Sunday, March 22, 2009

Out of the frying pan...and into the relationship fire.

What does it take to keep the fires of a relationship burning? Does it take setting specific days of the week aside for date night? Does it require finding new things to keep you...entertained? Do you have to fight to find the energy to make-up? Or does it come down to the fact that no matter what you do to make it sizzle, the relationship fire always fizzles? Don't get me wrong, some relationships are blessed with that sizzle that survives the times of fizzle, that sizzle that no matter what, you always have in the heart of your relationship. But what about those relationships that seem to need something to keep that sizzle going? What about the oomph in the relationship?

Alli and Craig are two friends of mine and M's. No matter what situation the four of us seem to be in, Alli and Craig always end up in a huge argument while M and I sit in the back seat, feeling uncomfortable and wishing that they would save the enormous argument and absolutely revolting make-up sessions for the bedroom. Their fighting is so public and over-the-top that I can't help but wonder: are the arguments foreplay or are they the result of two personalities that connect so wonderfully in the bedroom but just don't fit together anywhere else?

If they are foreplay, then does it make it better when acted out in front of others? I mean, is the fact that people, like M and I, are present hot? Does this some how help the fires of the relationship to sizzle even more? Don't get me wrong, M and I argue, but call me crazy, I don't like fighting with him in front of others. The privacy of the relationship should stay just that: private. So is the public display nothing more than foreplay?

And if it's not foreplay, is it a result of clashing personalities? And if so, why stay together? If you only have the bedroom, and no friendship, where does the relationship lead to? By discussing the sizzle in a relationship, I am not just discussing the sizzle in the bedroom. Sex is just one aspect of a relationship. It's not its foundation, it's a portion of the relationship frying pan. By sizzle, I mean the relationship itself. The sizzle is what draws you to that person, what makes you not want to be without them. In mine and M's case, it's what makes me want to be a good wife and make him happy.

After sorting this out in print, I find myself faced with the answer. And maybe that answer is that there isn't one set answer. Every relationship is different. Every fire burns differently. Maybe it's a good thing that one relationship needs an all-out brawl to keep the fire burning at home while another simply needs date and movie night. Relationships sizzle and relationships fizzle every day. So maybe the answer is to look inside those involved in the relationships and let them decide what keeps the sizzle sizzling.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

With Age Comes Wisdom...and Relationships?

It amazes me every time I step into the classroom, and I observe my students doing the ritualistic mating calls of the younger generation. I teach English Composition II and getting to watch the students interact with each other is a very interesting pasttime that actually helps keep me informed on the relationship trials and tribulations of the younger generation. What surprises me the most is the way in which freshman guys and girls interact with each other.

The young girl is already in her seat at ten o'clock in the morning. Full make-up, hair styled perfectly, the sorority emblem on her t-shirt, Nike shorts over her leggings, with the ever so interesting look of the Ugg boots over them. As usual the young guy walks into class, about two minutes late. They eye each other, he sits directly in front of her. The actions consist of the girl flipping her hair, running her hands through it, and rubbing her Ugg against the back of his chair just noticeable enough to get a sideways smile from him. By the end of the class, both students have failed to hear my wonderful lectures on fiction analysis because they were setting up their wonderful date to see Friday the 13th where the only thing the girl will actually see is the bit of the screen she can see through her fingers.

Why is it that at this young age, the relationships seem to come so easy? What happens as we become older? Isn't knowledge supposed to follow age? So why isn't it the same with relationships? So many struggle with the possibility of new relationships.

For example:My mother is a beautiful, blond hair, blue eyed 46 year young woman who just went through a divorce with my father. My mother desperately deserves to be happy, and deep down, I know she wants to meet someone, she just can't admit it. The thing is she seems interested in the idea of a new relationship, she just doesn't think she deserves one. Now, if Tom Selleck suddenly became single, she would be ecstatic. She has almost as big a crush on him as I do on Johnny Depp.

So why is it so easy to put ourselves out there and on the relationship battlefield when we're 18, but not as we get older?Are we scared? Scared because we already know what the relationship world is already like? Why is it that as young individuals we can be up front about what or who we want, but as we get older, it becomes more and more difficult to place ourselves among the opposite sex and easier to give ourselves a shelf life with an expiration date?

Monday, February 23, 2009

How do you know?

No matter what happens in our lives, we always seem to be surrounded by one constant: the continual need to ask questions. Our teachers always told us that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Our parents said that asking questions, and the need for answers, was all a part of growing up. It's no wonder that our adult lives are encased in questions. Sometimes these questions remained unanswered. A lucky few times, we actually discover the answer. But what kind of questions are we really asking? If we state the question correctly, will we magically find the right answer, or will it be just like the Magic 8 ball and tell us to try again later?

Relationships seem to be the place where all the questioning takes place. And sometimes the questions aren't even that relevant or needing of an answer such as "does he think I'm too fat?" "what will happen if I talk/drool/walk/ or fart in my sleep?" While these questions are important to a certain extent, there is a bigger picture. The biggest question that haunts every relationship would have to be how do you know whether this person is the one?

How do you decide what makes this person so different from every other John or Jane Doe that has entered into your life? We all have the set criteria for what we're attracted to (dark haired men, blondes, tall ones, short ones, thin ones, chubby ones). So if we're potentially dating the same people over and over again because those are the types of people we're attracted to, then what makes "the one" so separate from the others. For some odd reason, my friends seem to think that I'm an expert on this subject since I have been blessed enough to find my "one." Whenever one of them has found themselves in a relationship with blonde hair, brown eyes, tall, athletic Joe number 24, they seem to flock to me to ask, "How did you know that you wanted to be with M FOREVER?" Then, like any self-respecting woman, I answered, "I just knew." But then that always leaves them disappointed and wanting more, and me feeling like I just used my scape-goat answer for the last time, and that I need to find a new answer. So for my friends that consistently ask me, I have decided to answer this question.

M was marching in drum corps again that summer. We had been dating for a while when he had to leave in May. I saw him briefly at the end of June when his grandmother suddenly passed away, and I offered to pick him up from the airport when he flew back for the funeral. Fast forward to sometime at the end of July on a competition night in Tennessee. I was walking with his mom and aunt to find him after the show by the drum corps buses, when I saw him. I ran up and hugged him. After only having been standing there for a short time, we suddenly heard people yelling. Next thing I know, M is pulling me closer into him and pushing my head into his chest. I thought he was sweetly hugging me. Turns out, he was protecting my eyes from the sight of three young drum corps streakers as they ran by. I became aware of this when I heard his mother gasp, and his aunt say "Oh my God! They're completely nude! And look at their tan lines." I'm not sure why, but it was right then that I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with M.

Crazy story? Maybe. Ridiculous way to answer your how do you know question? Not necessarily. It is my personal opinion through many years of dating experience that when you know, you know. And for every single relationship, the answer is never decided upon in the same fashion. So what happens when you can't answer the question? I suppose like anybody in search of an answer, you keep looking and maybe try another portion of the guide map. But what if the answer to the question is that this person just isn't for you? You then become consummed by the next big question, when do you end the relationship that's going nowhere? A movie gave me this answer actually, and I believe it's the correct answer. When you come to the crossroads of ending a relationship or continuing on in it, you have to ask the question, "When two people love eachother, but they just can't seem to get it together, when is enough enough?"* If you said right now, then you should probably move on. But if you said never, hold onto that person, you just might not be at that point where it's time to find the answer to the how do know for your relationship.

*As quoted by Gore Verbinski's 2001 film, The Mexican, starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why Does Moving Change Our Homes and Our Friends Too?

As I am finishing up my final semester in graduate school, I find myself contemplating different things in my life. One important issue is that of friendships. What happens when we have to move away and leave behind those great friendships we have accumulated over the vast years of growing up? Are there really friendships we keep for life, or are there just the occasional blips on the friend-ar that are absolutely wonderful but never continue on? I suppose it's the fact that M and I will be moving at the end of May that makes me incredibly nervous. All of my friends are here. What will happen to the chick flick movies that I love to see, but M can't stand going to see? Do I lose them too? Why is it that when we move, we not only leave behind our old homes but our friends too?

Over the many years and the many military moves that my father put me through as a child, I have mastered the art of moving, but I have never really mastered the knack of not being nervous about meeting new people. Don't get me wrong, once I'm relaxed, I can make friends pretty easily. It's getting to that point that's the hard part. Why? We can be fabulous people with great families, interesting careers, and a nice home, but we find it rather irritating to try and meet new people. Why is it that once we construct a circle of close friends, we either have to simply remain in that same circle or perish trying to make new friends once we have wandered away from the herd?

Two of my best friends, Ana and Kris, moved away after we graduated a couple of years ago. Ana moved to Cajun country and Kris moved to the coast with her fiancee' (now husband). Though they are only about five hours away from me, I rarely see them. We had planned a big weekend in February, husbands included, and then I got bronchitis, and that plan flew out the window. I haven't seen either one of them since Kris and Dave got married in August of 2008. I feel like I'm losing my friends. I talk to Ana maybe once every two weeks, and Kris very rarely. Why? We were like the three musketeers before they moved. What happened? Why is that when our locations change, our friends have to too?

It's quite frustrating that when we find our soul mates, kindred spirits, shoe-shopping partners for life, we lose them the minute something happens in our lives. Don't get me wrong. I love my friends that are still in the area, but Ana and Kris were just like me: crazy. Now, I'm the token girl who speaks her mind, isn't afraid to talk about any topic, and causes people to be incredibly uncomfortable if a taboo issue comes up.

What happens when the old saying of make new friends, but keep the old ones becomes obsolete and no longer fits the personal description of our lives?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Can You Have the Perfection and Love, Too?

After reading a short story for my directed individual study in contemporary literature entitled "A Perfect Relationship" by William Trevor, I got to thinking about the perfect relationship and what it includes. In the story, the couple had the perfect relationship based on the fact that they never fought, but they ended anyway. So what is perfection in relationships? M and I have been married for almost three years now and are very happy together. We love spending time together, but like all good relationships, we do argue occasionally. So is our relationship less than perfect? What about my friends, Ana and Gary? They've been together for ten years, but very true to many relationships this day and age: first came the baby, then the marriage. Like others, they have their ups and downs, so is their relationship less than perfect?

After careful deliberating, I have come to the final conclusion that each relationship can be decided or determined by those involved in the relationship. Now, am I saying that M and I have the perfect relationship? No, but we're happy and I suppose that's almost perfection for us. But who is decide whether or not some one's relationship is perfect?

Perfection: is it obtainable in love? Sure, our dog's love for me and M is perfect. No matter how many times we yell, scold, or whatever at Cosmo's occasional bad behavior, he loves us still. Kids love their parents, usually, no matter what. So is it too much to ask that we have perfection in our love relationships as well? Maybe, but what is perfection in relationships anyway?

Maybe we won't ever find an answer for this question. Maybe we won't ever have a set definition of perfection, or maybe the definitions should vary for each relationship, but maybe we shouldn't put that much into attaining perfection. M and I have a grand relationship and maybe we won't ever reach the perfection in love of Henry Fonda and Kate Hepburn in On Golden Pond, but maybe the answer isn't to reach perfection but to merely love the other as much as one possibly can. So maybe it is possible to reach perfection, at least our own relationship's version of perfection and have love too. What do you think? Has your relationship hit perfection with love too?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Commit or be committed...

Commitment. Why is that word so scary for some people? It's a very strange concept for some. My husband and I have been in a committed relationship for quite some time now, and we're still as happy as ever. I have my best friend Kari who is in her second year of marriage, and she and her husband are in the same mindset as M and me. But then I have friends who are trying to gain that strength in their relationships and become fully committed to their loves, as well as the friends who absolutely run in the other direction whenever the idea of commitment comes into question.

I have a friend, Matt, who has the very bad habit of becoming way too attached way too quick with any woman he begins dating. We're talking the conversation opens, "Hi, I'm Matt. Wanna get dinner? How bout marriage?" Okay, so that is an exaggeration, but it's not too far off from the truth of the situation. Matt's problem is not that he cares so much, it's that he has a tendency to show so much that he ends up either a) smothering the poor girl, or b) chasing her away. Now, I know some guys say, "but isn't that what you women want?" In a way, yes and no. It is exciting to know that we are capable of making someone feel so strongly about us so fast, but on the other hand, it's positively terrifying that we can make someone feel so strongly about us. That's when the questions start: does he truly care about me? Why is he going overboard on this? Is this guy crazy? Does he need to be committed? If he really is this caring and seemingly great of guy, then why in God's name is he single? These actions all cause gigantic red flags and pink elephants to pop up into the woman's mind. My advice? Like Matt, men should slow it down. Understand that it is very flattering to tell a woman how you honestly feel, but don't ask us to marry you before we have finished our steak and sauteed mushrooms, that's just poor table manners. Especially on the first date.

Now, in regards to the opposing argument to this, I have another friend, Ben, who runs screaming into the night and away from his nightmare: the commitment desiring girlfriend who now finds herself single once again. Ben has never been in a long lasting relationship. By that I mean that his relationships have been strictly for no longer than a month. Why? Because, like the other 1/3 of the male population, he becomes absolutely terrified when his latest and greatest begins discussing the necessity for a commitment between them to solidify their relationship. Instead of this special bond that brings them closer, the unfortunate girl ends up back in the single race once more, and Ben begins the search for the next Ms. Right Now and no more. Don't get me wrong, Ben's a nice guy, he just suffers from a well-known phobia: a fear of commitment. Nobody really knows what causes this mysterious phobia to appear in men, but we do know that there isn't a whole lot that can be done about it.

In using the above male examples, it's not to say that the women I know don't have similar problems. In fact, Alli cannot keep the words, "I'm going to marry this one," from leaving her mouth within the first two weeks of the relationship. As her friend, I have become used to this situation, and it no longer shocks me as bad as it once used to. She's been married a couple of times already, so it does sometimes cause one to become slightly distressed when she says it again. Alli's problem seems to be more in the fact that she is in love with the idea of being romantically in love for the rest of her life, till death do them part, and it just doesn't work like that all the time.

Love is a tricky thing. I thank God every day for the blessing I have in my husband, M. I see my friends with their relationships, their ups and downs, and I just pray that some day they are as happy as we are. Now, I am not saying that M and I are ecstatic all day, every day, but we're happy every day in our marriage. We love each other. We want to grow old together, and it's that mutual knowledge that we share that makes it amazing. I try to help my friends that come to me with their problems and explain things that I can answer, and I help them sort through the problems that I can't answer. So I guess the question I am asking today is why is commitment something that some can do wholeheartedly, something that some absolutely desire to have, and something that strikes fear in the hearts of some? Is it better to commit to the one you love, or be committed for the thought crossing your mind?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

When does the unobtainable become the obtainable?

So many of my friends seem to be searching for something. Different things. With the fast approaching graduation in May, some are beginning to look for jobs, PhD programs, houses for the lucky few that have found some or all of the above, that next great love, the love to be the end all of the lovers, and some just want to take the next step with their spouses and become parents. The one things these people all have in common is the fact that no matter what they are searching for, they do it with the greatest of desire. They desperately want the reachable, attainable, and sometimes, exactly what they can't have. Why do we desire so much for somethings that we just are not going to be able to get? And if we really can't have them, then why are we presented with the desire for them?

One of my dearest friends who also happens to be my cousin, Mary, is desperate for a baby. She and her husband have been married for four years now. They both have a successful careers, they own nice cars and a beautiful home. Recently, they discovered they couldn't have children: both she and her husband are sterile. They were devastated.

My husband, M, and I have been trying to get pregnant for a year now. I've been pregnant with twins before, and I miscarried. Now, all I think about is wanting a baby so badly. The majority of my friends are parents and is it horrible to say I was jealous when I found out they were pregnant?

I have a friend, Sam, who is desperate to meet that someone. You know the kind I'm talking about. The kind to end all the searches. The one to just stop and hold hands with for the next 40 odd years or so. The one who you can't get enough of. The one you want to grow old with. He wants this more than anything. Especially now that all of the guys in the old group are getting married. He's the last man standing, and unfortunately, he's standing alone. He thought he had found that special lady twice, but unfortunately, they kept walking.

So when we live in a world that is based on the idea of instant gratification whether it be from McDonalds, one of the numerous local Starbucks (just turn around, there is probably one there), and the idea of lovers wanting "love" from someplace else and getting it no matter what, why do we consistently desire what seems unobtainable? Many of my friends are moving towards those higher levels of life: careers, PhDs, marriage, kids, etc. But then there are those of us just desiring something we can't have.

Maybe my cousin and her husband will never have children. Maybe M and I won't either. But what about Sam? Why does it seem like finding one person to just love and be with is so damn difficult? Will Sam ever find love? Since I am the forever believing optimist in love, hope, peace, and chocolate, I like to believe that he will. I would like to believe that we all will find what we're looking for: that perfect job, house, lover, friend, spouse, or whatever it is that we're looking for. So I guess all I want to say tonight is that, somewhere in the deep void where all unanswered questions go, I just want to ask, "How long do we have to wait before we know whatever it is we're looking for. How long do we have to wait to know why? Why do we need to know?" Maybe those questions will never be answered, but at least we have had the courage to ask rather than turn away and hide in shame for wanting something we may never have.