Another Rush…

Chi Omega Sorority Class of 1908.  Sororities have evolved since then.

Together, Mike and I have been to fifteen weddings.  Now that Mike is 35-years-old, his single friends are dwindling. Everyone suspected he would be the first to get married. Among several circles of friends, we would be the last.

With each wedding comes more and more people asking when it is going to be our turn. Trying to match their excitement, my response is, “we’ll see” with a forced smile and a shoulder shrug. It’s inevitably awkward.  If I try and explain that I’m not sure I’m ready or that I just don’t know if the institution is for me, it’s not received well. Especially, in a wedding ceremony setting. I don’t want to sound negative, but it seems it’s the easiest category for married people to put me in.

Being at a wedding with the majority of the people married, feels like an upper class recruiting event. Maybe it’s the country club feel of the ceremony, but it seems as though it’s just a ploy to get the next couple to join.

It reminds me of when I was a freshman in college and all the girls were deciding whether or not to join a sorority. One of them approached me in the most friendly manner asking what I thought about rushing. I mistakenly responded honestly because I thought she sincerely wanted to know. As I confided in my new friend, her face began to change. I wanted to retract, but it was too late, I said the wrong answer.

It went something like this…

“So, how do you feel about rushing a sorority? Have you given it any thought yet? I really like your shirt!” Says girl who seems like she wants to be my friend. “Well, kind of. I mean, I don’t have any friends. But there are all these rules to follow and I just moved out of my parents to finally not have any rules. And I don’t want to exclude anyone because they aren’t in my sorority. Ya know? I don’t want to be categorized.” Potential friend is starring at me with a confused look. “Oh, okay.” Potential friend drops any interest in me and walks away. (I continue to wear same shirt every day to attract new “potential friend”. I’m wearing it now.)

It seems to be a similar situation when people ask me, “Are you two next?” It’s a simple question. They have good intentions, perhaps just to have a conversation, but I’ve realized not joining in on the romance or the ideology of marriage seems to make people uncomfortable. So, instead, I have to pretend I’m just as excited about it as they are in order not to offend them by once again, giving the wrong answer. Because, the thing is, it’s not just a question with a “yes” or “no” response, it’s a loaded question that has a whole belief system, a way of life, behind it and by not choosing that same way is not choosing them. When really it has nothing to do with them, I actually think they’re lovely. I was just answering the question.

Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution. ~Mae West

Public Affairs

In an article, from Marie Claire’s September issue, An Affair to Forget:Can I forgive my husband for his infidelity?, author Catherine Barnes writes about her husband’s affair after an 18 year marriage. Barnes’ husband, Paul, decided he wanted to quit his job to work for the Foreign Service. The family was relocated to Bangkok where Paul was able to pursue his career. Before her move, Barnes read several warnings about marital affairs in Thailand. Apparently, it was common for Western men, including married ones, to be heavily pursued. The couple and their two kids had been living there for two years before Barnes discovered her husband was having an affair with a Thai woman.
Barnes said she felt ashamed she had not created a better security net for herself, “Like so many other educated women who should know better; I never kept my own bank account or ensured our investments were in both our names.”

After the affair, Barnes sought help through counseling but the incident between the Thai woman and the Western husband was such a common one in Thailand, the counselor couldn’t provide much help. In the end, Barnes chose to stay with her husband and give her marriage another shot.

In Psychology Today, an article titled, From Promise to Promiscuity, says “70 percent of couples choose to rebuild the relationship after infidelity.”

I admire Barnes for writing her article. It can’t be easy to not only admit that your husband is having an affair, but also that you are willing to stay and work things out. I’m sure she’s going to receive much criticism from friends and family for making this choice. Evidently, other spouses are making this same decision–she just seems to be the only one talking about it.

I’m curious as to why Barnes felt “ashamed” for believing in her marriage enough to not have had a safety net? Perhaps, if we all had our own safety nets, no one would really allow themselves to be one hundred percent available. It kind of seems like an “I love you…but just in case…” Or, maybe it’s the opposite, that the “safety net” (though, never really guarding us from the inevitable heartache of divorce) would allow us to dive right in. After all, it’s the times when we are most prepared that we end up not needing to be.

A few tips for the Happy Couple

What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.

~George Levinger

In Psychology Today’s July/August issue, an article called, Advance Warning, discusses why sometimes even couples who seem happy often still end up getting a divorce. Author, Mary Diduch, says UCLA researchers tracked couples for 10 years and found certain patterns that lead to divorce were present from the beginning. Negative characteristics such as: aggression, anger and contempt can sometimes outweigh the the positives: commitment, lack of stress or strengths in personality.

Diduch notes that in the beginning of a marriage, the good times are still outweighing the bad, until eventually, communication breaks down. Three main reason for this: aggression, repression and denial.

Aggression in seemly healthy couples may just boil down to the lack of controlling our tempers. (The article points to husbands, but I know many woman who can have tempers, so let’s be real and throw us gals into the aggression mix.)

Repression, which does probably have women in the front lines, is the conflict-avoidance game we all play. In fact, I think if repression were an Olympic Sport, women would be kicking some serious ass in it. I personally, could have earned many gold medals. I would have been the Michael Phelps of Conflict-Avoidance.

I can hear the announcer now, “And now we have Kari Laskowski waking up to a house full of empty beer bottles, the Wii playing in the background and her boyfriend asleep on the couch. Did you see the look on her face? It’s pure ambivalence. What amazing strength she has. How is she going to handle it Bob?” Bob replies, “Well, we’ve seen it before, Sunday morning, her boyfriend and his friends up drinking having a good time and Kari waking from a sleepless night after several requests to “be quiet” or “turn in down” knowing she had to work in the morning. Oh, hang on, it looks like she’s making a move…it looks like she’s leaving…and she just slammed the door! Pretty good slam, but I think she will still remain a front runner. She has several hours of the “silent treatment” still coming. We’ve all seen how good she is at that. I think it will be enough to medal again this year!”

The last behavior is Denial. Here couples try to maintain a healthy looking relationship despite the reality that his avid t.v watching is driving her crazy or her nagging him is never ending. Instead of approaching the problem couples choose to admit that it’s not a problem worth addressing after all. Eventually, as minor as it may be the issue will chip away at the the relationship.

So basically, as happy as we may seem, if we don’t address the “minor” issues they can turn into “major” ones over night. If we learn to be aware of our aggression then approaching conflicts won’t be as draining. And we all know it’s repression that makes the conflict bigger than it needs to be.

I’ve found over the years, if you explain why “this” is annoying it’s more appreciated than the full on screaming monster than comes out when the filter is in overdrive (or when one of you is drunk).

Just a side note: when you decide to take on this tactic of “approaching the issue” just know it’s more than likely going to be reciprocated. So, bring neutral energy and be ready to accept responsibility for your part. And whatever you do: Don’t take it personally! As ugly as it can be, it comes from love and it can’t be as ugly as divorce.

Sometimes It Aint About You…

An article from huffingtonpost.com, What To Do When You Don’t Like Your Friends Spouse-To-Be, encourages you to first and foremost ask yourself why you don’t like him or her? Does it have to do with you or with your friend, or with the spouse? There are so many underlying reasons why we don’t like our friend’s partners that really have nothing to do with him. Women have such intimate friendships with each other, it’s easy to blame the boyfriend for taking her away. It takes a great amount of selflessness to not be jealous when our best friends, whose time was devoted to us, is now shared with someone else. Sometimes “shared” isn’t even the word. It’s more like “taken” by someone else.

I was living with one of my closest friends when I met Mike. It was really important for me that the two get along. Unfortunately, this was not the case, not at first. It actually took some time.  My friend admits it was tough for her to give her “bestie” up. You kind of have to mourn your old friendship. Luckily, they are now friends, and even enjoy each others time without me. (Enter sarcastic joke about how “you bet they do”.)

As far as what to do when you don’t like your friends’ spouse. Your friend more often than not, already knows it. Perhaps, she is refusing to admit it to herself because it’s a lot of weight to hold. My cousin was married for a year before she ended up getting a divorce. She says she wished someone would have said something to her before she decided to marry her ex-husband. This however, is a very slippery slope and may lead to you two no longer being friends. It’s like they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty. And it may have been her journey she needed to take.

It has been my experience to keep your mouth shut. Most of the time, when we first meet our friends’ significant others we are doing the “dirty” work they didn’t do yet. We are scrutinizing their every move and every word.

We are examining them from afar, when they get up to go to the bathroom, how they walk, how they smile, how they order. The poor guys are already in the dog house and it’s up to them to get themselves out, which can take a lot of work. Behind our smiles and our friendly banter we are leafing through every reason they’re single while figuring out the “real” reasons they want to be with our friends. All of a sudden in one meeting, we become private detectives with psychology degrees.

So, when we decide that we don’t like him, that it doesn’t matter how much work he does it won’t amount to him being worthy of our friend, well, both parties involved probably know. And sometimes the best thing to do is stay out of it.

The good news is, you aren’t the one marrying him. Also, as much as you know your friend, there are actually sides of her you don’t know. And this guy most likey appeals to those aspects. I know, it hurts the ego a bit to think you may not appeal to her whole being, it’s the truth. We bring wonderful things out in our best friends, but so do their spouses. We will never know what goes on behind closed doors, we can only hope for the best and be there when we are needed. Hopefully, the favor is returned.

Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor…

By now, most of us have heard of or read about Facebook Addiction. An article on from Psychology Today, says Facebook can actually make us sad, knowing other people are happy when our lives simply can’t measure up to theirs. In a study done at the University of Athens School of Medicine, about Social Network Addiction, researches found “Facebook addiction can be considered as an “urge-driven disorder” with a strong compulsive component.”

We all know this to be true. I’m not on Facebook very often, but when I am I’m constantly aware of how I come across, what my timeline looks like to people, and still have a reaction if an old friend, or ex-boyfriend seems to be doing really well. It’s just a fact. I probably made four posts in the past four years and I don’t check it everyday. So, I’m pretty far removed from Facebook and I still feel it’s repercussions.

I’m curious if wedding sites can have these same effects. In an article in Elle called, A Fine Romance, author April Long says wedding sites left her feeling insufficient, unworthy and poor. “Looking at those sites–and trust me, once you start, it’s compulsive– I began to feel insecure, inadequate, impoverished and little bit betrayed.”

…place settings, center pieces,flowers,invitations…

With the television shows, magazines and wedding sites it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Long writes, “I’d been warned that wedding planning would be stressful, yes, but I hadn’t been told the real reason why: That event, perhaps above all others, is presumed to be a summation of who you and your betrothed are as a couple–your aesthetics, your status, your fashion sense, your values, even your taste in music.”

I checked out theknot.com. I’m not even planning a wedding and I ended up spending an hour checking out potential venues…yikes. Long is right, it’s easy to get sucked in.

The bottom line is, everyone wants to have a nice wedding, the problem is, where to draw the line.

“But, it’s terribly tricky because a wedding is like a fantasy magnet. The fantasy may start with a single desire—to look beautiful or to marry in a spectacular church. Then, before you know it, you’re expecting every element and every person involved to conform to an astonishingly detailed blueprint called “My Wedding Day.”  (From:Smartmarriages Sent: June 02, 2003 Subject: Putting Your Wedding on a Pedestal)

So, I guess it’s kind of like the Hunger Games. It’s a world where you are told you need these things to “stay alive”, for people to enjoy your wedding, to have them even envious of how unique, classy and memorable it was. You start to become so enthralled, you don’t even realize how deep in it you really are. In the end, it’s not about the wedding anymore it’s about the game and you aren’t just trying to stay afloat, you want to win.

And even when you do pull it off, after all the stress you put yourself through, it still has nothing to do with the marriage.

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