The Seven Keys to a Long & Happy Marriage

The Seven Keys to a Long & Happy Marriage

Marriage has the capacity not only to teach us more about others, but mostly about ourselves. When I was younger, I figured I would never marry. I was a hard and fast feminist with little patience for the opposite sex. Growing up taught me to really evaluate my own behavior if I wanted to have a partner in life. It wasn’t all about me. When I met my husband, he taught me patience, and the importance of sticking it through; even when its tough. Marriage

Marriage needs a firm foundation to outlast the pressures of everyday life. The national divorce rate is over 50% in the United States; and climbing! A wise woman once told me, “as quickly as you enter into this decision is as quickly as it can end.” How it begins, could very well be how it ends. I’m sure glad we put forth a lot of effort into our marriage. We met opposition almost immediately, but stood strong in our belief that we were doing what was right for us, and not losing sight of what was important to our end goal. Sometimes being there for each other doesn’t make you popular, but when your choices are made for the right reasons, you don’t need the popular vote. Since then, we’ve had lots of ups, mostly wins, and just as many losses. We haven’t always had the support system we needed, but we’ve always remained on the same team. Respectful of each other as human beings, and always willing to work through it and come out stronger on the other end. We encourage one another to always take the high road, and stand by each other when the other is making some tough yet necessary decisions. In our twelve years of marriage we’ve learned a few things..

 

Be Yourself

Nobody wants to marry the representative. You know, the person you met while dating that has gone missing and been replaced by this new person whom you swear you’ve never met before. My husband often tells me, “you are exactly the person I met fifteen years ago,” and it’s true. For all my faults, being a flip-flopper is not one of them. I have remained true to myself and the things that matter most to me. I never sold him a dream, or changed my entire belief system to stay on trend. I’ve never needed to be the most popular, and I am completely comfortable with sticking to my guns in the name of authenticity. I’ve always been forthcoming with him, and for that he respects me. He has a quote he uses often, “lies always change, but the truth remains the same.” If you are spending your marriage saying what you think the other person wants to hear (lying), then you aren’t being authentic, and eventually this will back-fire. If you enter into this union with any feeling other than you want to spend your life with this person, then it will eat away at you until there is nothing left. That voice that you tried to silence will never go away. To thine own self be true! I think Shakespeare nailed it with this one, don’t ya’ think?

Do You

Being married doesn’t turn you into Siamese twins. Two halves may equal a whole, but you can’t marry half a person. It’s imperative that you keep your individuality. Stay focused on what mattered to you before marriage, and respect the same for your partner. All too often folks get together and forget what they loved to do pre-relationship. I recently joined a book club, because I love to read (always have), and it can be difficult to get the time in at home. Reading allows you to escape your daily responsibilities and can provide an exciting escape. I meet with a group to discuss our latest read and how it’s impacted us, share our thoughts, and have a good laugh/or cry. Our latest book, The Marriage Pact, focuses on exactly this point. It’s the perfect summer read by the pool, a real page-turner sharing the twisted facets of marriage and just how far people will go to keep it as it is. This all-nighter is scary and insightful all at once. Creating time to do what I love, like read The Marriage Pact on the beach, helps me be a better version of myself for my family. Depositing into my own tank, helps me stay focused on what’s important to me; my family. The Marriage Pact is a fun read for any married folks!

Keeping your partner from the lifestyle they love to satisfy your own needs is selfish and will only implode the first chance it gets. I feel a sense of responsibility to encourage my partner to explore what means most to him. Sometimes he may need a nudge in that direction to help remember what he was passionate about, pre-marriage, and especially pre-kids. Sharing in the joy of what your partner is passionate about will not only re-enforce their individuality, but bring you closer together in the end. Bonus!

 

Ban Labels

We try to avoid labels at all cost. Any label really.. You know the kind, “I’m the bold one, he’s just shy.” “He’s the big earner, she’s just a housewife.” All of these are damaging and in no way reflective of any one person. Still, it can be easy to fall into a trap of looking at your partner through a specific label. You see, labels change our perception of a person, and if we only see one dimension of  a multi-faceted human being, our estimation is off; and such is our judgement. Each of us possess many attributes, more than we could count in a lifetime. At times we put forth different energy and have different experiences. To pigeon-hole our partner into being one way, or one type of person, will keep the marriage stunted; and only make each other resentful. Do yourself a favor, don’t be a label-whore.

Work From The Inside Out

We carry many triggers inside ourselves. Eckhart Tolle refers to them as the “pain-body,” memories we’ve accumulated over a lifetime that made an impact on us, and show up emotionally in other situations. Have you ever lost your temper over something silly? It wasn’t really the small issue, there was a trigger from a much larger issue that has never been addressed. It’s easy to adopt a victim’s mentality and just blame people for how you feel, or how they “make” you feel. But the truth is, it’s all your baggage. Certain situations wouldn’t even bother you if you didn’t have an internal trigger waiting to be offended. It’s easy to be jealous of time that your partner spends with someone else if you are insecure in your relationship. It takes bravery to be honest and share your feelings openly and without blame, then dive deeper to the root of it all. These triggers make navigating a relationship  like walking through an emotional mine field. Colin Tipping believes that in every situation (even where you feel wronged), there is a manifestation of a trigger that the other person is re-enacting with you. If every time we felt uncomfortable or offended in any situation in our lives, we just took a moment to step back and see what our own role in this could be, the world would be a much more forgiving place with a lot more compassion. Going on and on blabbing to the free world how another person made you behave erratically is futile, and will never heal your relationships. Besides, it breaks the next rule..

One on One

There is no room for a third-party in your relationships, and that includes your ego. I have a saying (I can do these all day), “if you have a problem with me, and you haven’t addressed me, then you do not have a problem with me. You just have a problem.” There is nothing that will kill any relationship faster than taking it to the streets. If you need the approval of “the people” to help validate your case, then perhaps you don’t have a case at all. Remember, the loudest person in an argument usually has the most to hide. Handle your disagreements one on one, don’t fight dirty. No one else should be involved in your relationship, because at the end of the day they don’t have to live with your choices; you do. Involving another cast of characters to your quarrel invites a new level of disrespect, one that won’t be so easy to dissolve. If you gather an army of minions to take on your plight, you’ve just started a war. Where is the resolution in that? Taking your private matters onto a public forum invites the opinions of the masses, which is never helpful in repairing a relationship. In fact, it pretty much seals the deal and puts the final nail in the coffin. Going public with a dispute of any kind violates the privacy of your relationship (whether marital or not), and sends the message that you don’t intend on resolving it. Finito..

Be Vulnerable

This is perhaps one of the most difficult of all the rules. Being vulnerable opens us up to a world of happiness, it also makes us available to pain. The two ride alongside each other in life. No risk, no reward. People tend to shy away from being vulnerable enough to say things like, “I get upset when I see you do..,” or I don’t feel important when you don’t..” Instead they use lines like, “you make me feel like..” or “because he didn’t do…” Vulnerability is tough, but it opens your relationship (all relationships, including familial) to all kinds of joy! The two aren’t mutually exclusive, you can experience heartache, and still find the joy in it. The ego tends to encourage us to attach ourselves to a label, “I am right, you are wrong,” so that it can exist at all. When you rid yourself of the ego in your relationships, there is no need for a label or any justification. It is understood that something happened, and two different people can have two totally different experiences, both deserving of respect. Once you are vulnerable with someone you trust completely, you realize you’re in the same boat rowing for the same team, and both perspectives are valid. Where there is understanding and acknowledgement, love flows freely. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t walk through life being vulnerable with just anyone, reserve it for the folks you keep nearest and dearest. Or as Brene Brown would say, “those that have earned the right to hear your story..”

There is Always Something To Learn

The first step in losing it all is thinking you’ve got it all figured out. A wise man knows that he knows nothing, is how the saying goes. If everyone you know, knows what you know, then you need to meet different people. You can’t possibly surround yourself in the same environment and expect to evolve. Evolution is bold, and at times uncomfortable, but completely necessary. If you can’t learn and grow together, how can you spend a lifetime together? A lasting marriage often means that two people have learned to acclimate to life’s spontaneous twists and turns, and still come out of it together. The journey is just as important as the destination, and if the road there was filled with damaging moments like disrespect, lack of compassion, and blame; then who wants to celebrate with that person afterwards? If you stay the course and continue to put forth your best self, have compassion for each other when you aren’t your best selves, and always come back to the strong foundation you’ve built; then you will be alright..

These are just a few of the many lessons marriage has taught us, and they have helped improve all relationships in my life. I’m sure there will be many more to come!

Click here to learn more about The Marriage Pact available now, or to order your own copy!

Essentially yours,

Erika

 

5 Signs Your Kid Has a Screen Addiction – How To Help

5 Signs Your Kid Has a Screen Addiction – How To Help

They are calling my generation (Generation X) the “last generation in the woods. ” We are the last group of kids that know what it’s like to play outdoors all day long until the street lamp came on. Childhood obesity is at a all time high, and the number of school-related hate crimes is astounding. The results are clear, technology is up, and compassion is at a severe low.

Screen Addiction

Screen Addiction

 

It seems everywhere you look there are devices for kids to “plug in” to keep them occupied. It starts at a very young age with the light up toys and flashing, colorful jungle gyms. We have one for the car, one for the house, one for just in case the others die out. It’s all very overstimulating, and the effects on the brain (research is finding) are far-reaching. Even the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) is recommending that children don’t watch ANY television before the age of two. Many suggest much longer than that with the alarming information found in the effects of wi-fi on a developing brain before the age of nine years old.

Yet everywhere you look, children are plugged in. Plugged into iPhones, iPads, tablets, portable dvd players, you name it they’ve got it in their tiny grasp. Even billionaire entrepreneur and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, didn’t allow his children to have iPhones until well into their teens. Studies have found that social media can play a large part in screen addiction, but the building blocks for this issue are there long before social media is invited into the equation. Researchers have found that dopamine (the same effect drugs or alcohol have on the human brain) is released while using apps, or interacting on social media. That is why it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole once you’ve started using it. Ever log in to Facebook for “just a moment” only to find you’ve wasted two hours browsing? Luckily, there are many ways to help you decipher if your child is getting too much screen time.

 

A still moment to reflect on the day’s events, or perhaps plan tomorrow’s adventures.

Location, Location, Location

 

At the grocery store, in the car, sitting at the table in the restaurant. If you notice that all of life’s everyday mundane activities seem to draw a device into the hand of your child, then they may have a screen addiction. All of these day to day activities, although not necessarily all exciting, play a part in your child’s social-emotional development. These are necessary interactions in which your child needs to learn how to navigate. You can alleviate this by purposely removing the option of devices from these activities. Important conversations are had in these still moments, missing out on these opportunities can have damaging effects. You can begin by setting boundaries for older children, or removing the opportunity to plug in altogether from younger kids during these moments. We recently bought a new SUV, and traded our minivan that had a dvd player in it. I thought it might be tough during road trips, but it turns out we enjoy car rides together much more, and the kids have found artistic ways to express themselves instead. The amount of drawing supplies that have made it’s way into our car rides, and we love it (except for the occasional melted crayon). It can be tough when parents need a break, but the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences. Look for all of the fun and silly moments to be had, and the lessons learned. It will serves them much longer than the thirty minutes of quiet time at dinner.

 

Mean Girls & Boys

 

If you notice that when you do remove the devices, or turn them off that your children look as though they’ve been posessed, they may have a screen addiction. The reason for this mean or intense behavior is because their brain is being overstimulated. Once that stimulation is removed, it can feel like an intense withdrawal. There’s no doubt about it, it feels as though the mean epidemic is larger than ever. Bullying is at an all time high (including cyber bullying), and kids are having trouble connecting with each other. The reason the popular Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” is such a hot topic is because it touches on many real struggles our youth are facing today. These issues are topics we have all faced growing up, only it seems it’s amplified because of the lack of social interaction and the introduction of social media. When I was growing up, if we made a silly mistake it wasn’t plastered all over and online resource for every school in the tri-state area to scoff at. Bullies were required to see the effects of their harsh words or actions immediately. They couldn’t hide behind a chat room, if they hurt someone, they had to see the effects of that hurt immediately, and suffer the intrinsic consequences by feeling terrible. Remove the person-to-person contact, and this becomes a dangerous scenario. There isn’t any compassion for a blank computer screen, and the person on the other end is up for grabs. The compassion and problem solving skills learned on the playground face to face, and the conflict resolution are what made other generations sturdy enough to handle pressure from the outside world, and grasp that today was a hard day; but there would be other days. Allowing kids the unstructured play time to work together to figure out their problems, and feel compassion for others, is crucial to healthy human development. They become the building blocks of our lives, and we draw on them in each situation of our lives moving forward. This can’t happen if kids never got to play and were constantly plugged in. You can start by reading books that encourage compassion  to our children, we’re laying the groundwork. By allowing them to figure out some of their own issues on the playground (instead of running to the rescue), we encourage autonomy. When we learn to use the right language to help describe the issues instead of placing blame or judgement, we are teaching them conflict resolution, instead of how to play defense all the time and ostracize themselves.

 

Physicality

 

In classrooms across America, children are faced with the physical effects of too much screen time. There is a reason the AAP has recommended little to no screen-time for children, the effects on the brain while staring at a glowing screen can be tough on the brain. The state your brain is in while engaged in pixelated content is the same as though you were sitting in a movie theater. Ever notice how after a few moments, you are wrapped into the screen as though no one else is in the theater? It’s because of the intense concentration that happens, we almost transcend our environment and notice nothing else. Screen time has this effect on the brain, and while the brain is in this state, it’s dormant. There is an entire part of the brain left being unused. This portion of the brain helps to control motor skills, coordination, and scanning (left to right scanning is what is the part of the brain that helps us to read, crawl, etc.). Think of a child’s brain as having dark areas (areas not yet in use), once a scent, or a feeling from touch is introduced, the brain creates a synapses, a bridge if you will to this sensation. A portion of the brain literally comes alive with a new experience tied to it, creating a bridge to another brand new experience. This is why sensorial play, and process art are so amazing for our children’s brains, it literally awakens parts of the brain that would otherwise go unused while plugged in. Movement is key to childhood development because the left to right transfer lends to the ability to learn to read later on. Movement can help develop the prefrontal cortex, which helps with problem solving and emotional self control. Without this, the brain relies on the primal part of the brain that sends “fight or flight” signals to the body, causing wild tantrums, and the inability to work through experiences.

 

Solutions

 

While these signs may seem daunting, the beauty in childhood is that it is never too late to implement healthy habits. Children are resilient and can bounce back from physical and behavioral issues with the right guidance, and more importantly the right examples. That’s the key to any lessons in childhood, an example needs to be set. One of the biggest reasons children can suffer from screen addiction is that their parents may be facing the same issue without even realizing it. How can we expect our kids to practice responsible device use if we haven’t quite learned how to put down our own smartphone? Ask yourself these questions: Am I always on my phone in front of our kids? Do I have my phone or any devices present at the dinner table, or during family time? When they see me, what do they see. One of the quickest ways to try and understand our children and their habits is by getting down to their level, and watching what their experience with us is like.

Screen Addiction
A missed opportunity to describe what you see, instead of recording it.

Screen Addiction

There are tons of great books dedicated to this issue, and resolving it.

Taking Back Childhood

Between Parent & Child

The Last Child in the Woods

Liberated Parents, Liberated Children

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen

The Hands Free Mama

Glow Kids

“The children and nature movement is fueled by this fundamental idea; the child in nature is an endangered species, and the health of children and the health of the Earth are inseparable.” -Richard Louv

Essentially yours,

Erika

Work, Pause, Thrive – The New Women’s Workforce + Book Giveaway

Work, Pause, Thrive – The New Women’s Workforce + Book Giveaway

I remember the day I found out I was pregnant, I was elated and fearful at the same time. It had been a long road to get here physically with two pregnancy losses and a diagnosis of severe endometriosis. I was fearful of whether my body was ready to handle this pregnancy, and I had just started a new job.

As International Women’s Day just passed, I reflected on all of the personal and professional choices I have had to face as a woman, and especially as a mother. I remember thinking I would need to take a few months off after naturally giving birth like the rock star that I was. I was so young, and so sweet. I had little to no idea how much my life was about to change. Serendipitously it seems, the department I was working for was shutting down, and I was laid off (like most people in the construction industry in 2009). While I’d worried about how this would affect me returning to the workforce after childbirth, I was grateful for the chance to focus on impending motherhood.

Jumping into the role full throttle, I embraced everything pregnancy and motherhood had to offer, ad nauseam. I met morning sickness, swollen feet, and constipation with the excitement of a toddler learning something for the first time. Really, looking back I want to smack myself and say, “Snap out of it!”.. Anyhow, I soon learned that this glorious time in my life where the world seemed to slow down just enough so I could get a better glimpse of it, would be known as the “Pause” according to Lisen Stromberg. Her new book “Work Pause Thrive: How to Pause for Parenthood Without Killing Your Career” has been described as “essential reading for all people – not just women” and I heartily agree.

Lisen is a former advertising executive in Silicon Valley who did the unthinkable in her industry. She dared to “pause”, by opting out and taking time to focus on her family. But her journey didn’t end there, she paused and then pivoted to become a social entrepreneur, and then an award-winning journalist writing about women, work, and life. Her new book Work Pause Thrive, shows how trailblazing women everywhere are disrupting the traditional career paradigm, and how you can too.

Deeply rooted in social science, and cutting edge data, Work Pause Thrive aims to change the way successful women are perceived. Until now, the perception has been that women who aren’t completely devoted, all of the time, won’t amount to much professionally. That simply isn’t true, Stromberg points out that many women who have enviable careers have paused. Just because we have hidden that gap on our resume’s for years, Lisen feels in order to shift that public perception, successful women need to open up about that time in their lives and share a new story. In one hundred and eighty-six first-person interviews, Lisen hopes to help women everywhere understand that pausing takes the long view on one’s career and honors the reality that sometimes we must reframe our priorities to meet the immediate needs of our family. Pausing and being wealthy aren’t mutually exclusive, in Stromberg’s book she emphasizes the need to understand these priorities and work to achieve a system that works for each individual family, in some cases requiring a father to pause and focus on their family.

I was lucky enough to be able to “pause” for my family, and pour all of my knowledge and passion into writing once the boys were a bit older. Which has now turned into a successfully monetized blog where I can share my thoughts and ideals on lifestyle choices such as parenting, family, food & travel.

“It is time to recognize that those who place the personal before the professional aren’t failures; they are career innovators who have the courage and grit to risk it all for that which matters most to them.”  -Lisen Stromberg

I am partnering up to host a giveaway for Lisen’s best-selling book Work Pause Thrive! Enter below to find out:

  • Who pauses and how and why
  • How pausing can enrich both your career and your life
  • How to innovate your own path by strategically incorporating a pause into your career
  • What we can—and need—to do as a society to make it pausing possible for more people to achieve their personal and professional goals

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Essentially yours,

Erika

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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