Updated: Jan 1
Anytime John and I have an argument I feel like I should take my book off Amazon, take down my blog, and just crawl back into bed. A total fraud. Phony. 😂 Problem solving and conflict resolution was NOT modeled in my home growing up. We never saw our parents even HAVE a tough discussion. They didn’t do this thing called “discuss”. Ya gotta love ’em. They are 80 and 84 and they raised ELEVEN children. And now, anytime John and I have a tough “discussion,” I think we’re doomed. Crazy, I know. So 46-years on the planet and and almost 7 years together, I am STILL learning that arguments and challenges aren’t the end of the world. And PS, challenges are the ONLY way to grow. The only couples who don’t ever argue just don’t talk when something bothers them. It’s easy to not argue! Bottle up all your feelings. I don’t want that. I want to be better at communication. I want to learn to remove my defensiveness. I want to learn how to resolve conflicts with love and compassion. Guess what? The only way to learn those attributes is to PUT YOURSELF IN situations that require them. Damnit! Wish it were different.
I have an almost 16-year-old daughter, hence the arguments between John and me last week. And it just hit me yesterday when I was talking to my friend about her sweet beautiful son who is having suicidal thoughts…I think what we’re seeing in our kids right now is the compounding effect of what we’ve all just gone through. Isolation, cancellation of all sports, schools, all social activities. I don’t think these were the shining moments in my motherhood. We are seeing the damages right now. Last year was the hardest for our kids. And me? What did I do? While everyone was locked down and working from home, I got a job outside of my home for the first time in 11 years, at the dealership with John. I had already been doing marketing for them for a few years, but I worked along side an internal marketing manager. One day at the beginning of June last year, he quit. John and the owner wanted me to take over his duties inside the store as well, and wanted me to office there. Now, that is awesome for many many reasons; however, I have been working from home since 2009. I purposely sought a job where I could work from home while I was raising my kids alone so I could be there for all the stuff. And work around that. So for the first time in my kids’ memories, I left every day and came home exhausted. The worst version of me. My son thought lockdown was the greatest time in his life. He could play games with his friends on xbox and there was no school. He loved it. My daughter, the socialite, suffered. Big time. I did as many things as I could with her, had family game nights, spent Saturdays with her, but…it just wasn’t enough. She switched to online school which is a disaster, and she was home alone all day. I thought it would be OK since she’s 15. But no. It’s been a rough year on all of us. Collectively everyone on the planet. It’s not a pity party; it facts.
So recently, she and John are butting heads. We didn’t handle it well. I just get pissed that he’s pissed, and being the mama bear I am, I defend her. I feel guilty. I was better at creating boundaries and schedules and healthy food when the world wasn’t turned upside down. Although at times I feel like we don’t give ourselves enough grace for trying to figure it out and survive during that shit show last year. But the truth is, I know I could have done better. I know better.
And she doesn’t want to replace the water bottles or wash her dishes or put on her socks in the house. And John’s had enough. Cue the fighting.
The other thing I know I could have done better is being present when John and I have alone time. Me working with him every day has been a crazy transition. The entire time we’ve been together, he has been going to work at 7:30 and getting home at 5:30 or 6. We had our precious mornings together alone, I’d pick up the kids in the afternoon and have a few hours with just them, and start making dinner. I couldn’t wait for John to come home. I had no problem putting down my phone, pressing pause on work, and just soaking up our precious moments together. Working together all day every day has made our mornings and evenings less precious. I started taking for granted our time together. I feel like I have to keep working in the evenings.
We have had some incredible conversations and awesome growth the last couple weeks. We put our foot down on the chores as a united front, and I talked to my daughter at length. Actually, she’s about the best teenager on the planet. Most parents have to deal with way more than a kid who doesn’t want to wear socks in the house. Harmony was restored relatively quickly. (Then she went to her girlfriends’ house.) Our house is on the market and we had three showings in 24 hours. Every time I sit down to do something, I get a text from my realtor, and I have to get the house looking perfect and get out! It’s been crazy! But I digress…
This past couple weeks made me ponder something else: Do we need to remind ourselves how precious life is because we never have a guarantee of tomorrow? Do we need to pour a little more into those who matter most? We truly don’t know how many days we will have together. I reminded myself NOT to take anyone for granted and not to take any moment for granted, and to put down my phone and laptop. Work can wait.
What is a healthy relationship? I’m no expert, but trust, mutual respect, and open communication come to mind (and mutual respect during said open communication, right?), and also compassion. No one said a healthy relationship is where no arguing exists. It’s how you resolve those arguments, and actually, I’ve heard many experts say that resolving conflict in front of our children is a great role model for them when they have relationships. Everyone has rough days. Including your teenagers, and your husband, and yourself! Everyone has rough weeks, rough seasons, and challenges! It’s abnormal NOT TO.
On the flip side, we might have unhealthy relationships. Without trust, without respect, without open communication. Are there relationships we need to walk away from? A friend or family member who is constantly pulling you into negativity? Someone you need a little distance from? Someone you’d be better off loving from afar? These are toxic relationships, and we need to gut check them, too. How do you feel after you’ve spent time with certain individuals? Do you feel better? Or do you feel worse? Your gut always knows. I’ve walked away from several.
Listen to what Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter says about toxic relationships, “Unhealthy relationships may contribute to a toxic internal environment that can lead to stress, depression, anxiety, and even medical problems.” They can hurt us emotionally and physically!
Those who know me know that I’m a firm believer in garbage in …. garbage out. If we’re surrounding ourselves
with friends who sit around complaining about life, work, men, we will start complaining about life, work and men, too. And when you are working toward your goals and making positive changes in your life, toxic relationships will send you backwards. Further away from the life and relationships you want to attract. Conversely, if we continuously surround ourselves with productive, wise, helpful people and listen to positive messages that keep our mind focused on the life we want, we’re more likely to keep making progress toward our goals…including the goal of attracting a bad ass partner. Positive in … positive out (this is why I created My Love Playlist).
Here’s what I say in my book:
If your girlfriend just got separated from her husband three months ago and is going through a custody battle, “But, Karen, she’s my only friend. She listens to me bitch about my ex-husband for hours because she’s such a good friend.”
But how is that helping you? Listen, I know we all need to talk. We need people around us who have gone through similar situations so their stories can help us heal. I had an excellent therapist. If you are able to get a therapist, I highly recommend it. And at the same time, if you can identify those around you who are negative about relationships or are currently in toxic marriages and you can decrease the amount of time you spend with them, you’ll help yourself feel better. You are helping yourself believe that true love is possible for you.
And not just true love … health! I really like this article from Northwestern Medicine. It talks about the benefits of healthy relationships:
Greater sense of purpose