Got children?

Having to make decisions that can change your life is never easy. Having to make decisions in a short time is even worse. If you are in your forties and never had children you might begin to question your decisions. How about when you never felt certain and all around you told you is supposed to be this way? Having children can come as natural as eating, walking, and talking. For some people it was never a doubt, they always wanted to have children. For others the maternal / paternal instinct was never there. But society kept telling them they should, and then wondering if they made the right choice can be as bad. Not knowing if they’re actually missing out or if they are blessed. After all you will never have to worry about someone’s future for the rest of your lives. You will never cry if they cry, you will never agonize if they are hurt or if they made bad decisions themselves. Being a parent means you will never again be without apprehensions, you will always be anxious about your children’s welfare, when they’re older you will still worry about their lives. Your life will depend on their happiness. Is that what we want? Why? I often wonder why people brought upon themselves more distress, more emotional pain on purpose. Yes, you enjoy them when they’re babies, you love them and they make you happy for about 12-13 years. Then things get complicated. They want to be independent, they make poor decisions, they experiment, they make mistake, they get in trouble, they rebel and they do foolish things because is supposed to be that way. Didn’t you do it too? But now you’re the parent, so you’re lamenting yourself every night. Praying they are well and nothing bad happens.
Someone told me children were retirement insurance so you won’t be alone when you get old. Maybe that’s the reason to have children, so you won’t be lonely in your elder years. However there’s no guarantee your children will want to spend time with you, or be with you as they will have their own lives. Others have said, why do I need a child? The argument of being too selfish to care for others isn’t necessarily true. You may be very generous, caring and even altruistic but you have decided that you don’t need the emotional stress of parenthood. I would argue that people that have children is out of self-interest, egocentricity if you dare to say because they “need” to have someone, or have a heritage, a legacy, or other selfish reasons e.g. loneliness, tradition, etc. Conversely, there are many parents that have 1, 2 or more children because it just happened, because they could or whatever, and couldn’t care less about them. Just ask Child Protective Services on their thousands of neglect cases. But my question remain. Why do people have children? What’s the objective, to populate the world? And don’t tell me that after having your child everything changed and you don’t regret it. Of course, you don’t. I don’t regret having my pets either, I love them. And if you have an ounce of sentiment you will say that about your children. That’s not the point. Why have children? Because that’s the way it is? Really? Because the Bible says so? Really? Because I can? Really? I guess is the same reason as to why we exist. Not one person knows…and we continue to exist and so our children.

Time Out

Relationship problems have continuously been the motivation for our happiness and the greatest source of stress in our lives. I cannot envision more causes for anxiety, depression and frustration than relational problems. Our relationship with our parents, our children, our siblings, our friends are vital to our lives. All these affiliations can contribute to tension. Human beings are all about relationships. We are all about connections, interactions, affiliations. We are communicative, we converse, and we exchange thoughts, feelings and sensations constantly. Our ability to interconnect with others is what drives us. We are insecure, fearful and miserable if we cannot have the best communication with our loved ones. Or even with our colleagues, acquaintances and other people with interact with, if we are not on the same page we cannot help but feel a little distressed and apprehensive. Having our feelings validated, and heard are foundations to our overall happiness and mental health. Whenever we feel misinterpreted or misunderstood it can translate to various other stressors that eventually will affect our functioning.
So when people get overwhelmed and distressed or unable to function at work or with their family, they need to recognize themselves that the problem at hand is a communication problem. Whether it is because their significant other is not giving them what they emotional need or whether the boss has not really expressed their appreciation for all they do and continue to demand more. It can be a simple comment that gets us upset. It can be a remark or an innocent statement that will get us irritated because we interpreted differently or it was said without thinking. That frustration will carry over to other areas of our lives, to our spouse if he/she says something we didn’t like – we’ll snap because after all we’re not listening anymore or we are angry with someone else. It is all about communication.

Communicating and understanding what is being said is not always simple. It can take great skills to be a good listener, much more skills to be able to discern information without emotional reactivity. In order to fully respond appropriately we need to become emotionally stable ourselves. Remember this: Acting with a hot head can lead you no-where. Calm down first, take your time to think things through and clarity will come back. Whenever you make a decision or say things you have regret later, it has been because you did not take sufficient time to put things into perspective. You didn’t have a “time-out” to process all the information that was communicated to you. The challenge is to identify you need this time to think. Do not be afraid to wait it out. Slowing down will help make better decisions, to clarify your feelings and to empathize with the feelings of others. Go ahead and take 5.

Don’t marry your best friend

I met with a friend a couple of days ago; we ended up talking about marriage. She complains her husband only wants to spend time with the children, doesn’t want to go on dates anymore, he doesn’t want to have sex at all. He doesn’t have the time or energy to be with her “he’s always tired” she says. Life is boring, work, work and maybe the occasional weekend off and the mini-vacation. No romance, no kisses; nothing that can promote more intimacy.  Love may be there but it’s not the same she said. How is it that every marriage turns out pretty much the same: a mundane relationship without desire or sex. Why, why….

Yes, I agree that the marriage after so many years will not be the same. It can’t be the same. A relationship cannot go unchanged for long. All affiliations change over time, some for better and others for worse. During your married life there will be so many happy and sad moments, you will share many common activities, anecdotes, occasions, conversations, trips, things done together that you in time will become friends (hopefully good friends you say) and because of that friendship your lust for one another has transformed into something else. Maybe there’s camaraderie or maybe good companionship and a loving connection. Is that wrong? Isn’t that how marriage is supposed to be?, she asked.

I don’t know the answer as how “marriage is supposed to be” and I don’t think anyone does. Basically our fantasy of how a marriage should be is very different from the day to day reality of millions of other couples out there. Social media, movies, books, the Church, our family members and even marriage counselors may tell you otherwise but the fact is your marriage doesn’t live up to what you are experiencing every day. You love your spouse but can’t help being bored sometimes. You have become good friends, roommates even. Bored with him or you or the family (guilt feelings all over the place), or can’t help feel attracted to someone else; it’s a novelty, a much younger, handsomer, athletic novelty. You considered cheating but can never do it (guilt again). You want out but can’t think you could be on your own after all this time (fear). But you look at others, you fantasize you’re single. And you think it’s even better, a clean tab, no history, no shared baggage, no shared experience or familiarity to ruin the sex.  He /she won’t need to know anything about you. They don’t know your insecurities like your spouse does. That makes is so much more interesting I tell her. That’s the attraction. Once you know all their flaws, their character traits of everyday life, things change. They have to. That is normal. All those books that talk about keeping the passion in your marriage, fire in the bedroom, how to keep things new and on and on they advise because they know is the reality of daily living. A routine will emerge. Things become predictable, friendly. It doesn’t feel fresh. It is human nature I tell her.

You may disagree with me, but think for a bit; your partner should never really become your pal. Sounds odd perhaps in this era when people make it such a big thing “I am marrying my best friend” on wedding invitations, social media. Oh how sweet! With a bit of luck years later it won’t come back to haunt you.

“I met my best friend and I think she’s the one”, said a male colleague, I smiled and said good for you! and then I thought: So now you dump all your good friends! Even your childhood friend who was until a few months ago your best friend? You dump them because you like this person so much SHE has to take over that role? So all those memories you shared, your hiking trips, your drinking/dancing days, your shared dating stories, your games of ball every weekend, all of that is gone and now she will replace all of that, huh!?. Of course a year later wedding announcement, you guessed it, it’s on the wedding invitation now, and they’re best friends! He dropped everyone for her. Nice! Newly engaged people are no longer listening, they’re deaf and blind. You don’t need another friend. Let your significant other stay in their role before it’s too late. You need a lover, someone who wants you, who desires you, who wants to touch you, kiss you, protect you, take you places, enjoy things with you, and have fun with you and surprise you on your day, to still be romantic and curious about you. That is your lover, not your comrade. She doesn’t want to hear your farting or nasty jokes; she won’t laugh and join you with enthusiasm and more farting unless she is your buddy. And he doesn’t want to know about your bloating, or your irregular periods.  You can go to the doctor or better yet tell your friend. Got any? And if they do want to share all that, good luck. They crossed the line, not a lover, but a good friend to hang out with every day, that’s what you got. So don’t complain. Harsh? Perhaps.

For some people it feels stupid to act sensual with their “best friend” (husband/wife). After years of marriage you got too comfortable, just like you do with your friends. I hear men say “well she knows me so well I don’t need to tell her anything romantic or I don’t need to buy her a birthday gift, she just tells me what to get for her “. What! No romance for a friend?  After all friends are platonic, fun, and your friends are never sexual or romantic with you (I least I hope not). According to the Oxford dictionary, a friend is a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of (not including) sexual or family relations.

You read that! A friend is not your family member or your sexual partner! Better yet, you know what the synonyms of friends are: ally, comrade, chum, crony, confidant, and fellow. There you have it. Yes, your friends are your allies, your pals, and your confidant. Friends are reliable, predictable, non-sexual, and consistent. The one you can talk about your sex life if you wish. That’s the friend we all want. Your spouse cannot be your friend; yes they can be your supporter and your intimate but not your chum, not your pal… If they are, that is the problem I tell you. I am not saying don’t share with them. I am not saying keep it private. I am saying do not use them as your only and best friend. They are not. Have a life outside your marriage. Have other friends so you don’t treat your partner as your best chum. Of course we all know those friends who tell you they wished their spouses would confide more in them, that they would share more, but heck their sex life is good….no one is ever happy.

So here’s my friend complaining, she has no friends left (I am the only one she says), and her husband ignores her all the time. That’s the mistake many make: isolate from others, don’t need anybody but your sweetheart, then routine gets you, nothing new to talk about and you became roommates. The enigmatic feeling that attracted you to your partner is gone. The sex-appeal is gone. It is only natural to learn so much about another person after 19 years together I told my friend. It happens with daily living so it may be inevitable. What about asking him on a date without the kids and call me when you need to vent. He doesn’t have to treat you like a pal either. Set your boundaries. Too late she says, he already see me sitting at the toilet in the mornings, or eating with my hands, or getting my legs shaved, or whatever …and that is definitely not sexy. Not at all. You stopped being sensual in front of each other’s eyes because friends don’t want to be sexy with one another. Yuck! I don’t want to be sexy with you I tell her. I don’t want to date you she says, and we laugh. So no, I don’t have the answer. It would be nice if things we want would never change and only those we want differently would actually change. I don’t have the solution for a great marriage.

Yet others tell me I am wrong, their husband is their best friend and their sex life is wonderful. Is it? Great I say. Good for you! But guess what, you’re not the majority. And if you know why you can have it both ways, go ahead and share. Maybe you will help reduce the infidelity rate or even better: fewer couples will get a divorce. Go for it, I challenge you my “friend”.

Envy

Envy can be a very intricate emotion. We all experience it at one point or another in our lives. But why is it so spirited and undesirable besides the obvious reasons: it can consume you, it can cause more unpleasant feelings (anger, guilt, resentment), and it can cause friction among friends as people feel uncomfortable about the whole situation. There are so many other explanations why Envy is never described as the desired quality. People do their best to deny any jealousy feelings. However it’s there, Envy has come to you, and no individual can escape at least one stopover.
When we feel dissatisfied or angry by someone else’s assets, abilities or good fortune we tend to act in resentment and minimize their accomplishments, we may criticize them so we can feel better. In psychology we talk about comparison and contrast; that if you experience envy you have the opportunity to learn about yourself because envy is emotional and you are measuring yourself alongside the life of another person. You are comparing yourself and you are contrasting the evidence in front of your eyes. Society sees this emotion as negative, one should not have it because it goes in contradiction of encouraging other more positive aspects of humanity: love, kindness, care, consideration, helpfulness, etc.

What if I say is okay to feel envious, is okay to compare yourself and feel upset with the situation. It’s only normal, right? I say accept it! Agree you are envious and that you feel jealous in the moment. Take what it is without trying to make it better, or to justify it. Look at the facts. Envy is here! Then when alone and calmer, look deeper. There is a very specific reason for your envy. Describe it. Own it. It’s there.

A month ago when you didn’t know your best friend had a new job you felt happy and content with your life. Now that you found out he has a better paying job, a better office and a better benefit package, you feel upset and can’t take it off your mind. What about your neighbor, yes that one, he has 3 children, works an average job and has bought his 2nd house, can afford annual vacations (yes 2 at least) and a brand new car. You barely manage your mortgage and no kids to blame. Envy is sitting next to you again.

Nothing has really changed in your life but the way you perceive things have changed. Your feelings about the circumstances have transformed. If he didn’t tell you about his successes or if you didn’t see it, you would go about your life as usual. However now you know he’s doing better or at least when you compare yourself to him you think he’s doing better. So things are different. Resentment is there, anger is there, Envy has come to visit you.

Recognizing the feeling and accepting the emotion is the first step to cope with your feelings. Plan to do something about it. Not against your friend or the person that has caused these feelings but plan to do something with yourself; with your situation that will help you feel confident and happy (again). Because after all, you’re lacking confidence right now, and it has nothing to do with him. List the things you already have that make you happy. List the things you would like to get and can make you feel prosperous (less envious?). Are you comparing again? Yes, so what? If it’s going to help you, then you should compare. Do compare your options, compare your present to your desired future. Compare your abilities and your determination to do well. Use Envy to move you. Challenge Envy to give you the motivation you may need to achieve your own victory. Talk to your new friend Envy, vent freely. Complain and say what’s on your mind and soon enough Envy will dissipate in time. When you hear yourself say it aloud, the absurdity will surprise you. Talk to people you trust, find sympathetic outlets to let Envy go….now I feel better already. I have everything I want and need, another life dilemma managed… Envy has left the building.