Monday, September 22, 2014

Top 10 things I've learned


So, I was talking to someone the other day (and the other day for me sometimes means a year ago and sometimes means a day ago... it really depends on my memory where time is all conflated) about marriage. They basically asked me what was the top thing I've learned through married life. So, I decided to share some of them here.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying I know much about marriage and married life, I still consider myself relatively new to the lifestyle, but these are just my top ten reflections.

1- If you made it past the first year, you're likely to be together forever. 

The first year (maybe two) of marriage for everyone is the most challenging. Why? Because you are so "in love" with a person that the over-the-top image that you have of your loved one is contrasted with their day to day realities. Your knight in shining armor, your princess or queen, the love of your life.... so pure, so amazing.... contrasted with, well let me quote one of my favorite children's books, "Everyone Poops" (Taro Gomi).

Essentially, you witness one extreme to the next. Although the rate of divorce is high and there is no guarantee, but I strongly believe that if you make it past the first two years, you can get through anything.

2- Praying for your loved one, makes you love them more. 

This was a piece of advice my brother-in-law gave me. Really, it works. When I am annoyed as heck with my hubby or my daughter or my sister or anyone else in my family... I pray for them. Not in the "holier than thou" way... I pray for random things. Like that my sister does well in her classes. That my husband excels at work. That my mom gets to do something fun in the next two days. That my daughter likes to read books with me. I pray that they get the phone they want, the dress they've been saving up for, the date that they need to go on (I'm rooting for you mom and dad, you really need to go out alone more often), and so forth. The reason I pray for their "materialistic" things is because it makes me feel less annoyed with them and really feel like I witness their hard work and sacrifice. My husband works so many hours on computers, he should be able to enjoy the newest technology that his work contributes to. My sister studies so hard, she should be able to get the grade she is aiming for. My parents gave up so much of their alone time for us as kids, they should be able to enjoy being alone on dates as much as possible.

3-  Don't take things personally.

I won't lie. This one is a challenge for me until this second. I tend to take things personally if it comes from family. Mainly, because they know me through and through. But in the end, the people who love you aren't trying to hurt you. They're trying to love you through their own approaches. Some people talk in naturally harsher tones and shorter sentences. I'm not like that. But it takes a lot of effort for me to distinguish the way a person talks versus the message they're trying to deliver. Therefore, its a challenge, but don't take things personally.

4- Keep living life.

I think this is harder, for the most part (but not exclusively) for women. My husband used to tell me when I first got married, go out with your friends, go out to your open mics, just go out and have fun. But it was so hard for me to do it, because I wanted to spend all my time with my new husband. I felt like our time together was shared and I didn't want someone else to take that away from me. But if you do that, constantly want to be together with your spouse, you kind of suffocate each other. This is a tip for people who constantly love to be with their spouse: If you are with them constantly, your time with them is going to get shorter and shorter. But if you give each other your own personal time, you'll have a life-time together. Essentially, don't force your spouse to replace everyone of your relationships... that is unfair, impossible, and will lead you both to burn out.

5- Find the right friend. 

You have good friends, I get that. But friendship (and I think I've blogged about this in the past) differs completely when you're single, in-a-relationship, married, a parent, and even a grand-parent. Your lifestyle completely changes in all these different points of life. You need to find a friend, who can understand what you're going through, be willing to exchange non-judgmental advice and a listening ear, and will not be upset when you don't fill in the blanks. Life with another person is tough and sometimes, you just need to get away, but you know at the end of the day, you will want to come home to you loved one.

6- TEA, TEA, TEA, and TEA

This may seem silly, but my husband has introduced me to the world of herbal teas that I never really knew of... or at least never purchased before. I've fallen in love with a beautiful mix of: Marjoram, Anise, Ginger, and Cinnamon. I can drink it all day long.

7- Trust

Trust is such a hard thing to have in this day and age. But because of past experiences, we gather information, we draw conclusions, we develop assumptions, we limit trust. Trust is essential to a marriage. However, I think that your spouse and you need to define how you understand trust. For example, just because I don't tell you something, doesn't mean I don't trust you. I just don't feel like it is necessary to tell people. Whereas, other people feel that if you don't tell your significant other everything then it means you don't trust them. Get to know how both you and your significant other approach the concept of trust.

8- Family support is a must. 

Needless to say, you love your family, your spouse loves their family and you should both aim to love each other's family. In the long-run, it is essential. This can sound very self-serving, and I won't lie, in the end, it is. But many couples break up because of family drama. Try your hardest to extend love to your in-laws and you will find them to be a pillar of support in your household. Also, a piece of advice my mother-in-law told me was to avoid complaining about your own family, because this could reduce the value and image of your family to your spouse. Overall, your family loves you, acts in what they consider their best interest of you, and they may do things differently than you, but its out of love.

9- Thank you, thank you, thank you....

Before I get into the implications, I suggest you always thank your spouse at least once a day for something they did for you. At least once a day, because if its too frequently, it honestly gets annoying. And if its less, then you might feel taken for granted. Anyway, implications. I have had two different narratives mentioned to me in terms of thanking people you are close with. First, someone mentioned that you don't thank your family because this is their duty to you. Second, don't thank another person too much because they start to see you as beneath them and treat you as such. I think these are both valid arguments, but I do not agree with them, although I have confronted both in my lifetime. I have had a relationship in the past where a friend would "talk down to me" and another friend pointed out it is because I "always thank them and always compliment them". For these two scenarios, I think this is the best approach: First, always thank people no matter what their relationship, because even parents feel taken for granted, no matter what their duty is. When you thank them, it makes them feel like less of a duty and more of an act of love. Second, remind people to thank you. I know that sounds "obnoxious", but really, sometimes you need to. Sometimes I am so caught up in my own head, that I don't realize that someone did me a favor, or took care of me, or helped me in some way. Every once in a while, when the other person starts to feel "taken for granted", I think they should remind their loved one that they helped them in such and such way. Don't catalogue a huge list. Just be nice about it. Like, "I made you some coffee today, do you like it?" I think this is a nice way to remind your spouse that you did an act of kindness for them without pressuring them to feel obligated to thank you.

10- Treat people the way they want to be treated, not the way you want to be treated. 

This is also a tough one. How well do you know a person to know how they want to be treated? Maybe you have to directly ask them how they want to be treated. But, just because you want to be hugged all day long, doesn't mean your spouse wants that... Or just because you like to constantly be in someone's company, doesn't mean that your loved one wants that... Or just because your loved one always likes to eat pizza doesn't mean you want that... Or just because your spouse likes to receive gifts doesn't mean that you want that... I've said this before, find your partner's love-language. It took me a long time to realize that my mother's love language (like most Arab mothers) is through constant "nit picking/advice giving" and through "service". Essentially, the same way you accept their services, you should accept their advice, no questions asked. So, I try to serve my mom now. I'm obviously not going to nit-pick at her... but I do try to serve her more than gift buying or words of love. I do those things, but when I serve her and spend time with her, thats when she recognizes my love the most. Some people love receiving gifts. To express your love to them in a way they recognize you need to give them a gift, even if it is to buy them a cup of coffee. Some people need words of affirmation and love. Some people need physical touch and intimacy. I'm not suggesting they only need one of these things to satisfy them, but sometimes they need one area or "love-language" more than the other. So, essentially, treat your loved one in a way that they can understand your love, the way they want to be loved, as much as you can.

One extra just for you... 

Married life is as difficult and complicated as you make it. If you complicate things, then you complicate things. If you make things easy, you make things easy. Find the right balance. It'll take time... I'm still trying to get ahold of the ropes... we all will eventually figure things out.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

5 Ways to Get Out and/or Stay Out of an Emotional Affair.

Hello. Its been quite a while... 8 months in fact.

I just read this article: 5 Signs You're Having an Emotional Affair. I think the article is interesting conceptually and in many cases it can be true, however, I don't think it is completely fair.

I asked the question when I originally posted the article to facebook, what are the root causes of emotional affairs? I mean, there must be a reason why people seek to fulfill their emotional needs, right?

Sometimes people may be in a relationship where one partner (often times the woman, but not always) has much more emotional needs than their partner has or can accommodate. Therefore, they seek their emotional needs elsewhere. For most women (and men), they have their "girl friends" to talk to. They hash out their thoughts, emotions, and secrets. You promise your friends (and ideally if they are good at it) not to share it with anyone, bring it up with your friend (unless they bring it up to you), and separate yourself from the equation so that you do not feel anything negative from your friend's partner. The reason being is, your friend is going to feel differently in an hour, day, week, month or even a year. If she doesn't feel differently, it is still her/his problem in the end and you need to be supportive of THEIR decisions, although you can help them sort out their thoughts throughout the process.

For example, I am a very emotional and reflective person and am in constant need of someone to talk to... and I mean CONSTANTLY.  Every thought gets pulled apart, rearranged, and put back together, maybe in the same form, or maybe in a new pattern. But it is unfair to my partner to have to listen to my every thought, every emotion, every moment. So, I seek out other people to meet my emotional needs. I talk to my parents, my in-laws, my siblings, and my closest friends. I do not consider this an emotional affair. The reason being is because I am attempting to respect the quiet tendencies of my partner. Is it frustrating? Hell yes. But is it for the overall good of our relationship, I hope so. The reason why is when you talk and re-hash things as much as I do, it might seem like you are 1) constantly complaining; 2) constantly in doubt; 3) constantly flip-flopping; 4) constantly having problems; 5) in constant need of therapy.

But it is not the case, I'm just an verbal thinker. I need to bounce ideas off of people, including the process of sorting out my emotions and relationships.

I will adjust the definition of an emotional affair as when a person begins to seek emotional comfort from someone outside of their relationship in which could turn into another relationship that could replace your existing one (whether a man or a woman, considering sexual preferences). 

So, anyway, this has led me to write a post in response to "5 Signs You're Having an Emotional Affair" and lets call this: 5 Ways to Get Out and/or Stay Out of an Emotional Affair.

1) Make sure you understand why you seek and/or might need emotional comfort on the outside. 

This may be because your emotional needs are not met internally within your relationship. So, you feel the need to have a stand-in. Think about your emotional needs. Are they too much? Can you reign them in so that you and your partner can find a middle ground? Are your emotional needs connected to another issue? Are you unsatisfied with everything in your life and considering your partner the root of that dissatisfaction? Think about why you are seeking more on the outside.

2) Consider who you are seeking emotional comforts from. 

Personally, I do not think seeking emotional comforts from outside your relationship is a problem, unless it from a "threatening" individual, and by threatening, I mean for your relationship. This is the age-old debate of whether men and women can be "just friends"? I do believe men and women can be just friends if they are just friends. However, I do not believe men and women can have a deeper relationship without it turning into something more (and apply the standards for same-sex couples, so men-men; women-women). If they are the person you turn to with every problem or every complaint, then it changing the playing field. But if you're turning to someone like a parent, a therapist, or a friend (that is not of your sexual preference) the boundaries are a lot more clearly drawn. You know how much is too much; how much to hold back; and where guilt starts to play into factors.

3) Talk to YOUR Partner.

I think a major problem is people don't talk to their partners and when they do, the messages delivered and received are not the same. So, when they need to talk to their partners, they should try to speak to them in a way that they can understand and empathize with. I'm a fan of the book The Five Love Languages. Or take the Myer/Briggs Personality Test to know what type of person you are and what type of person your partner is. You really need to be able to understand another person to effectively communicate.

Often times, women and men (and people in general) communicate differently. Partner A will say something like "look at the floor, its so dirty" and it could mean many things such as a simple statement of fact "look at the floor, its so dirty" or it could imply "I need to clean it", it could imply "get up here Partner B and clean it", it could imply "I made a mess!" and it could imply "You made a mess!" Some of these could be complaints or accusations. Partner B could be constantly hearing your statements of facts as a complaint and accusation. Causing them to withdraw. You need to figure out how your partner thinks, for the most part and communicate in that language.

4) Adjust as much as you can permit yourself. 

Your partner is not someone you can change to meet your needs. You need to adjust as much as you will allow yourself to meet them half-way. Sometimes, this means working a lot on yourself to meet their needs to get a long-term gain. So, if you feel like your partner doesn't talk as much or doesn't want to talk as much, read their emotional cues. Are they tired from work? Are they in a bad mood? Maybe they have a headache? Maybe, maybe, maybe. In Islamic tradition, we are taught that you need to give another person 70 excuses before issuing some sort of judgement on them and their behaviors. I know for me, when I don't want to talk or am "not in the mood" to talk to someone, its usually because I have a migraine. But I don't mention I have a migraine because 1) I don't want to complain about it; and 2) I try as much as possible not to think about it. However, it leaves me standoff-ish  and withdrawn. Maybe I'll be withdrawn for a day, maybe for a week (depending on the migraine), so I try to get by with the contact that with keep my family satisfied (or at least I think thats what I am doing).

Although, I'm not a fan of super "religious movies", I was a fan of the movie Fireproof. In the movie, the main character is recommended to follow this book of dares for like 40 days (click on the link to see some of the dares). And honestly, it works. You reach out in small ways to your partner and you begin to see the reward. I won't go into the specifics, but I decided to try it, and within a week I was seeing a difference in my relationship. Not only was I becoming more positive, less impatient, and overall more content, my partner also responded in positive ways. Talking more to me, trying to ease me of my responsibilities at home, and even going the extra mile in communication and talking that is above and beyond other people's needs. Basically, adjust yourself but don't change who you are. 

5) Be honest to yourself and your partner. 

Do you feel guilty? Are you hiding secrets? This could mean that you're in an "emotional affair". I will note that Number 5 is different from Number 3. In Number 3, I mentioned Talking to your Partner. However, here I mean, talk to your partner about your concerns in your relationship. Sometimes, you need to figuratively smack your partner over the head with your attempts to communicate. What I mean is this... "Hey wifey, did you notice how I gave you a massage the other day? And I bought you your favorite ice cream? And took you out for dinner? This is because I am trying to connect with you since I feel like we've grown distant".

Sometimes, your partner just won't realize unless you tell them. I'm not telling you to rub it in their face and make you seem like the good guy and your partner the bad guy. But be honest to your partner that you're worried about your relationship and have been making strides to mend it. Ask if they've noticed too? Maybe they don't realize that the foundation of their relationship is becoming unstable... Maybe they have noticed it and have given up. Maybe they've noticed it and decided to do something about it. Maybe you haven't noticed their attempts to reconcile as well.

I'll give an example from my personal life (sorry hubster if you're reading this!). So, I like to be constantly with the person I love. CONSTANTLY. Its like that with my parents. It's like that with my friends. Its like that with my husband. Its becoming like that with my daughter. Basically, when I love someone, I need to feel their presence. We need to communicate. We need to have these philosophical discussions and what not. At one point, I was getting so frustrated with the hubster because he was so aloof and unavailable, which made me feel totally and utterly rejected. Then, he was on and off for about a week or two. When we talked about it later on, I was so emotional and frustrated. Then, he gave me his explanation, "your family was in town and I wanted to give you some personal space to be with them alone". I mean, I didn't even think about the fact my mom and grandma were in town (at the time) and thats why he was giving me space, to give us our "ladies time".

Personally, I don't like that space, but it taught me that he thinks about that alone time and space. He needs that alone time with his friends and family, without me always creeping in the shadows :p. But basically, it wasn't about me personally per se, but about giving me a fuller opportunity to enjoy my family while they were in town. I wouldn't have figured that one out and had been stuck dwelling and dwelling and dwelling on it until kingdom come. So, being honest, even about my frustration, was helpful because I found out that first, my frustration was misplaced; and second, that my husband needs much more space than I may need.

I guess thats about it. Basically, 1) understand yourself/needs; 2) consider the who; 3) Talk to your partner; 4) adjust accordingly; and 5) Be honest. 

Let me hear your thoughts on this subject as well. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Its been 3 months, shy of a day, since I've been thrusted into the world of mamahood. I won't lie, its been hard, trying to juggling a job, research, a child, and other social duties/activities. Sometimes, I just want to crawl into the closet and sleep for days, but you can't do that. Sometimes, I want to take my daughter with me to work because I just don't want to be separated from her, even for a few hours... but I also can't do that. Sometimes, I want to go out without being a mom... and sometimes, I want to take my baby out with me and carry my mama badge for the world to see.

Its a complex, tangled web of emotions that I'm sure other moms (maybe fathers) have felt before. I think that most people don't realize this emotional phone tag you experience, until they're knee deep into poopy diapers, screams, and blurred vision due to lack of sleep. But you start to love the smell of the poopy diapers, hear music in the screams, and who needs 20/20 when the world looks like a great big colorful cloud?

My post isn't to complain about being a mom (or parent). But it is to shed light on the complexity of being a parent. Not all parents are the same. I happen to be the type who can't just send my child off with someone (even a family member) without feeling guilty. Many women are like that... I don't know about men... But, to do something on my own... even if it is to do research for my dissertation, while sitting at home, I feel bad sending the little one to someone else and then they get tied up and aren't able to do their own activities. Yes, I know that as she gets older, she'll learn to play by herself and won't need to be constantly held or talked to, but until then its hard.

That is why I've come to realize that it truly does take a village to raise a child. Two even three people can't do it alone. But, you need to work with what you have. So, based on my short experience thus far, this is what I need to do:

1- Get over it. Not feel guilty... Let the tiny human being go play with her aunts, uncles, cousins, babas, mama and baba's friends and anyone else who is close enough to you. How to not feel guilty? Think of it as a) a learning experience and opportunity for the little one; b) a fun date/outing for the big ones.

2- Babies need to get used to seeing a lot of faces... otherwise, when they're older... you'll probably suffocate from separation anxiety.

3- Go to work. If you're a stay at home mom, find something that you can do alone outside of the house, even if its an hour a week. Maybe, go to the library and read a book. This time make you feel like you're a real human being... not a milk machine... i.e. a cow... which is bad enough, considering all the weight you put on making the baby.

4- Find someone to trade off with you. You might have a friend, who has a baby too. Set up your schedules to "alternate" in order that you can baby sit each others kids, without having worry about costs or values. This is good for the parent, because they can have the flexibility to do things without the baby distracting you. And good for the child, because they'll have a playmate as they get older. This isn't only for working mamas. For example, say its really hard to get the house clean... Set up a day once a week, where you send the little one with a friend. But you have to be willing to accommodate the friend's day too. FYI- I'm still looking for someone to do this with...

5- Don't take things personally. This, I still need to work on. But, if people start saying things to you that tick you off, whether it is how you're doing something wrong, or not to do such and such, or to do whatever it is, or even a loaded comment about how working moms aren't real moms... Well, just pretend that their comment didn't come out of their mouths. Instead, think of what you need to hear and replace that in your brain. So, if someone is like "You're doing it wrong" in your brain process their statement as "you got this!" ---> This takes a lot of time and mastery... trust me, I am not even close to being able to do it, since I'm an extremely sensitive person. Good luck!

6- Talk to (and appreciate) your family members and significant other or even friends who may be helping you out. When you begin to appreciate them truly, that negative guilty feeling goes away, and you just feel blessed. Also, talk to them about specific needs you may have and explain, without embarrassment, what help you need exactly. They may think one thing and you have something totally different going on in your brain. And then in the end you get frustrated and annoyed. So, yeah... be more accurate and specific about your needs and constantly express your appreciation.

I guess I'll stop there.