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The Language of Love

I’m pretty sure that one of the most important things about having a successful marriage is learning to show love to your partner in ways that they appreciate. It’s not an easy task, because I’m pretty sure that most of us do the opposite; that is, we show our partners love in ways that we ourselves want to be loved. It’s easy to think that, “Hey, because I like this, then surely my partner will, too.” I spent a lot of time thinking that in my first marriage, assuming that my (then) husband would appreciate the ways that I chose to show him love.

I had it all wrong.

I’ve come to realize that the best (and only good way) to love your partner is to figure out the ways that they want to be loved, and then respond to that. Showing love is less about the giver, and more about the receiver. Doing things for the one you love that maybe you personally don’t enjoy all that much, but doing it anyhow because it’s something that they absolutely love. After all, loving someone should be about being unselfish, at least some of the time.

I feel like CBG and I have made a lot of strides lately in this department. We’ve been working on communicating the ways that we each want to be loved, and the other has been making an effort to meet those wants. I’m not even talking huge gestures, but more like small, daily acts that reaffirm over and over again, “Yes, you matter. I will make an effort for you, because your happiness is worth it.”  For me, this meant offering to watch one of CBG’s favourite TV programs with him (turns out, I actually love it too – who knew?). For CBG, this means making an effort to suggest things for us to do together (even something small like going out for coffee). These are just two small examples of how we are each making a small effort to love the other in ways that we know they want to be loved.

It all sounds simple, but the truth is, it’s a habit we fell out of for a little while there. We were each so focused on ourselves, and why our own needs weren’t being met, that we didn’t stop to remember that a happy and well-loved spouse will show love in return. Now, every time CBG supports my silly ideas (like our own personal Polar Bear Dip on New Year’s Day), or whenever he makes me laugh with his antics, I remember that those are things he’s doing for me. Because he loves me. And that makes me want to do something in return.

Give and take, and speaking each other’s love language. That’s what its all about.

A Look Back at 2016

I’ve been thinking a lot about this past year. It’s hard to know what to say about it, really, as I’m experiencing a lot of mixed emotions. It’s been a year of both ups and downs; many happy personal things have happened, but there’s also been a lot of loss, not just in the celebrity world but for a lot of people close to me as well. It was a strange year, indeed.

On a personal level, there was a lot of loss around me. A good friend lost her husband. My best friend’s father lost his battle to cancer. Another friend’s mother passed away just before Christmas. CBG’s daughter Pebbles lost a friend, too. There was a lot of sadness around for people that I care about.

And of course there was a lot of loss in the celebrity world as well. A lot of beloved celebrities died this year – more than usual, it feels like. And more that seemed to go “before their time”. For me I lost three of my all-time favourites: Prince, Leonard Cohen, and George Michael. Each of those artists touched me in a different way, and I’ll be honest, the world feels just a little bit emptier without them. However. I also feel a deep sense of gratitude for the fact that the world even had these people to begin with; people who I never had the privilege of meeting, but still managed to touch me in a memorable way.

There’s been a lot of good things that have happened in our family this year. CBG landed his dream job. I landed a job that I am much happier in. Because of these two things, we’re starting to get back on track financially. This summer I got to see my best friend again for the first time in almost 12 years. Most importantly, with some hard work and a lot of love, CBG and I have been able to reconnect and reach a good place again.

Equally important, I feel like groundwork is being laid for continued good things in the future. The past couple of years have been a bit of struggle for my family, and it is good to feel like we’re moving in a forward direction again. It makes me excited to see what’s in store for us.

2016 has been a time of learning for me. Yes, there has been loss, but that loss has reminded me that there are no guarantees in this life. And because of that, we need to get out there and live. We need to take risks. Push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Spend time with loved ones. Tell people how much they mean to us. We need to make good things happen – to get out there and grab life and squeeze every bit of goodness out of it that we can.

And that’s exactly what 2017 is going to be all about for me.

Dealing with Depression (When it’s Not Yours)

It’s been almost two years now since CBG was diagnosed with, and began treatment for, major depressive disorder.

I was the one who urged him to see his doctor to begin with. It can be easy to miss the signs of depression, particularly in yourself. And especially since we all have an idea of what depression is “supposed” to look like, and when it doesn’t, it can be easy to pass it off as something else. Or even worse – as nothing at all.

I’d like to say that since beginning treatment, things have gotten back to normal. The truth is that they haven’t. Yes, there has been a big improvement, but in the last two years we’ve faced a lot of extra challenges. We’ve dealt with CBG being additionally diagnosed with ADHD, then losing his job and going through an extended period of unemployment, before beginning a new job back in late spring. We’ve dealt with me changing jobs not once, but twice in the last year. So to say that we’ve dealt with our share of challenges recently would be a bit of an understatement.

In the interests of honesty, I’ll admit that it’s been a tough go these past two years. CBG and I haven’t exactly been our best selves. We haven’t always been putting the effort into our marriage that we should. Some days, some weeks, some months have been worse than others. But still — we are trying.

Continuing with the theme of full disclosure, I’ll also admit that it’s been tough for me, dealing with CBG’s depression. I know it makes me a bit of a selfish arsehole to say it, but those of you who have lived through a spouse’s depression know what I’m talking about. This is particularly true for those of us (like me) who struggle with their own mood. As I’ve written about before, winter is always a tough time for me, mentally and emotionally. Add to that a depressed spouse and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

I’ve learned a lot in the past couple of years, about having a depressed spouse. I’ve learned how easy it can be to empty your own emotional tank while trying to carry the load for two people. And how once that tank gets emptied, it’s often filled back up with anger and resentment, with a good-sized chunk of guilt thrown in for good measure. I’ve learned that self-care is more important than ever, but can very easily fall by the wayside. I’ve learned that it can be very easy to blame oneself for how your spouse is feeling, even though logically you know that its just stupid brain chemistry to blame. I’ve learned that (for me, at least) it can be very easy to get sucked into the vortex of negative feelings along with your spouse. And when that happens, instead of being able to lift one another up, all you do is pull each other down deeper. Like two drowning people with no life preserver in sight.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. As part of closing the gap and being the person that I want to be, I know that I have to take greater responsibility for me and my own self care. That means taking a step backwards, away from CBG, in order to give both of us the space that we need to figure out our own individual stuff and do something about it. For me it’s about taking responsibility for myself – my thoughts, my mood, my actions – and doing something about them. It’s about encouraging CBG from the sidelines, from a loving distance. I can’t be responsible for the two of us. I’ve tried that route and it hasn’t been good for either one of us. And frankly, that’s not the person that I want to be. And I’m pretty sure that’s not the wife that CBG wants, either.

So (for right now at least) I am focusing a bit more on me. On my own health. My own self care. My own actions and attitudes. My hope is that CBG will be inspired to do the same, but the truth is that if he isn’t, I can’t be the one to wear it. I love him and I love myself too much to allow that to happen.

Life Lessons for my Daughters

As my girls grow older, this parenting thing seems to get more and more complicated. Its funny; I used to naively think that it would actually get easier. And sure, in some ways it is. After all, at 11 and 13 I no longer have to worry about tying shoes or wiping noses or butts or meeting any of those other physical needs that make life with young children so exhausting. Thankfully, because, y’know, wiping my 13 year old’s butt make bit just a wee bit awkward for the two of us. heh.

So even though their practical physical needs are much less, the older they get, the more complicated their emotional needs. I find myself having more and more conversations with them about life, friendship and romantic relationships. Working to meet their emotional needs, and teaching them how to have healthy relationships is far more complex than wiping noses or butts ever was.

The difficulty in teaching them how to have healthy relationships is that I know CBG and I don’t always provide them with the best of examples. Sure, we try to do our best, but there are times when we come up short, as I suppose is the case with a lot of married couples. I’ll be honest…it makes me feel like a bit of a crummy parent. I don’t believe in the ‘do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do’ parenting philosophy; I try to parent by example.

And lately, the example hasn’t been all that great – from either one of us.

When I’m able to push the “I’m a kinda crummy parent” feelings aside and look at things logically, I know that this is an opportunity to teach my girls the realities of relationships. They’re not always perfect. Sometimes relationships are messy and ugly and couples hurt one another. The important part is what happens after the messy bits: the communication. Working things through. Making up. Growing stronger as a couple because of it.

One lesson I want my girls to learn, above all others, is that every mistake is an opportunity to grow, learn, and do better. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s what we do with those mistakes that demonstrate the kind of person that we are. I want my girls to be the kind of people who are able to recognize the error in their ways, apologize, self-correct and move on to better things.

And if that’s the kind of people I want them to be, then that’s the example they need to be provided with. From both their parents.

Wishes For My Daughters

It’s natural that we moms wish many things for our children. Lately I find myself thinking a lot about the future, and what might possibly be in store my two daughters. So much is unknown, and those big question marks leave a lot of space for imagining and wishing. Sure, it leaves space for fear and anxiety as well, but I do my best to put away fear of the unknown as much as possible. Worrying about the future is a futile act, since there are so many factors that may affect and change it.

I wish for my daughters to know what it means to love someone with their whole entire heart. To see everything about that person – the good and the bad – and to love them for the good and accept the bad as it comes.

I wish for them that the person they love, loves them back in exactly the same way.

I wish for them to know just enough sadness and heartache to be able to appreciate all the good things when they happen.

I wish for them to love themselves, fully and completely, and to value all the things that make them unique, even those things that they don’t always like all that much.

I wish for them to always laugh as much as they do now, and to keep embracing their silliness.

I wish for them to have enough money to be comfortable, to do the things that they want to do in life, while still being willing to work hard for those things.

I wish that they will need to work hard, ,at least for some things; hard-won victories are always appreciated most.

I wish for them to always know their own worth, and to never tolerate being disrespected by others.

I wish for them to remain young at heart, and always see the beauty even in every day things.

I wish that they will always feel deep appreciation and gratitude for even the smallest things in life.

And more than anything, my biggest wish is that they will always know that I am in their corner, and that my love for them is eternal, and truly unconditional.

 

 

 

The Downside of Being Depressed at the Same Time As Your Spouse

We’re definitely in double trouble land these days when it comes to CBG and I. I wrote last week about how I’m basically in self-preservation mode, focusing on me and working hard to care for myself. I whined wrote about how much work self-care really is.

One of the benefits of marriage is that when one of you is feeling down, the other person can lift you back up. They can support the weight of life a for a little while, so you can steady yourself and get back on your feet. They can take care of you a bit, since you’re not so great at caring for yourself right now. And then, eventually, you will get your opportunity to return the help and support when they need it.

The tricky bit, of course, is when you’re both depressed at the same time. When that happens, you’re both far too focused on yourselves and your own feelings to be of much use to your spouse. And even worse — you’re actively dragging one another down in the process, like two desperate, drowning victims…trying so hard to catch a breath or two that you’re holding down the other person in the process without really realizing it.

It’s actually pretty ugly.

It’s usually at this point that the resentment sets in — resentment at your spouse for not helping more, not doing more. For not taking engaging in adequate self care. For not propping you up a bit, or themselves either…but merely allowing themselves to sink deeper into the emotional muck, pulling you down with them. For not waking up and seeing what’s happening right in front of them.

And as we’re all well aware, resentment does crappy things to a marriage….rotting it from the inside out…snaking its tendrils deep into the once joyful flesh. Soon, it gets hard to recognize the person that you’re sliding into bed beside each night, and the question becomes: who is the problem? Are they the one who is unrecognizable, or is your own judgment so clouded that you can’t see them (or the situation) clearly?

A little of both, I guess. Or a lot of both.

It’s terrifying. And worrying. And guilt-inducing. And even more resentment-making. Because even though you know that your spouse doesn’t have a whole lot to offer right now, you still resent the shit out of them for not finding the energy to dig deep and do a little bit more.

Because sometimes, it’s really nice to have someone take care of you, even just for a little while.

 

 

The Magic of Self Care

Wait a minute.

I’m going to call bullshit on myself in terms of that title, right out of the gate. There’s nothing magical about self care. It’s damn hard work is what it is — particularly if, like me, you struggle with it. I’m only mediocre when it comes to self-care at the best of times, let alone when I’m feeling particularly rotten like I am now.

The good news is that I’ve been thinking a lot about self care lately; what things I can do support my own mental and emotional health. Nothing huge; although Universe, if you’re listening, an all-expenses paid trip to someplace sunny and warm would be perfect right about now. Thanks. What I’ve been focusing on are the small, manageable, every day things that I can do to help myself feel better without feeling overwhelmed. Things like moving my morning run to the afternoon so I can sleep in a little bit. Maki And curling up with a movie of my choice. Some days this means allowing myself to just eat the damn chocolate without feeling guilty about it.

Yesterday morning the sun came out and as the day wore on, I found myself looking forward to getting out of the office at lunchtime to go for a short walk. Unfortunately, my morning also got very busy, and I found myself neck-deep in something when lunchtime rolled around. I resigned myself to the fact that a walk in the fresh air and sunshine, however necessary, just wasn’t going to happen. I grabbed my lunch and sat eating it at my desk, the resentment bubbling up a bit.

And then the thought occurred to me: I’m not saving any lives here. Twenty minutes out of the office wasn’t going to negatively affect my productivity, in fact, getting out for some natural light and making my body move was going to do me more good in the long run. So threw on my coat and dashed out the door. I went for a lovely walk around the neighbourhood, feeling refreshed and ready (well, more ready, I guess) to tackle the rest of the afternoon.

I know that I have a long way to go to feel back to my old self, and that I need to keep making a conscious effort to look after myself. Yeah, it’s hard work. There’s definitely no magic solution, unfortunately. The good news, however, is that spring is coming, and with it, I know that my mood and my energy levels will dramatically improve. Basically, at this point, I’m counting down the days.