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Marriage

Guest Posts, Marriage, Surviving

Flamethrower

April 21, 2017
water

By Lori Fetters Lopez

Some days it’s enough that he breathes. The exchange of air grates on my psyche like the high-pitched squeal of a six-year-old at the sight of a spider. A childhood dream to be a pilot, he sits with his hands grasping the yoke of a computer flight simulator. At his perch, he can turn from the pretend to the surreal. An endless choice of television shows filled with intolerable stupidity, followed by commercials selling drugs with side effects more damning than the symptoms they claim to cure. It all culminates into a farce. He’s been deployed for months and I’m left with only the memory to fuel my fire.

Hands on hips, I look at the obstinate water softener spewing its juices over my walls. I’m lost in incredulity wanting to collapse into the wet. Yesterday, I replaced the damn thing, the day before, the water heater. It mocks. Disgusted, I walk into the garage where the car lays in shambles begging me to crawl beneath its underbelly hoping for an altered result. First, the valve cover gasket, then the radiator, and now the gas tank.  The large door stands open revealing that another rain has brought our grass to grow. The lawn mower sits in the corner, a pigheaded child too engrossed in a video game to go to the bathroom, it leaks. Fixed before he left, obvious the repair was in vain; the first fill drains onto the floor. The mailbox leans forward as if reaching for the next letter too long overdue. Someone crashed into the pole and I replaced it. Too tired for more, I forgot the concrete anchor to gird its pole. I could call someone, pay someone, but that’s not who I am. I persevere. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Marriage

In Sickness

March 23, 2016
marriage

By Kristen M. Ploetz

Thirteen years ago, I passed the bar exam and got married.

Needless to say, I was not quite paying close attention when we planned our wedding. I was spent. Four long years of law school at night followed by the bar exam eroded my capacity to make decisions, especially those with multiple choice possibilities. Plus, after living together for nearly all of our eight years together, marriage felt like a mere formality. I’ve always leaned toward practicality more than passion, and our wedding was no different.

Still, we indulged in some creative control. My bridesmaids would wear crimson and carry candles instead of flowers. Letterpress for the invitations, seafood instead of steak. Otherwise, I just didn’t have it in me—time or desire—to let the planning of those eight hours consume my life.

A few weeks before our wedding, we met with the officiant to discuss vows and readings. I knew that I didn’t want to hear “I now pronounce you man and wife” (feminist!), nor did I want any religious anything (atheist!). But beyond that, and the fact that I would not be changing my last name, we were pretty much traditionalists—and pragmatists. Just give us the bare minimum required to make our bond legitimate in the eyes of whomever it matters for taxes and ratify our mutual trust to make life and death (and life after death) decisions for each other. And then let’s party.

So when we got to the part about selecting vows, we skimmed over the book of options. We took the steadfast road already traveled by millions of others.

for richer or poorer,

in good times and in bad,

in sickness and in health. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Marriage, Sex

Sex Should Satisfy You Both

February 10, 2016

By Anonymous

This is a very real subject for me. I grew up with a narcissist mother who made me feel like I was not enough, worse, that I would never be enough. My first marriage happened mainly because I was pregnant and ended because we never should have been married. I finally met someone, a man who was kind and honest and everything I needed.

We got married and soon after, I became aware that, like lots of men, he had watched some porn. But it was more than that, what he watched dominated what he wanted in the bedroom. This wonderful man who was great husband and provider outside of the bedroom, wanted me in 6 inch stripper heels and making up stories about me fucking other men in the bedroom. It was baffling. I went along.

I had been so screwed up that I actually thought it wasn’t a big deal at first. But then, it became every time. Every time. There were dildos, butt plugs, costumes, outrageous shoes purchased for me by him. He also took me on romantic vacations where outside the hotel, we were happy and normal. In the hotel, it was filthy town. I never said no. I thought I must have done something to make him think I wanted this. It had to be my fault. My fault.

I finally said I hated it and now I am in therapy learning lots about myself and why I let this continue for years. YEARS. I never thought I could just say no, because him wanting this made sense to me, because it was ingrained in me that I was not enough. That was the insecurity planted in me from a young age by my mother. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Marriage

Fisherman’s Wife

February 1, 2016
love

By Shell Fejio

My husband was born one of three boys on the east coast, in a small town known for its Portuguese fishermen, perhaps more for their drug use and hard drinking than for the big catch, but they were known nonetheless. When his parents left for sunny California in his early childhood, they landed in a more fog covered Bay Area, but there was water, and my husband’s father took advantage of it. His dad would show up at the elementary school just past noon on a Monday, barely cleaned up from a late night of partying, pulling in the parking lot and honking. The receptionist would send the boys out, and under the guise of a doctors appointment (nobody at the school ever questioned why they were so many appointments, it was the seventies), Pops would take them down to the marina.

A ninety-nine cent package of bologna with a bottle of mustard and a loaf of white bread fed them for the day. Pops drank beer while the boys shared sugar laden Shasta soda. The lake was the bathroom, unless number two was needed, then, a bucket in the back of the truck sufficed. By sundown, Pops would be drunk, the boys tired and cranky, and the fish, on a good day, were flopping on a stringer in the water by their feet.  Weekends might be searching for crabs or clams at the ocean, rushing them home to get them in the pot, simmered in garlic and spices. In bad times, his dad would marinate smelt, a tiny fish abundant in the Pacific, a fish that soaked up the wine and got everybody drunk from tasting before dinner. Parties were oysters on the barbeque, hot sauce and a beer chaser.

My husband became a big drinker too. At twenty-two, he worked ten hours a day at a dry cleaners, with no respirator, inhaling any chemicals he could, hoping for a little buzz. After work, the first stop was the drive thru liquor store on the Mission Boulevard strip, a six-pack, at least. He’d get home, eyes shiny, beer in hand, ready to grab his pole. Night fishing was catfish. An early morning before work was hoped for rainbow trout. On Wednesdays, he got off early, picked me up from high school at first, later, from our tiny run down apartment, and begged to go to the lake – the ocean was too far on a work night – even in California, you can be a flatlander. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, love, Marriage, Relationships

A Year of Revisiting Old Loves

January 4, 2016

By Zsofia McMullin

It is so easy to get into a rut. The toenail clipping, burping, morning-breath kind of rut of busy days and exhausted evenings. The no-sex rut, the no-talking rut, the not-holding-hands rut follow quickly behind. It doesn’t take long to get there—not as long as you’d like to think.

I am sort of baffled by this. I married for love. I married for great sex. For friendship. For a deep connection. We were mature and intelligent and in love. Isn’t that all you need?

But now it all seems muddled and not so easy. I feel like it’s unfair, because I can’t even put a finger on that nagging feeling between us. It’s everything. It’s nothing. I remember that sweet tingle, the antsy anticipation, the burning lust.  But now love just feels like a promise we made a long, long time ago that we’ll stick with this, even when it’s so, so hard. And it’s hard on most days.

So we work at it, because that’s what we are supposed to do—and because we want to. I buy the lingerie and wear makeup and we schedule date nights. But it all feels forced and not like the real thing. So we settle into that feeling—that the real thing will never be ours again. And I start to wonder: would it be different with someone else? With the young men I knew way back when? Are they still sweet and caring and romantic? Are they still funny and horny?  Am I? Or is it inevitable that we are all tired and comfortable and settled into life with soft bellies and graying hair?

*** Continue Reading…

depression, Divorce, Guest Posts, Marriage, Relationships

Construction Season

November 14, 2015

By Patti Carlyle

Summer seems an incongruent time to ponder life’s harder questions. Long and brutal winters in the Rust Belt present a more fitting time to look inward, everything thickly coated in Suicide Gray. Thoughts deepen and even darken, and it makes sense. By contrast the warm, sparkling days of Cleveland’s early summer are arguably the most beautiful, demanding a certain carefree hubris. But instead of fish tacos on patios, gin and tonics, afternoon sex or campfire lazing, I slid into a dizzying circular conversation with myself. Depression or divorce?

Orange barrels rush past the window, a translucent blur of stout, gaudy grandmas. Squinting into the distance looking for some broad blinking arrow, I try to predict lane changes. Sit up straight, hands at ten and two. The speedometer needle sinks left and I sharpen my focus. Rumble strips hyphenate the road mid-lane, a startling warning of a new traffic pattern. A driver for over 20 years, I still tense up in construction zones, still roll my eyes when the barrels begin gossiping in medians each spring.

And as the work begins each summer, I find myself muttering ‘didn’t we just do this?’

Depression or divorce? For two summers, this alliterative question worried a groove into my journals and tortured my therapist. Amused at my binary thinking and familiar with my white knuckle grip on a fanned deck of pessimistic options, he suggested that I refrain from applying intellect and instead feel my way through. Deep thought and analysis might not save my marriage, and I may still need clinical intervention. Worst case? Both. That’s how I saw it: terrible options all.

Predictive pessimism doesn’t protect me from much, though. I need to do before I know much of anything. Lowering myself into the tides of experience, sometimes the water is fine and frolicking like a four-year-old is the only appropriate response. But sometimes the relentless and punishing waves are frigid and teeming with jellyfish. Bystanders can hear me screaming from shore.

Ending my marriage to experience divorce is an obviously myopic move. Eyeballs deep in the struggle, I flailed and clawed for a cognitive buoy. The goal was simple: tease out which was cause and which effect. Is my marriage foundationally broken, resulting in situational depression? Or is my fundamental problem clinical, my relationship merely its casualty?

The gaudy grandmas have waddled off. Concrete lane dividers stand shoulder to shoulder in their place. The effect is menacingly close. My phone is face down on the console and I poke a finger at the dash, silencing the radio. Any distraction could have me trailing sparks along the barricade wall or sliding onto the gravelly shoulder. Adjust the mirrors and glance back.

I started circling the drain a few years ago. The well-received launch of my alternative health practice had me so certain. This was my calling. I might have been suspicious when the aspects of entrepreneurial adventure I enjoyed most turned out to be designing the website and writing the blog. After shuttering the business in 2012, I tumbled into a shame vortex. Struggling to make sense of how I had misread myself so terrifically, I cocooned. It took months of shame and denial before finally deciding to close, abandoning years of training, the encouragement of friends and family and a lot of invested capital. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, Intimacy, Marriage, religion

The Vigil

November 2, 2015

By Julia Park Tracey

Nobody likes a scarlet woman. That’s what they call you when you have an affair with a priest. That’s what he calls me sometimes, joking, “Maybe we should stone you.” Sometimes, affectionately, he calls me, “The Woman at the Well,” for the Biblical story of the woman who was living with a man who was not her husband. Once we began our congress, he read his canon law book, citing where he had entered into a state of concubinage and was therefore in breach of his promise of celibacy. As his concubine, I am his accomplice in sin, and thus, upon our attempted marriage, we become excommunicated – not by any pronouncement with trumpets or fanfare, but automatically, without hesitation, like the toast that comes with your Denny’s breakfast.

He doesn’t hold it against me, much, how I took him from the priesthood, until later, when he realizes what he has given up. We rather celebrate it, something kindred to Romeo and Juliet, how our love transcends the laws of man – but surely not God. Why would God bring us together, if He hadn’t meant it to be thus? After some deliberation, a year or two of dalliance, the priest decides he cannot continue living a lie. He has spent almost every night in my bed, creeping toward the rectory at midnight, then at two, then four, then six a.m. as the months pass. He begins to get sloppy. I visit him in his quarters,  the parish rectory, which we have dubbed The Erectory. The other priests cannot help but see and notice that he is never there. But there is a brotherhood, a Code, and no one tells. There are whispers, but no cataclysm so far.

One night we drink too much, flail among the bedsheets, and I fall asleep in his arms. When the sun begins to seep across the room, I startle awake and pull on my crumpled dress and heels, eschewing my stockings and jewelry. It is a pretty picture of a woman who has been well tossed and tousled, make no mistake. As I reach for the doorknob to tiptoe out, I spy a note on the floor, pushed underneath the door.

There was a fire last night. No one was hurt. Just thought you should know.

It is signed by the pastor. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, love, Marriage

Home

April 3, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Maia Morgan.

Summer was over, and my apartment was still a maze of boxes. My bed frame leaned against a wall; I slept on the mattress on the floor. I hadn’t figured out how to turn on the oven. I ate dinner in front of the TV, (read: ice cream straight from the carton). This wasn’t how I’d pictured things when I’d envisioned a place of my own.

I’d been tired of my surly landlord. Of living with a roommate whose girlfriend insisted on sneaking plug-in air fresheners into every room until our apartment smelled like a taxicab. It was time for me to strike out on my own. At thirty-four, I was officially in my mid-thirties, and I had certain ideas about what that meant: a husband, a baby, a house. But there was no sign of a relationship on the horizon. I didn’t have a fancy job. I decided at the very least I should have my own apartment. So I threw myself into the search, daydreaming about paint colors and estate sales.

I found a sunny, third floor one bedroom, slightly rough around the edges but with beautiful bones, not too far west for me to walk my dog to the lake. Yes, it was mere blocks from the northernmost boundary of the city and yes, it was in a very residential area with no cafés or bookstores and yes, I’d probably have to get in my car if I wanted to go anywhere, but still, it would be mine. I’d write there and have dinner parties and a container garden on the roof. That spring I sat in an office at Chicago Title and Trust, signing papers and trying to absorb it all: escrow, closing costs, title insurance. Finally the seller handed me the keys, and the ground dropped away. In the midst of attaining this joyful milestone, it dawned on me that I was really alone.

I didn’t want to want a boyfriend, let alone a husband. I wanted to be all, a woman needs a man like a fish, bicycle, blahblahblah. But I wasn’t. And I did. It bothered me. I mistrusted it like I mistrusted wanting to be model thin–something suburban girls learn early on they’re supposed to want. I didn’t idealize marriage. I didn’t think it was the answer to all my problems. And though I scoffed at romantic comedies, I secretly longed for someone to forsake all others and choose me. And buying a condo suddenly brought it all home. I was on my own. This was life. It was happening now. It wasn’t about to start. I was in the thick of it. And I was alone.

When I was thirteen, my mother woke my sisters and me up before dawn to watch coverage of Charles’ and Diana’s wedding. We sat on the pastel plaid sofa and matching loveseat in our family room and watched Lady Diana arrive at St. Paul’s in a gleaming, horse-drawn coach.

“It’s just like Cinderella,” my mother exclaimed.

“Really?” I said, “Did mice sew her dress? Do birds land on her finger and sing?”

“That’s the ‘feed the birds’ cathedral from Mary Poppins,” my mother said. “Do you remember? Tuppence a bag. I so wanted to take you girls to Europe when you were little.”

“Why didn’t you?” I asked her.

“Your father nixed the idea,” my mother said. “Like everything else.”

Lady Di peeked from beneath a filmy, white veil pinned with a glittering tiara and slowly ascended the red-carpeted steps smoothing her taffeta explosion of a skirt while the crowd cheered and waved from across the street.

As the Trumpet Voluntary began and Diana took her first steps down the aisle, tears streamed down my mother’s face.

“Such beautiful flowers in the little girls’ hair,” she exclaimed. She turned to my sister who had jelly on her cheek and at least three days worth of knots in her hair. “Wouldn’t you like to wear a dress like that, Sam?” Then, catching sight of Prince Charles, my mother cried, “Oh, does he see her? Do you think he sees her?”

It’s a moment, I admit, I look for at a wedding–the moment the groom first sees the bride. I want to catch that instant of revelation. I want the groom to be overcome with emotion. I want him to cry. At one of the first weddings I went to as an adult, a few years after college, the groom was beside himself, reading e.e. cummings with tears streaming down his face whereas the bride was almost alarmingly stoic, and it was actually a bit like, uh oh, but I guess everyone handles their emotions differently, and those friends are still married with two kids, so who knows?

I did love Diana’s dress, being enamored of the flounced Laura Ashley look popular at the time. In the footage shot inside the cathedral you could hear the muffled sound of the crowd lining the street cheering when Charles and Diana said, “I will.” Even during the long singing parts when we went to get refills on our Swiss Miss, my mother remained, entranced by the beauty of St. Paul’s and the boys’ choir’s heavenly voices. First Corinthians 13. Love suffereth long and is kind. My mother marveled at how wonderfully Lady Sarah Armstrong Jones coped with Diana’s magnificent train, and praised the decorum of the other young attendants in their old-fashioned naval uniforms and ivory dresses with butter colored sashes. A little after eight a.m. Diana kissed Prince Charles on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, my sisters and I licked mini marshmallow foam from our cocoa mugs and my mother wept. She cried, she said, because it was beautiful and because she always cried at weddings. Continue Reading…

Dear Life., Guest Posts, Marriage

Dear Life: I Have Cold Feet. I’m Not Sure If I Should Get Married!

April 1, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. To submit a letter, email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com and please be as detailed as you can.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by the brilliant Amy Sage Webb.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

(Well okay, maybe a little.) Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, I will see you at one of my workshops soon! xo

 

Dear Life,

I have cold feet. They’re not so much cold as “frozen in a block of ice” and when archaeologists discover them a million years from now, I’ll be the 21st Century version of Lucy.

My wedding is three months away.

The dress is fitted, the flowers are chosen, the photographer’s adjusting his camera. Everyone is ready to dance and smile the night away. Everyone is texting me about how “excited” they are. How they just can’t wait to catch my bouquet, sing along with the DJ, watch us ride off into the proverbial sunset. (We live in the Midwest, we could be riding off into a snowstorm, even in June.)

Everyone is on Cloud Nine. Everyone but me. I’m stuck in some mental dungeon basement, where one day I want to run out of my bedroom like Monica Gellar in FRIENDS, screaming, “I’M GETTING MARRIED TODAY!!!!!!” And the next, I’m that chick from that Disney movie, with my feet frozen to the ground and no one helping her let it all go.

And it’s not any ONE THING, which just makes it worse. And there’s all this money and time invested, and there’ll be hatred – from myself and from my family and his family – if I called it off. But sometimes I take the ring off and it feels like I can breathe.

So you see? It’s 17 things, all on top of each other, until I scream and cry and freak out, falling apart, going “No I can’t do this, not no way, not no how.”

He doesn’t hit me, or our dog. He isn’t falling down drunk every night. He doesn’t leer at other women.

But then there are days…. Where we fight and he screams so loud I get worried our landlord will come and knock on our door. Where he just gets so angry and glares for so long that I feel I have to kowtow and apologize like a small child, just to get things to be “okay.”

And the fights aren’t over anything MAJOR, per se. It’s not like, I want six kids and he wants zero. It’s more like “you spend too much at the grocery store.” Or, I’m a really big planner, so I like to organize stuff to do on the weekends, and he just wants to sit on the couch. Or instead of spending time with me when he gets home from work (Right now he works and I don’t) he’ll make a little small talk and then go straight to video games until he’s ready to go to bed. And when I say that hurts my feelings, he says I get his weekends and he has so little free time anyways, just leave him alone so he can play games. And he’s always going “talk to me, work with me, you have to work with me.” But sometimes the words catch in my throat. Or I start to say I’m unsure, and he’ll say, “This? Again?” And it turns into a fight. So I scuttle around the house and leave him alone.

I have depression, and stopped seeing a psychologist when he (I know I’m “supposed” to say “we” here, but I don’t pay the bills, so it’s he) Anyway, I stopped when he couldn’t afford it. Which just increased my stress tenfold. (All the wedding planning has been on my shoulders because he says it’s “my” job)

As for affection, that’s been a struggle through the whole three-year relationship. I like a lot of it, he doesn’t even like holding my hand when we’re alone.

My last rough patch, which inspired me to write this letter, was when I told him after our marriage, I want to travel alone. I didn’t say often. I didn’t even say to where. Just someplace, alone. He told me to be prepared to sign divorce papers if I did it, and I completely lost it. I’m currently writing this from our bed, like some sort of near-fainting Scarlett O’Hara, which, if you knew me, you’d know I’m more “I am woman, hear me roar,” than some damsel in distress.

But then there are moments where it’s LOVELY. When he hugs me without me having to ask him for it. When he kisses me longer than two seconds. When we actually sit down and talk. When we return to the spot where we got engaged. When we spend time exploring our town. When I step out of the shower with nothing wrapped up but my hair and he just looks at me like he’s a parched man and I’m ice-cold lemonade. So don’t get me wrong, there are moments- but the closer the wedding gets, the further and further apart those moments seem.

Is that okay? Is any of this okay? Or am I just telling myself it’s all okay? Are my feet cold, like, a normal level? Are they refrigerator cold? Or is my racing heart really imploring me to run away from the lava that’s coming, that’ll bury me in years upon years of an unhappy union?

Dear Life, you tell me.

Continue Reading…

Addiction, Binders, Guest Posts, Marriage

The Proposal

March 28, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Andrea Jarrell

Brad and I met making get-out-the-vote calls for an aspiring California State Assemblyman. In the beginning, our love for each other and for the city of angels was entwined. I’d moved back to L.A. after my breakup and was happy to be home again claiming my city. Brad lived in a neighborhood I’d never known existed – a barrio recently discovered by a few hipsters from nearby Hollywood. Rival gangs tagged the apartments along his street. There was a guy we thought might be homeless who sat on a nearby wall drinking tallboys, his belly hanging over his pants. We good-morninged him and the rest of the neighbors in the determined but naïve belief that being neighborly was all it would take to get past the recent Rodney King riots.

The first time we went out was a Friday night dinner, which turned into breakfast the next morning. Saturday biking in the Santa Monica mountains turned into slow dancing in his living room that led to Sunday brunch that led to the late show of Blade Runner at the Rialto – on a school night, no less. Sunday night led us to Monday morning carpooling to work. We moved in shortly thereafter. From the start everything was easy with Brad. Even that first weekend when I’d waited for an inevitable awkwardness – when surely we would realize we needed our own space – but that moment never came.

The night he proposed, we were having dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, a kitschy Italian place on Vermont where the waiters served thin-crust pizza on tall table stands and sang opera. We were sitting in a red leather booth when he turned to me and said the very words: “Will you marry me?”

It’s all happening, I thought. Those words I’d anticipated all my life. “Yes, yes,” I said. “Of course. I love you. Yes.” Afterward, we went to the Dresden Room – a lounge next door – to toast our future over Manhattans.

But five months later, while talking with friends about our impending nuptials, he denied he’d been the one to say the words. I tried not to cry when he said it was I who’d asked him. Our friends tried to change the subject. Like a needle scratching across a record, the evening came to an abrupt halt.

Perhaps because we were so in sync about everything else, it didn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme. The proposal became like a spill of red wine on new carpet, gasp-worthy in the moment, then a fading stain you winced at only when you made yourself notice.

We planned to go to Paris for our honeymoon. We chose rings, a cake, and a wedding meal to serve to family and friends. Along with nine other couples, we went to a Making Marriage Work class that was like a version of The Newlywed Game. At one point, we were asked to switch partners and converse with the opposite-sex member of another couple. “Notice your increased heart rate with a stranger,” our teacher instructed us. “Your quickening pulse, the flirtation, the intrigue, the pressure to seduce. That’s how it was when you first met your partner, right? Remember that. Keep it alive.”

Listening to the other couples in class, we counted ourselves lucky that we didn’t have the kind of meddling parents they described. Our parents, divorced and married more than once, cast a sober eye on the whole endeavor and gave us money – an equal share from each – to do with what we wanted. By then, my mother had married and left my father for the second time. I wasn’t even telling my father about the wedding for fear he’d show up drunk.

Our class teacher, who was a marriage therapist, told us that sex, money, and not agreeing on big issues (such as having children) before the wedding were always the underlying causes of broken marriages. We wondered who would be dumb enough not to agree about the kid question before getting married? Wanting kids was something we’d talked about early. As for money, we’d already opened a joint bank account and pooled our resources. And when the teacher read (anonymously) everyone’s answers to the question of how many times we wanted sex each week, I just knew that we were the two who’d given the highest numbers. We took satisfaction in the fact that, if we’d been playing The Newlywed Game for real, we’d be winning.

On a sunny September morning, we married. Making our entrance at the same time, we descended opposite marble staircases in an historic building in the heart of downtown. I wore a dress made of vintage French lace. The candidate we’d volunteered for when we met officiated at the ceremony. We had a wedding lunch on the deck of a low-key, but trendy restaurant off Vine Street in Hollywood. Instead of rice, our friends tossed environmentally-friendly birdseed. They gave us a pair of new mountain bikes festooned with bows. And when the Chateau Marmont where we’d planned to stay for our first night of marriage – another L.A. icon – felt more like a grandmother’s dowdy guest room than the elegant suite we’d envisioned, we made our first important decision as a married couple.

The bellhop had just left. Champagne was on its way. We turned to each other and said, “Let’s leave,” in unison. We practically skipped out of the lobby, checking into the Bel Age on Sunset instead. In plushy bathrobes the next morning, enjoying breakfast on the balcony overlooking the city, we congratulated ourselves for not settling. We were elated that we each knew the other’s heart and mind so well.

* * *

Five days short of our first wedding anniversary, I’d gone to bed early. I had a big day at work the next morning – alarm clock set, my suit, shoes, and jewelry laid out. I’d left my husband in the living room watching television after bending down to kiss him goodnight.

Hours later, I remember waking with the moon shining gray-blue through the curtains. He was beside me, then over me, his randy mood obvious. He didn’t know that, in that moment, he’d reminded me of my ex—and the salty guilt I’d sometimes felt in my previous relationship when I would wake to find that other man taking off my clothes and I would go along with him just to keep the peace. Sometimes submitting timidly, victimized. Sometimes responding fiercely as if I could get back at him through sex. My husband also didn’t know how relieved I was that, in the dark of our room, I didn’t feel fear as I had with my ex. That I knew I could tell him I needed to sleep, and he would still love me.

The next morning, we were standing in the kitchen dressed and ready to go our separate ways, when I said, “I didn’t know who you were last night.”

In his starched white shirt and navy tie with the little green squares that I liked, he looked at me, startled. He’d been about to take a sip of coffee but stopped. “Why, what do you mean?”

“You know,” I said. “It was just kind of weird. You knew I had to get up early to get ready for my meeting.”

Through gold-rimmed glasses that always struck me as a Clark Kent disguise, his blue eyes searched me. He didn’t tell me then – coffee cup in hand, me on my way out the door – but he had no idea what I was talking about.

* * *

It wasn’t until after work that evening, sitting in our living room, that he told me his version of what had happened the night before. He had no recollection of coming to our room. He didn’t remember waking me. He didn’t remember me pushing him away or telling him no. I learned that morning had been like many other mornings we’d shared: him asking me questions, gathering intel, trying to piece together the previous night’s blackout. Only this time, I’d said something that scared him: I didn’t know who you were.

Then he confessed that he’d thought it would be different with me. That from that first weekend we’d stayed together, I’d become the talisman he held up to an addiction he’d been hiding since he was fifteen. He told me that after I’d gone to bed, he’d finished the wine we’d opened at dinner and then he’d finished another bottle. And then he wasn’t himself. And for the first time, I’d seen him that way.

As we sat on our Sven couch from Ikea, I looked at our wedding picture on a nearby shelf. I stared at my stupid smiling face and bouquet of gardenias. I’d been duped. I didn’t really know my husband at all. How had the child of an alcoholic, gambling, pill-popping family ignored the clues? Why hadn’t I noticed these morning interrogations as he tried to reconstruct our activities together?

Or had I? Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Marriage, parenting

All In.

March 12, 2015

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By Ryane Nicole Granados

For anyone who has been married for any reasonable amount of time you know that time is one of the biggest commodities you have to offer your spouse. It’s more valuable than wild pearls, more rare than a royal flush. Time. It’s a game changer, a bartering tool, a poker chip in the name of love. Whose turn is it to change the baby? Whose morning is it to get five more precious minutes of sleep?

“What do you mean you watched one of our favorite shows without me?”

“The DVR was getting backlogged and I knew you wouldn’t have the time.”

“Your betrayal is profound.”

Time is in a constant sprint while you’re kicking with all of your might during the uphill portion of life’s marathon. Each day ends much like the one before it. Victory is the hot shower to wash off the grunge of the day met by the letdown when you climb into bed to find your wife partially clothed, one leg peeking out from under the sheet because she can’t decide if she’s hot or cold. She always claims to be cold, yet to you her skin is warm like fresh baked bread. You tell her so, but she is already asleep drool collecting in the corners of her mouth. To wake her would make you the boor of the century, so you convince yourself it’s not the right time. Instead, you set your alarm then watch the remainder of the episode you missed so that the two of you can be all caught up. True romance is about catching up and relishing those moments when you’re perfectly in sync. I’m the one leg in one leg out sleep drooler and my husband is the guy who catches me when I least expect him to.

“Babe, do you think it’s possible to breathe life into an inanimate object?”

“What?” I scream over an inconsolably crying, sorely teething baby.

“I said, do you think it’s possible to breathe life into an inanimate object?”

My husband is always asking these esoteric questions and while we’re both artistic in our own mediums, he never seems to be impacted by the poor timing of his inquiries.

“Yes I guess you could do that. Like with characters in a book you mean?”

“Nope that’s not what I mean at all.”

And with that he walks confidently up the stairs with a mission to show me exactly what he means. Weeks pass and I don’t think much of his question. Schedules begin to get particularly hectic and phone messages get subsequently longer. Texted to-do-lists interspersed with sexually laden punch lines serve to remind us that despite it all, we still actually like each other and that is a feat worth celebrating.

Even more weeks turn into months and the calendar rounds the corner to a new year. Time continues to fight against the white knuckled grip of our harried existence. This time, over the sound of our 7 year olds’ drum practice, I shout, “We should go to Vegas.” My revelation carries with it a tone of immediacy. I envision us boarding a plane following a spirited game of freeze tag where we zoom across Nevada state lines before our frozen embryos even know we’re gone. My husband sensing my urgency yells, “Like, now?” His sarcasm rings louder than the 8th notes of our son’s rendition of “Welcome to the Jungle.” Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Marriage

Another Seven Years.

March 1, 2015

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By Megan Birch-McMichael.

After almost a decade together, our shared language is both oral and visual. A wink means, did you see what our kid did? A sigh, what’s wrong now? A gentle nudge with a big toe on a calf in the middle of the night, please stop snoring already. Our words have meanings that only we understand, our promises to love each other through sickness and in health made with knowing smiles at the altar after having lived through a premarital spring, summer and fall of ailments that would precede another four seasons of tests and uncertainty.

Starting as a pre-med in college, though I wouldn’t see it through, I learned a language of medicine and science, names for various bodily systems and afflictions, words to describe how one is feeling. The language of love, our words that we speak to one another, has the staccato rhythm of a heartbeat, an electrical impulse sent to the tiny metal disk that rests underneath the surface of his skin, shocking his essential pump into a steady beat when it threatens to stop completely. The disk that was implanted two years ago when just after his 32st birthday, and right before my 31st, the fear of widowhood rose with bile in the back of my throat as I listened to the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Pick me up now.”

Thump.

“My heart stopped.”

Thump.

“I have to see the doctor immediately.”

Thump.

“I love you.”

Thump, thump.

The first time he collapsed, in our fourth year together, he 29 and I 28, we were at a diner with my mother and my brother two days after Thanksgiving. I did not yet have a ring on my finger symbolizing our marriage yet to come (that would come two weeks later on the National Mall in the freezing cold moonlight), and when he laid his head on my brother’s shoulder as we sat at the breakfast table, we laughed it off for a moment.

Continue Reading…

Addiction, Binders, Guest Posts, Marriage

Seventy-Seven Reasons Why I Can’t Marry You, Sean.

February 8, 2015

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By Sally Howe.

Callie finally shipped you your things in July. When we opened the boxes we saw she’d written fuck you on almost everything.

You believed that it was your mom’s fault that your sisters were not speaking to you.

On my twentieth birthday, I locked myself in the bathroom and read Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry. You tried to coax me out, first conciliatory, then sharp, then with your fists on the door. I sat silently on the bathmat with the book tucked into my lap, nodding to myself, pretending that someone sympathetic was watching.

You kissed me on a beach at night. I took off my shoes to walk with you and the wind filled them with sand.

The year before we met I bought a tiny cactus for my dorm room. I thought, here is something I can’t possibly kill. But I did; it turned brown and tipped over and I had to throw it away. I saved the story, though, carrying it around with me like an ID: here I am, destroyer of all things.

This is a story you told me about the time you lived with Callie, then your fiancé. You were in your car, with a hooker in the passenger’s seat, driving through wintery Minneapolis at two or three in the morning. Callie heard the beep of your seatbelt being unbuckled over the phone line and asked you where you were. You shot a frozen glance at Destiny or Chastity or whatever, and into your phone, you swore that it was the microwave and that you were on your way to bed.

We met in rehab. You should have known better.

I should have known better, too. I had finally, recently, truly become one with my self-loathing. You smiled at me and it was as if no one had ever been kind to me before.

You need someone on your arm. You like having a sidekick.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…

Dear Life., Guest Posts, Marriage

Dear Life: What If We Can’t Figure It Out?

January 18, 2015

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Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by one of my nearest and dearest: Ally Hamilton!

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, I will see you in London for my workshop on Feb 14th

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Dear Life,

I turned thirty a few months ago. I’ve been married to my husband for nearly six years. I bet you know where this is going. We’ve always known we wanted children, but we’ve been putting it off. It’s never been a real consideration until lately. We have dogs and cats and a house and busy lives and full-time jobs that have kept us challenged trying to balance our four-legged friends, our social lives, and our marriage effectively. The thing is that we have done it effectively. We are financially stable, healthy, and enjoying life together.

My husband and I are happy together, but lately, the child question has arisen, and we’re undecided. A big part of me just wishes we’d have an accident so we wouldn’t have to make a conscious decision about creating or bringing a child into our home.

I know there is time. That there are more fertile years ahead (assuming our bodies are in working order for procreation), that we don’t have to rush. The thing is that, lately, I’ve been wondering: why wait? We’re not getting younger. We’re pretty settled together. And yet, I have nagging uncertainty about the whole thing.

Are we going to miss late nights that led to miserable hangovers? Will we have to actually eat dinner before 9:00 at night and not spend three hours at the gym socializing on a Wednesday after work just because? Will we even be able to keep going to the gym? How can I birth a baby if I can’t even manage to birth this second novel draft? How will I keep writing and working full-time and effectively fulfill my duties as a parent? Who would even watch our baby? What if the dogs don’t like the baby? What if we don’t start trying now and wait and then can’t have a mini-me? What if we put it all off and decide on adoption and then have to wait even more years? What if adopting a child instead of having a biological one because I don’t want to push a baby out of my body is a bad reason to adopt a child? What if we adopt, then we can’t have any kids ourselves, and we want really badly to see what a combination of ourselves would look like? What if I get fat? What if we just aren’t ready? Is wanting to give my parents the opportunity to be grandparents a good enough reason? Is wanting to bring someone into our tiny family just so they can be loved a good enough reason?

I’m the kind of person who goes all-in for people she loves. My maternal instinct, despite what people think, is and has always been extremely strong. I’m scared to have a child and then have that child become my everything. I’m scared because I want that. I’m scared that I want that because that’s what I’m supposed to want.

I’m scared to lose myself. And for my husband and I to lose each other.

I don’t really expect much of an answer to these questions past “there’s never a good time to have kids,” which seems like reason enough to plan for a happy accident. But what if it isn’t? What if my husband and I can’t figure it all out like we think we can?

Thanks for anything you have to offer.

–M.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…