you can take care of others, you need to make sure your “love tank” is full. What often happens is that your partner thinks that what is being done or said is filling your love tank. Unfortunately, your love tank is still empty because you speak a different love language. Likewise, you believe you are showing your love for your partner, but they don’t feel loved or appreciated at all.
Children also need to have a full love tank, and it is important that we speak their love language as well. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell wrote the book, The 5 Love Languages of Children. There is a quiz in the book to discover your child’s primary love language.
For purposes of this article, I am going to concentrate on the understanding and importance of the love languages in romantic relationships.
these are dr. chapman’s five love languages
(This is a brief overview of the five love languages. In the book, each love language has a chapter explaining it in depth, and Chapman also gives specific suggestions on how to implement and understand each love language.)
words of affirmation
You feel loved and valued when your partner tells you those words.
You like to hear kind words and compliments from your partner to feel that your love tank is full.
It is crucial for partners to recognize that people who need words of affirmation are extra sensitive when a partner verbalizes displeasure.
Partners should be mindful that you should try to recognize and compliment the other’s efforts and speak encouraging words as much as possible. This keeps your partner’s love tank full.
According to Chapman, “Verbal compliments are far greater motivators than nagging words.”
For some people, what matters most is getting their partner’s undivided attention. They feel prioritized and valued when they are spending quality time with their loved one.
Quality time is not watching TV together. It is time where you both put away distractions and focus on one another.
Time together can be conversing after the kids are asleep, eating a meal together, taking a hike, doing an activity together, or playing a game together.
Unlike words of affirmation, which focuses on what the person is saying, quality time is about what the person is hearing.
Asking questions, showing empathy, and being genuinely interested in what the other one is saying is how you speak the love language of quality time.
“Visual symbols of love are more important to some people than others”- Gary Chapman
These gifts do not have to be costly. It is the thought that counts. Some examples include giving a card (or making one), bringing flowers, or giving a small memento.
Having something tangible makes the person feel loved. It can be found, made, or bought.
Don’t wait for special occasions to give to the person whose primary love language is receiving gifts. Anything you give will be considered tokens of love.
acts of service
If this is your primary love language, you feel actions speak louder than words.
Having your partner do things makes you feel loved.
The amount of time is not what matters, it involves actions that you know your partner wants you to do.
Showing thoughtfulness through actions and doing these actions without complaining is speaking the love language of acts of service.
Being held, holding hands, or getting a massage are all examples of physical touch.
Every person has different areas that are felt as pleasurable, so the preferable areas of touch will vary.
A man might assume that physical touch is his primary love language for sexual reasons, but if he is having sex regularly and still feels unloved, then it is probably not his primary love language.
Biological needs should not be confused for love languages.
what is your love language and the love language of your partner?
At the end of his book there are two quizzes (one for each of you) to understand and find out your primary love language. The test consists of 30 paired statements. You select the statement that is the most truthful for you. Then you tally your results and see your primary love language.
People often have more than one love language, but usually there is one that is the highest. That is your primary love language.
My primary language is acts of service, and my husband’s primary language is physical touch. Previously, instead of speaking the love language that the other one needed, we were giving each other the type of love we wanted. We felt unappreciated because we weren’t giving the other person the love language necessary to fill our love tank.
I now will take my husband’s hand or rub his shoulders to fill his love tank, and he does things around the house without bickering (most of the time 😉).
Just as it is important to respect someone’s feelings even if they are different from yours, there is no right or wrong love language. It is important to give your partner the type of love they need. When people feel appreciated and loved, it is much easier to work through obstacles and work together as a team.
Do I miss the days when I heard the birds singing and I felt like I was floating on a cloud? Sure. The honeymoon phase of a relationship is fleeting. Understanding and speaking each other’s love language is a love that lasts a lifetime. I choose that kind of love any day.