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Marriage and Relationships

Understanding The Five Love Languages to Improve Your Relationships

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Ah, love – the great mystery of the human heart. We’ve all been there, swept off our feet by that special someone who makes our heart flutter and our knees weak. But what happens when the honeymoon phase fades, and we realize that our partner’s way of expressing love is completely different from our own? Enter the five love languages – a framework that can help unravel the complexities of relationships and foster deeper connections with our partners. So, grab your favorite latte (or a glass of wine), and let’s dive into the fascinating world of understanding the five love languages.

What Are the Five Love Languages?

First things first, let’s break down the five love languages:

  1. Words of Affirmation: This love language involves verbal expressions of love and appreciation, such as compliments, words of encouragement, and affirmations of affection.
  2. Quality Time: For those who speak this love language, nothing says “I love you” like undivided attention and meaningful conversations. Spending quality time together, free from distractions, is essential.
  3. Acts of Service: Actions speak louder than words for individuals who value acts of service. Whether it’s cooking dinner, running errands, or helping with chores, these gestures demonstrate love and thoughtfulness.
  4. Physical Touch: Physical affection is the primary love language for those who crave touch. Hugs, kisses, hand-holding, and other forms of physical contact are essential for feeling loved and connected.
  5. Receiving Gifts: Thoughtful gifts, no matter how big or small, are the key to the heart for individuals who appreciate receiving gifts as expressions of love and thoughtfulness.

How Do You Identify Your Love Language?

Identifying your love language is like uncovering a hidden treasure – it requires self-reflection and honest communication with your partner. Pay attention to how you prefer to express love and how you feel most loved and appreciated in return. Do you light up when your partner gives you a compliment or a thoughtful gift? Or do you crave quality time together, free from distractions? By recognizing your preferences, you can gain insight into your love language.

How Do You Practice the Five Love Languages?

Once you’ve identified your love language, the next step is to put it into practice in your relationship. Here are some tips for expressing each love language:

  1. Words of Affirmation: Send your partner a heartfelt text message expressing your love and appreciation. Leave sticky notes with uplifting messages around the house. Compliment them on their strengths and accomplishments.
  2. Quality Time: Plan regular date nights where you can focus solely on each other. Put away your phones and other distractions and engage in meaningful conversations. Take walks together or enjoy a leisurely meal at a favorite restaurant.
  3. Acts of Service: Take on tasks or chores that your partner dislikes or finds challenging. Cook their favorite meal, run errands for them, or offer to help with household responsibilities without being asked.
  4. Physical Touch: Initiate cuddling sessions, hold hands while watching TV, or give your partner a lingering hug when they least expect it. Physical affection doesn’t always have to be sexual; simple gestures of touch can convey love and affection.
  5. Receiving Gifts: Surprise your partner with thoughtful gifts that reflect their interests and preferences. It’s not about the monetary value; it’s about the thought and effort you put into selecting something meaningful for them.

When Love Languages Clash: Navigating Differences in Relationships

While understanding and speaking the same love language can strengthen a relationship, what happens when two partners’ love languages don’t match up? Conflict can arise when one partner feels unloved or unappreciated because their needs aren’t being met in the way they desire. However, recognizing and respecting each other’s love languages can bridge the gap and foster understanding and compromise. It’s not all about you. The best way to love someone is the way they want to be loved.

Communication is key when navigating differences in love languages. It’s also the key to understanding the five love languages. The Big Guy and I have different love languages but we know that. We might not always understand why the other one wants to be loved the way they do but we love each other that is the meaningful to each other. Discussing your preferences openly and honestly with your partner can help bridge the gap and find common ground; this applies to all things in a relationship. Remember, relationships are all about compromise and finding ways to show love and appreciation that resonate with both partners.

The Language of Love

In the intricate dance of love, understanding and speaking each other’s love language can strengthen bonds and deepen connections in relationships. By recognizing and embracing the unique ways we express and receive love, we can cultivate fulfilling and harmonious partnerships that stand the test of time. So, whether your love language is words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, physical touch, or receiving gifts, remember to speak it loudly and proudly in your relationship. After all, love is a language that knows no bounds – let’s keep the conversation going. ❤️

What’s your love language? What would you want your partner to know to better understand your love language?

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boilermaker love story

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

I met my husband, senior year of college at Purdue University. We met at Harry’s. We had a mutual friend, who’d grown up with him, and really wanted to introduce me to this “great guy” ( just as friends). This was a boilermaker love story from the very start. In case you’re wondering what a boilermaker is, its what Purdue students, athletes and alumni call themselves. I am, in fact, a proud Boilermaker whose heart bleeds black and gold and of all the precious moments I experienced throughout my tenure at my beloved Purdue, our love story is, by far, my favorite.

After weeks of hearing about this guy, she convinced me to leave our LSAT prep class a little early and head to Harry’s for a drink and some popcorn. It was September 29,1997. We walked into Harry’s and there at the back of the bar, surrounded by his friends and talking to the bartender was this massive 6’5” man. There was no way you could miss him.

We made our way through the crowd to where he was and when our mutual friend introduced us, he barely looked in my direction and mumbled, “Hey.” It floated down and landed with a thud. Honestly, I was as unimpressed and disinterested as he seemed to be. All the weeks of hearing what a “great guy” he was only to realize, he was kind of a jerk. No worries, I didn’t even know this guy and I’d never have to see him again.

Eventually, the night progressed to an impromptu after party back at the house he shared with 5 other guys; the infamous 345 Sylvia Street. At that time though, it could have been in another country because I was geographically challenged and had no idea where it was in relation to my apartment on Chauncey.

Within 20 minutes, our mutual friend disappeared with a guy. It happens. I was left alone talking to the guy she introduced me to and his roommate. Honestly, I just wanted to go home because I had a big Astronomy test the next day; I needed sleep.

Our Boilermaker love story had an unlikely beginning

Eventually, around 2 am, I started to freak out a little because I’d been abandoned at this party with guys I barely knew and had absolutely no idea how to get home. The “great guy” offered to walk me home ( which in retrospect is weird because he had a car and it was the middle of the night) with no other option, I took him up on his offer. How bad could it be? I desperately needed to get home. Was I just supposed to live there now?

He immediately told me that he wanted to show me something. All I thought was, omg, this is where my SVU episode begins. He took me to the top of the parking garage and pointed out constellations ( I guess he’d been paying attention when I was talking about my Astronomy exam). Then, unbeknownst to me, we headed in the opposite direction of my apartment taking effectively the longest way home. I was oblivious.

We ended up at the Purdue University soccer fields, lying on the grass as he pointed out more constellations. I wasn’t sure if this guy who completely blew me off when we met earlier that night was super sweet and trying to help me study or super creepy and going to assault me. I had no option, I was lost on campus in the middle of the night with a guy a foot taller than me. I queued up all those karate moves my dad taught me as a kid… just in case this “great guy” got any SVU ideas.

Our love story happened when I least expected it

Then, it happened. My entire life changed when I wasn’t paying attention. As we were lying there, talking about everything and nothing under the stars with the dewy grass beneath us, he started to talk about his grandmother, who’d recently passed. He spoke with such love and reverence when telling me about the woman she was, he got choked up. That break in his voice, shifted my perspective of who I thought he was. To be honest, I realized I thought this great guy was a jerk simply from one interaction that only lasted a couple of minutes.

Eventually, he walked me home and we had our first kiss on my doorstep as the sun was coming up. He told me he loved me 2 weeks later and proposed 4 months later, just a few days shy of our first Valentine’s Day, on the dance floor at WhereElse. 27 years and 2 boilermaker babies later, we’ve been inseparable ever since. I may have flunked my Astronomy exam but I found my forever. When I wasn’t looking, I found everything, I never knew that I always wanted right there on campus.

What was your meet cute story? How did your love story begin?

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KNowing when to walk away from toxic relationships, toxica

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

The disappointment of people who let you down whether it be a family member or a close friend is always devastating and somehow unexpected, even when all the signs warn you that it’s coming. Have you ever been let down by friends or family? Let’s be honest? Who hasn’t been? People are human and humans are fallible. We know this. Hell, I practically expect it. I’ve lived long enough to know that shit really does happen, especially when you least expect it. The key is recognizing toxic people and knowing when to walk away from toxic relationships.

The thing is I don’t want perfection in the people I love but I want respect, love and effort. I want you to try to live up to my expectations because I’m trying to be my best for you. I’m not trying to be perfect, because I want you to know the real me, I want to be less uneasy being my vulnerable self with you than the general public. So when you can’t do me the basic courtesy of being honest with me, you fail me, yourself and our friendship. This is what I teach my children. This is something I learned the hard way.

I teach my girls to behave this way and to expect it from others. Relationships are investments and you should expect ROI. Friendship shouldn’t be a bottomless pit of give. You should get what you give. You should get what you want to get. Will that always look like equality? Never. Sometimes one will need more than the other and other times the other will need more. Relationships should never involve receipts, IOUs or keeping score, it should be about being there and giving to one another what the other might need. 

Knowing when to walk away from toxic relationships is a life skill and most of us don’t learn it until we’ve been burnt by toxic people more than once.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that not everyone feels or views relationships the same way. There are people who want relationships for purely selfish reasons, to see how they can benefit from it with no regard to the other person involved. Honestly, unrequited love has its place but not in a confirmed relationship whether that be friendship, a relationship or a marriage, that’s a violation of the social contract that humans agree to when getting involved with other human beings. It’s a fucking bamboozle and I’m not here for it. 

So, let’s break the cycle. I’ve done my fair share of crying over relationships and I’m done. I’m henceforth accepting people for who they show me they are. I’m no longer putting my hope on how people can or will change because that’s not fair to me or them.

I’m not trying to change anyone and I’m certainly not changing myself for anyone. I’m trying to be my own best self so that I like the me in the mirror. End of. If you don’t like her, no need to discuss or argue, let’s just civilly part ways. TBH, if you tell me you don’t like me, I can accept that. I’m not for everyone. But if you pretend we’re friends or whatever the relationship is and you’re not all in, that’s worse. If I’m not a hell yes for you, let me be a hell no. It might sting temporarily because I’m human and I lean a tad on the narcissistic side but I will get over it. 

However, if you enter into a relationship under false pretenses, that’ll hurt to my core because I allowed myself to be vulnerable, love and trust you when our time together was based on a lie that you knowingly perpetuated. You’ve wasted my precious time and squandered my care for you. That’s grounds for hate to me and you deserve it. I can forgive but I can’t forget so, we will never be the same because the trust and respect isn’t there… it probably never was because when you care about someone, you try to protect them. 

I’ve taught my girls that to have a good friend , you’ve got to be a good friend. They believe this so they know the rules. They won’t waste your time pretending. Faking is not their way. Either they love you or you’re not significant enough to matter in any way that can hurt them. Make no mistake, they care about the human race, they are respectful and kind but they know that relationships are an investment. They don’t say anything behind you’re back that they aren’t prepared to say to your face. They don’t judge people on what they have, do or how they look or how popular you are. They judge you on how you treat them and others. They observe. Still, they’re teenagers and my middle-aged wisdom can only guide them through the murky waters of the teen years. But sometimes their youth and big feelings drown out my experience and they get hurt. 

Relationship hurt has to be felt and gone through to process and make peace with. I encourage them to feel their feelings, talk about them and be honest with others about their feelings. Don’t push them down or pretend they’re ok when they’re not. That’s a recipe for disaster because then you’re just damaged for the next relationship. And don’t be fooled, it isn’t just romantic partners who have the power to hurt you in relationships. This advice applies to friends, lovers, family members, parents and co-workers. Respect  yourself, know your boundaries, speak up and put in what you want to get out and most importantly, don’t be afraid to walk away from relationships that no longer serve you, or worse, actively hurt you. Life is too fucking short. 

Have you ever had to walk away from a relationship that you really wanted to work? What was harder for you, walking away from family, a relationship or a friendship? What are your best tips for walking away from toxic relationships?

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the importance of honesty in marriage, relationship communications, words matter

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Recently, I’ve been approached to be interviewed for some pretty lucrative positions. I haven’t been interviewed to get a job in years since most of my work comes from WOM recommendations or personal connections through past work partners. To be honest, I wasn’t looking because I’m finishing up my master’s in digital marketing and planned to evolve my career when the program is completed. But when opportunity knocks, you have to at least listen, right?

As I said, these positions are lucrative and to ignore the opportunity that sought me out would be crazy, so, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone( out of my joggers and sweatshirts that have been my work uniform for the past seventeen years)(nervous and unsure) and went for it, talk about imposter syndrome? I felt like a guy dating way out of his league.

There have been 3 interviews thus far 1) was a huge editorial opportunity at a digital news outlet paying great money 2) an editor position heading up their newly formed parenting channel 3) an opportunity to enter the digital marketing field as a strategist. To say I was stressed about having these out-of-the-blue interviews would be an understatement but I’ve never let fear stop me from jumping in head first before, why stop now?

I pulled on my big girl panties and so I lept. Now, the reason I’m able to do this is that I’ve always had my core group of family’s unconditional support and confidence. My husband has always been my biggest supporter. No dream too big. No goal too lofty. “Baby you can do it!” Before the Big Guy, my dad was my hype man. While I’m humble, I’m not afraid of trying. I don’t particularly like failure but I always remain optimistic and try my hardest. A lot of that has to do with my unwavering support system and their belief in me. They truly lift me up so you can imagine what it would feel like if I found out maybe that wasn’t always the case.

Thursday, I was prepping for what would be the most stressful interview yet, the opportunity in digital marketing. Stressful because I’ve only worked from the content creation and influencer side and this position is in the strategist side. Plus, this wasn’t a phone interview but a video conference with not 1 but 2 of the executives. Did I mention I have an issue controlling my facial expressions and so ramble when I’m nervous? Also, how do I dress to look professional but youthful, energetic and creative without looking like a try-hard imposter, matronly or age-inappropriate? When let’s face it, I am often age-inappropriate because even though I’m on the verge of middle age, my heart and soul are stuck around 23-years-old. There were 100 different ways this could all go sideways and so couldn’t stop running every one of those scenarios through my head.  I spent all that morning on the precipice of vomiting but I pushed through and decided to get out of my own way.

About an hour and a half before the interview, I sent the Big Guy to pick up the girls from school so I could finish centering myself and get ready (suit up in my interview armor so to speak). I was so nervous that I was getting irritable and second guessing every choice so when my girls got home I asked for their opinions on one fashion options. In retrospect, this was a completely futile and terrible choice. They’ve never been on an interview in their lives but I was desperate for reassurance.

That’s when, in my frantic state, my youngest pulls me aside to drop a truth bomb.I pride myself on raising my girls to be upfront, honest and transparent and to never, ever say something behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face. I guess I should have more clearly explained timing and how sometimes silence is the best option if the truth will hurt someone you care about. But, some lessons are learned late which Im still debating if it’s actually better than never.

The truth bomb she hit me with 45 minutes before my interview, “dad says you’re really nervous about your interview. You’ve been out of the game too long and you probably won’t get the job.”

In my head…. He said what!?!?!!!!!!!! Not in anger but in shock, awe and heartbreak.

She may as well have shot me on the heart because that’s literally what it felt like.

So, 30 minutes before my interview that I was already feeling insecure about, I’m beginning to look like a leopard from the crying. I can’t figure out how to react. Am I angry? Am I sad? Is this grounds for divorce? Was all that faith in me bullshit? Is our entire marriage a lie? If he, the man who supposedly “loves” me doesn’t believe I can do it, will anybody? Should I cancel the interview! Oh my God, he thinks I’m old??? I fucking hate it here. I’m an imposter. I have no business talking to these people. What was I thinking agreeing to this?? Omg, it’s virtual. They’re going to see my red-spotted, puffy just cried face. Every insecurity I had 45 minutes ago had been amplified by infinity. Does this man even love me? Do I even know who this person is?

Frantically spinning out of control like a helicopter caught in a hurricane about to crash into the ground and kill us all.

Then, 20 minutes before my interview, still not sure what to wear and trying to put on my makeup to cover my leopard spots, thanks to my toxic optimism, stubbornness and refusal to let anyone define what I can or can’t do ( thanks dad for raising me to believe in myself even when others don’t, to take pleasure in proving people wrong and succeeding to spite other peoples underestimation of me) I decided to let it go ( for the duration of the interview). Priorities.

I had a great interview. I was honest about everything including that most of my strategy work has been for class projects but I’m eager to learn and apply everything I’ve learned in class to real-world situations. We had a good rapport and the interview lasted a little over an hour( longer than they’d planned for), I did my best and I’m ok with however it plays out. TBH, I’m thankful for these interview experiences and less afraid of entering back into a corporate position. I feel more confident about my skills and what I have to offer. But even so, is saying thoughtless, hurtful things  ( in any context) grounds for divorce?

In the end, I wasn’t mad but truly hurt … wounded. I had a talk with my husband and explained how his comments undermined my faith in myself and my trust in him. He tried to explain that it was taken out of context and he didn’t mean it “that” way. He humbly apologized. I know he felt shitty about me knowing he said it but I told him I was more hurt that he even thought it and in the end, how can I ever believe him when he hypes me up? I felt foolish, embarrassed and betrayed. I don’t like any of those.

He was upset that our daughter told me this before my interview. I told him, I was upset he said it at all. If you won’t say it to my face, then you shouldn’t say it behind my back. I wasn’t mad because she told me, I was sad that he thought that without discussing it directly with me. In fact, always supported me and told me he believed in me. It stung and it’s the only serious argument we’ve had in 25 years but it was serious. Not going to lie, it’s a chip in the foundation and that scares me because it’s the little things that erode a relationship.

We talked it out immediately ( well, as soon as the interview was over) because grudges and pushed-down hurts have no place in a marriage. But we both learned some lessons that day and I’m still processing them. This may sound trivial to some but in our relationship, it’s a big giving deal. Words matter and we all need to think a little more before we say things that may be hurtful to the people we love most because when we stop caring about the wounds we give, do we even love at all?

What would you have done? How much do you think words matter in a marriage?

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What happened to those people, marriage in distress

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

This morning, I sent the Big Guy a somewhat racy meme of a pumpkin who looked like she got shot in the eye in one of those sexy accidents that, to be honest, we haven’t had a lot of lately. His response was, instructing me to go look at a photo of us in a shadow box from when we first met and asking, “What happened to those two people ?”

I did as he instructed and a few things happened,

  1. I realized that, damn, we have gained a lot of weight in the past 24 years together.
  2. OH MY DAMN, we’ve been together 24 years. That’s half our lives. In fact, we’ve been together more of his life than we’ve been apart.
  3. Wow. He thinks about these things too? I thought it was just me fixating and overthinking by myself.
  4. Too many things like this pandemic, kids, dog, work, school, bills and responsibilities have made us lose sight of what we wanted from the start, to be together with one another; to be one another’s priority.

I think we’ve both been so tired and worn out from getting through day-to-day life that we haven’t had the energy left to dedicate the time to growing closer.  It’s like we were and still are each other’s best friends, partner but we don’t get to enjoy one another as we used to and I think that is both of our faults. We’ve just been trying to put out the daily fires and that doesn’t leave much time for intimacy, relaxation or talking for just the sake of talking. Now, everything has a purpose, a finish line other than just enjoyment and it’s taking a toll.

What happened to those people, marriage in distress

The pandemic has put us all on edge. All of us have experienced anxiety and panic over the course of this pandemic. The girls are always home; first, they were virtual and now, they are often quarantined from exposure or actually sick with some kind of cold, virus or flu after living their life in masks for the past 19 months and suddenly being thrust into a world without masks or social distancing. I’m back in grad school which is stressful for a 40-something mom who hasn’t been in grad school in 16 years. The Big Guy toils away, in person, at work; braving the coronavirus, since about month 3 of the pandemic, so our bills could be paid and everything all of us do has been under duress. That makes laughing and lighthearted play, as a family and even more so as a couple, nearly impossible. Who can relax when people are literally getting sick and dying all around you?

We don’t look or feel like we did in 1997. What happened to those two people? I hardly ever get ready anymore. I’m usually at home in joggers, a sweatshirt and a top knot. No make-up. No products anywhere to be found. I just shower and moisturize. Hair cuts and color, manicures and pedicures are all luxuries that I can’t afford to do during a pandemic. He only goes to work so he’s not dressing for me either. I used to be the girl who took two hours every day to get ready; full hair and make-up. Exercising used to be a priority. Going out used to be fun. But now, all of those things feel like just one more thing to do on an already infinite to-do list. I’m tired and so is he. Tired of all the things we have to do.

What happened to those two people?

His question this morning made me realize that I want to find my way back to those two people who we unknowingly abandoned along the way. I know people change and relationships evolve but this is not what we both expected our marriage to be. We could just keep moving on this same path, at the same rate on this journey together and die of boredom and old age sometime in the future or we can put in the work to reclaim our passion for one another and ask the hard questions, change what needs to change and be bold. It will be scary as fuck because, 24 years is a long time, but doing nothing and expecting change is ridiculous. We want more together.

It’s going to have to start with talking to each other and discussing what we want, need, like and dislike in our relationship. We know that we love each other but we need to remember what we like about one another. What was it about us that made us inseparable from about day 4 of knowing one another? What was it that made us fall in love and believe we had found our soul mate within that first month? What magic was it that made him ask me to marry him and me say yes after just 4 months? I know that’s rare but it’s what happened. And no matter what we’re going through, even when he’s on my nerves ( or I’m on his), even when we don’t particularly like one another, we always love each other and he’s always my person. I hope I’m still his.

What happened to those people, marriage in distress

We’ve been so busy talking about the craziness of each day that we’ve forgotten to ask about each other’s hopes and dreams for a long time. Those things are important. A marriage can’t survive on autopilot. Yes, comfortable silences are nice and being able to be next to one another and know what the other one is thinking and feeling without saying a word, happy to just be, is wonderful but it’s not enough. We have to be willing to get uncomfortable to unlock that next level of intimacy. Because even though he is my best friend, my ride or die, we both deserve more than just someone to do stuff with. We need someone to look forward to doing things with fueled by a passion for one another and the life we are building together.

We’ve become complacent and comfortable and in doing so, maybe a little annoyed with one another, even though we’ve never said it out loud. We need a marriage reboot. I don’t want a sequel. He is it for me. So, we’re going on a quest to find those people in the shadow box. Has your marriage ever felt like it has become predictable? What did you do, as a couple, to jumpstart your marriage?

What happened to those two people?

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Ways to grow closer to your spouse, ways to grow stronger as a family

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

It’s a little frightening how many people I know my age have gotten divorced recently. I’m sure the pandemic didn’t help. You really get to know someone when you’re trapped in a house with them for 16 months. CoVid was a marital stress of epic proportions. I’m sure even the healthiest couples thought about it at least once during the past few months.

This is why I am constantly trying to think of ways to grow closer to my spouse and ways to grow stronger as a family.

Some of the couples I thought were perfect for one another, called it quits quietly. Divorce is, unfortunately, pretty prevalent these days with about 39% of all marriages ending in an uncoupling. Let’s be honest, no one gets married to get divorced but no one gets married to be unhappy either. Honestly, if the marriage isn’t working out, there are only 3 ways it can go 1) work together to grow together and hope it’s enough 2) do nothing and stay in a miserable marriage (this shouldn’t even be an option) 3) divorce and move on with your life.

The thing is sometimes there is someone to blame, sometimes people just fall out of love and sometimes people grow apart. It’s not a crime but it’s not exactly the happily ever after any of us dreamed of. People are busier than ever before; kids are overscheduled, parents are overworked, overwhelmed and exhausted and no one has time to just be present anymore. This is where things can start to slowly fall through the cracks and no one even notice it.

The best thing we can do as couples is spending quality time together; one-on-one facetime, listening and touching. Hugs, holding hands, kissing and saying I love you may seem trivial because you assume the other person just knows but they don’t. Words and actions matter. It never hurts to speak it into existence. Take the time, say it and do it. It can mean the difference between 2 months and 20 years. This applies to building relationships with your children too.

9 ways to grow closer to your spouse and ways to grow stronger as a family

Eat Together

Every day, everyone is in a hurry to get to work or school. Usually, breakfast is hurried, lunch is spent at work or school so make dinner count. This is something my parents do and something, the Big Guy and I have made a point of doing. Dinner every night at 5, unless there is an extracurricular, in which case, we all wait until we’re all there. Sharing meals is one of the best ways to come together as a family and check in with one another.

Whenever you share a meal, stay focused by implementing a no phone and no television rule. Instead, be present and talk to one another.  

Do the boring stuff together

Chores and errands often feel like a lot of work and no fun. Obviously, kids (and adults alike) would rather spend their days with friends, relaxing, watching movies or doing anything else other than the menial stuff. Everyone who lives in the house should be responsible for doing their part of the chores and if you do it right (we add loud Latin music, lots of dancing and laughing and a definite start and end time) it can be a great way to bond as a family. Have a list of tasks ready and assign them accordingly; you can perform them together at a set time during the week or weekend when you all can do them together.

Doing chores together fosters teamwork; if one experiences a difficult time, those who complete their tasks first can help and that tiny act shows love. If your kids have demanding schedules, give them deadlines to complete their chores. They’ll soon learn that performing duties together makes it more fun and fast than doing them alone. To make it more rewarding, have something to look forward to afterward, like enjoying a special meal or going out to the movies.

One-on-one time

Spending time as a family is great, but don’t forget to have one-on-ones with each other. It’s about quality not quantity. You can spend half an hour with each of your family members on different days. It’s as simple as asking what they’d like to do. Having one-on-ones with parents is crucial for kids; you get to discover what’s going on in their life away from home and their needs or troubles. One-on-ones with your partner is what feeds the intimacy that will get you through the hard times. Give your partner your full attention when there are no distractions; you can discuss issues to do with family and individual hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

Laugh together

Laughter is said to be food for the soul; it makes a bad day better and helps you bond as a family. Laughing stimulates your immune system and reduces stress; it has been proven to actually add to one’s life. Enjoy every moment you get to share in laughter, whether your husband ripped his pants showing off his killer dance moves at an impromptu kitchen dance party or you’re watching funny TikToks with your family (something we do often as an after-dinner activity). Whenever possible, create time to share stories, play games, or just cut up and laugh together. It relieves tensions and models to not take yourself too seriously to your children.

Attitude of gratitude

Family members do a lot for each other without expecting anything in return; saying thank you after a good deed can go a long way in making someone feel valued. Be appreciative by taking the time to surprise a family member with a gift, note of gratitude, or simply say “thank you” when one does something for you. It teaches respect and instills an attitude of gratitude.

Create family traditions

Family traditions and rituals enable you to create time for each other and memories; they shouldn’t just be for the holidays. Create routines like family movie nights, carving out pumpkins, game nights and baking days, weekly or monthly. Suppose there is an activity that you all enjoy doing, such as playing soccer, attending festivals, or picking strawberries during summer, do them together. These traditions ensure that even when the kids move away, they’ll want to make time to attend and be together with the rest of the family because of the fond memories they have of doing them in the past.

Family vacations

For us, travel is top of the list of things to do to ensure our family grows together. Going away on regular trips gives you quality time as a family, away from busy schedules and school. It allows you the space and time to be present with one another while making new memories together. Include everyone in the planning so that no one feels left out, including the kids. If going away on vacation sounds like fun, start planning, say a month earlier. Include it in the family calendar and inform everyone. Weekend getaways with your spouse can really reignite the fires of romance too and it doesn’t have to be far, just a local hotel will do where you can be man and woman and not just mom and dad.

Exercise as a family

Exercise is personal and I love my time alone, if I’m being honest but other times, I love long walks with my husband, bike rides as a family or a fun HIIT dance workout with my teen girls. If your family is into fitness, working up a sweat together is a healthy and fun way to spend time and bond with each other. Exercising together doesn’t require you to sign up for a boot camp, though that’s also a viable idea. Find simple ways to stay active while outdoors or indoors. When it’s warm, take a walk, run or bike around the block or to the park, create an indoor gym or plan workouts and do them together. If you have a furry friend, take him out for a walk together. It’s not about what you do, it’s about moving and being together.

Make time for family meetings

Meeting as a family is essential for you to check in with each other, discuss plans, or air grievances. We do this daily at dinner time. Family meetings also create an excellent time to discuss upcoming events like chores to perform during the weekend, day trips, or vacations. Schedule meetings on your calendar or check in with everyone to know their availability if it’s impromptu. Let everyone send in their items or issues for the agenda so that all grievances are discussed. To make these meetings effective, establish some guidelines.

Family is the most important thing in life, couples, siblings and parents are all a vital role in it. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep everyone together and thriving. We intentionally set an example early on so that our girls would grow up placing a high value on family. The bottom line is that family is everything so enjoy and cherish your family in all the ways. Never lose sight of the fact that marriage and parenting take effort and don’t just happen. Remember to not take one another for granted and tell people how you feel, happy or sad, before things go left unsaid and unheard for too long.

These are just a few of the ways, I work on my family and my marriage every day. It’s not the only way but it is the way that works for us. What are your best tips for ways to grow closer to your family and ways to grow stronger as a family?

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My parents just celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary. They are coming up on 50 years soon. The Big Guy’s parents will be celebrating 47 years of marriage this September too. The Big Guy and I come from a long line of lifers. I’m not sure if it’s a generational thing, a religious thing, a cultural thing or if they just love each other a lot. I’m hoping it’s the latter.

That is not to say that their relationships were always easy. Far from it. I don’t know about my husband’s parents’ relationship but I know my parents had their ups and downs. I also know that it wasn’t always the easiest relationship. There are lots of moments looking from the outside in, during my childhood, where I would have walked away if I were in the relationship. Yet, they pushed through. Even when they didn’t like each other very much, they loved each other. You could see it in the way they touched and spoke and the way it spilled out onto us children when it wasn’t toxic.

I wanted what they had but I wanted marriage 2.0 minus the chauvinism with a healthy dose of friendship and respect. My parents weren’t friends. They were passionate lovers who got married and built a family. The Big Guy and I were passionate lovers but he’s also been my best friend since college and over time, we’ve fallen deeper in love with one another. Wow, that sounded cheesy and did anyone else notice that the word “passionate” is almost as cringey as “moist”?

Today, we celebrate 20 years of marriage. We’ve been together for almost half of our lives. That’s a long time. It doesn’t feel that long. Some days it feels brand new and others, it feels like forever. We’ve grown up together. We’ve traveled the world, lived and worked in several cities, owned homes and cars, had babies, lost a baby, gotten pets and lost pets. We’ve gone from college co-eds to middle-aged parents of teens. We’ve laughed and cried, fought and made up, more times than we can remember.

20 years is a long time to be committed to anything, especially in a world of instant gratification and swiping for sex and relationships. It’s so easy to move on to the next person but when you find someone who you still like when you hate the entire world, someone who understands you without words and loves you unconditionally without question that still makes your heart beat faster when they walk into the room, that is the dream. To love and be loved in return so completely

Maybe we’re not the two cool kids with the banging bodies that we used to be. Maybe marriage and kids have made us a bit thick in the middle and dull around the edges, from a lack of sleep for the past 14 years. Perhaps, we are not as exciting as we once were. Maybe I’m not the girl who’s the life of the party these days and he’s not the guy with the cool car, but we’re happy. We’ve evolved past superficial things and we’re stronger than we used to be.

We got engaged a few months before we graduated and from there we forged our lives together. We’re like two tree roots growing in the same direction and intertwining together for the past 2 decades. At this point, I’m not sure where my roots begin and his end. They are simply ours. I don’t feel lost. I feel deeply rooted in exactly where I belong, beside him.

At the end of every day, I am grateful that this man came into my life at a time when I was probably at my most unlovable and yet, he loved me anyway. I am thankful that I went against all common sense and logic and said yes when this tall, beautiful man asked me to marry him in the middle of the dance floor after only 4 months of dating.

This year we’re only low key celebrating because life is crazier than usual this year. But, we’ve got something huge planned to celebrate later this fall a trip to Disney World. My first trip to the happiest place on earth was on our honeymoon and ever since Disney has held a very special place in our hearts. I can’t think of a better place to celebrate such a momentous occasion.

Big Guy,

This journey so far has been absolutely crazy and I wouldn’t want to be doing it with anyone else but you. 20 years of marriage is a lifetime but a lifetime isn’t long enough.

Love you to infinity and beyond and back again.


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Valentine's Day, Bae, bae meaning, what does bae mean, how to make a relationship last

Before Anyone Else. This is who he has become. My Bae. Not out of expectation or obligation but out of pure, unadulterated and unconditional love. The Big Guy is my one and only Bae. I’ve been calling him bae for as long as I can remember, simply because it was my shortened nickname for “babe.” Ever wonder what does bae mean? The bae meaning is not one I would have thought I’d subscribe to. But maybe the kids are on to something because, in my heart, he truly is before anyone else.

Bae is beyond a regular relationship. Bae is deeper, more meaningful, next level…babies, mortgages and life together. It’s saying let’s do this every day for the rest of our lives. It’s I don’t just love you. I like you, even when I hate the rest of the world. Bae is intended for forever.

Remember when you were in your teens? Everyone you ever dated was your “BAE” but that was before the word had any real meaning. When we are at that tender age, the beginning, it’s easy to get BAE status. We don’t fully understand the depth or the meaning those three letters can have. It’s mostly superficial and surface because, at that age, everyone is beautiful and how much baggage can they really have?

READ ASO: How to Save your Marriage by Having the Hard Conversations

I remember thinking my world rose and set around boys I dated. My teen heart hadn’t yet experienced real love so every twinge, I thought “this must be it.” I was ready and open to it. I was so naïve. But I think we have to grow through these relationships to be ready for real love; the kind that knocks you over the head and off your feet because it’s so different from what you expected. Real love is not hard. It’s easy like a warm surf washing over you. It happens without you even noticing.

All relationships take work, commitment and respect. But it shouldn’t feel like you are forcing anything. Sometimes things run their course and some relationships are training wheels for the real thing. The beast of it all is that we don’t know until we’re in it or it’s over. But when you’ve had it, nothing else will do. The real thing, that love that fills your soul up, the one where you can be 100% yourself and they still get you and love you, it is freedom.

READ ASO: Wedding Ring Tattoos as the Ultimate Sign of Devotion

The Big Guy is everything I never knew I always wanted. Before him, I had no clue what I really wanted. I thought it was a checklist of superficial things. Cute. Check. Strong. Check. Well-educated. Check. Kind. Check. Intelligent. Check. But a relationship isn’t just a series of ticked boxes. It’s so much more and he is so much more than I ever knew was even possible.

Valentine's Day, Bae, bae meaning, what does bae mean, how to make a relationship last

He came into my world when I least expected him and he took my life that was like a hurricane and brought a calmness and sureness that I’d never known. He’s given me peace in a life of chaos. He’s been upfront about his feelings for me since the day we met and I’ve always felt seen. There were never games. It was refreshing. Before him, that wasn’t always the case. People tended to see what they wanted to see.

READ ASO: Love in a Marriage isn’t Always What You Expect

He’s never treated me like a damsel in distress that needed rescuing, yet when I have, he’s been there to quietly put his hand out to help me up. He doesn’t shy away from my strong opinions and beliefs even when we don’t agree. We’ve been able to talk to one another like adults for the past 22 years and I think that might be because we grew together in love and respect. We were like two young plants, planted in the same pot. Our roots intertwined and we grew stronger together over the years.

There has never been a power struggle. He’s not the macho type. There’s never been a time where I remember one of us feeling usurped into the “we.” Even though we are a couple, we are individuals with our own passions and beliefs. We have our own strengths and weaknesses. We know this and this may be our greatest strength as a couple, we complement one another rather than compete with one another. No one needs to be the leader in our marriage because we ebb and flow into one another where we need to.

He is my bae and will always be.

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couples tattoos, wedding ring tattoos, Valentine's Day

I never expected it. In fact, I was dead set against it. In theory. For other people. It’s not really couple tattoos or wedding ring tattoos specifically but the whole putting someone’s name on your body. It seems so permanent in a world where almost nothing is guaranteed. I remember the day I saw my sister-in-law’s name tattooed on my brother’s arm and I thought to myself, “Well, that wasn’t smart.” I guess in the end I’m a cynic.

Two of my brothers are tattoo artists. They warn against putting significant other names on your body. It hurts to have wedding ring tattoos removed unlike taking off engagement rings. I’ve joked a lot how the only names I would ever put on my body are my children’s. I’m not good with permanency. I’m really not good with hanging my happiness on others and I might have some trust issues if we’re being honest. Not that the Big Guy has ever done anything to warrant losing my trust. I was just raised waiting for the other foot to drop.

This morning, the Big Guy said he was going to swing by “the shop” (my brothers’ tattoo shop) and discuss the final details of a new tattoo, A Call of Duty Juggernaut. I don’t quite get it but if it has meaning to him, it’s his body. Before I left, I jokingly said, “Make sure you have my brother sneak in my name. It can be like a hidden Mickey. You don’t even have to use my first name. It’ll be our little secret.” He left. I continued Marie Kondo-ing my house that’s looked like a hurricane hit since I started organizing way back in January 2019. Yep, that year-long month.

READ ALSO: When a Tattoo Heals Your Heart

An hour or so later he returned. I asked if my brother had stenciled his calf and if I could see this “juggernaut.” Sure, he bellowed. He’s a big guy, he sometimes bellows. He bounds up the stairs and I’m waiting for him to show me his calf.  But he’s just standing there and I was so confused.

“Let me see it.” I was anxious to see what they had come up with and if he had, in fact, had my middle name hidden in the stencil. But he just smiled with an outstretched left hand and there it was, “Deborah” “5/15/99” and “Always” on his ring finger, where his wedding ring sits. I was speechless. I’m never speechless. If you know me, you know that I am a talker and never without words. Yet, there I was with no words.

couples tattoos, wedding ring tattoos, Valentine's Day

As Bella says, I.Was. Shook! But I shouldn’t have been. This is just who he is. He jumps all in with his whole heart where I’ve always been cautiously optimistic. There was a time when I would have jumped blindly into matters of the heart. I loved love but then I got burned a couple times, more like set on fire by the frogs I kissed. By the time I met the Big Guy in college, I just expected things to be hard.

I was never one of those girls who felt like I needed to get married and have kids. I wanted all of that, eventually and I knew it would happen but it wasn’t anything I was losing sleep over. I had dated a few guys, been naively all in, written all the sappy letters and did all the silly things people do when they are teenagers/the early twenties and I was left with a lot of relationship “buyers remorse.”

READ ALSO: How Scrambled Eggs Made my Marriage Sexy

Then I met the Big Guy, 4 days after a break up with a guy I’d been dating for some time. We broke up for the last time on my birthday because he forgot my birthday… after almost 3 years of dating. Let’s be brutally honest, he didn’t forget so much as chose not to acknowledge it. Lucky me.

The really honest truth is that the Big Guy and I never should have met, logically speaking. I wasn’t supposed to be there.  I was supposed to be in Boston. I was supposed to have already graduated. And on the night we met, I was supposed to have a boyfriend and I was supposed to be home studying for an astronomy exam.

couples tattoos, wedding ring tattoos, Valentine's Day

But fate intervened or maybe destiny was in control the entire time because, under normal circumstances, he and I should have never met. Yet, here we are 22 Valentine’s Days later about to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary this spring. And they thought we wouldn’t make it?

I met this guy, who ended up being everything I never knew, I always wanted. This giant, loud, humble, sweet, smart, cute man who knew from about week 4 that he loved me. The same guy who told me that very thing. He wasn’t a game player. The certainty with which he loved me scared me a little bit because I’d never had s relationship like that before. The man who after meeting me that September, told my mom and sisters at Thanksgiving he was going to ask me to marry him on Valentine’s Day. (No one told me.)

READ ALSO: The Proposal Do-Over

The gentle giant who jumped the gun from nerves and asked me to marry him in the middle of the dance floor at our favorite college bar with no ring and no speech. He caught me off guard and still takes my breath away on the regular. I guess it’s kind of his thing. He re-proposed to me on our 11th anniversary, on bended knee.

I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked when he showed up this past Saturday morning with my name tattooed on his finger. Nothing should ever surprise me about this incredible, generous and loving man. He can do anything. He’s more romantic today than he was on the day we got married. He lives through actions and not just words.

When he proposed he told me that I was his “soul mate.” I’m not even sure that I believed in the concept before him. He makes me want to be a better human being. His love changed me for the better. When you have someone as kind and thoughtful as the Big Guy loving you, you feel like you can do almost anything.

READ ALSO: I Love You Man

It’s not about what you have or don’t have. It’s about who you have. We fell in love through conversations under the stars. We fell in love in a bar on campus. We fell in love watching a Salma Hayek Rom Com. We fell in love sitting on the roof of his college house drinking beer and looking up at the moon. We fell in love staring into one another’s souls over the head of our newborn baby. We fell in love in the rain in New Orleans. We fell in love watching our oldest meet her sister for the first time. We even fell in love when we lost our third. We fell in love living in separate states. We fell in love poor. We fell in love rich. We’ve fallen in love a million times over the past 22 years and I fell in love all over again Saturday morning when I saw that tattoo.

I’m going to go and get one of my own because I realized that he’s already tattooed on my heart and he always will be. The imprint is already there. It probably has been since we met that night in 1997. I’m the only one who didn’t see it because I was afraid to let myself believe that I deserved to be loved like that. I’ve felt it every day since we met.

Have you ever considered getting wedding ring tattoos? If you were going to get couple tattoos what would you get?

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sneezing, stress incontinence, birth, gratitude

Today was the anniversary of the day I fell and dislocated my elbow last year. I know that because my amazon photos wanted to taunt me today.  It also happens to be the 21st anniversary of the night the Big Guy asked me to marry him. Weird, right?

All day today I was dreading going outside for fear that I might slip on the ice  (because the kids had no school today because of icy roads). I stayed inside with the kids most of the day, just waiting for the clock to run out on this day. Then, I went outside because I had to run an errand and ironically enough, not only was there ice everywhere but there I was wearing UGGS again. UGGS the exact kind of shoe I was wearing when I bit it in the wet yard last year. God, I can actually feel the crunch of my elbow dislocating if I close my eyes. But I’m fine. No slips and falls today.

ALSO READ: Beware the Slick Spots

Tonight we were planning our Disney vacation for this fall because we are those people who like to return to the scene of the crime. Since our first trip to WDW was on our honeymoon, we have to go back this year. Right in the midst of the joy of surviving the day and celebrating our engagement anniversary, I sneezed and peed my pants. My kids, keeping me humble since 2005.

This day just reminded me that life can be simultaneously amazing and shitty in the same 24 hours. It’s all in our perspective, although, I’m pretty sure falling and dislocating your elbow constitutes a bad day any way you slice it. However, I’m just thankful that my elbow kept me from hitting my head on the cement. And who cares if I pee my pants when I sneeze sometimes, that’s what panty liners are for. Also, would I ever trade my kids with their big heads for a non– stress incontinent existence? NO, I wouldn’t.

ALSO READ: Everything New at Walt Disney World

I guess all this to say, I’m going to Disney World! But mostly to say, we don’t always know what life is going to throw at us, or on top of us or beneath us but we know that even if it hits us square in the face sometimes, we’re going to be fine. It’s going to hurt for a while and maybe there will be permanent damage but we will figure it out.

That’s what I’m doing, I’m figuring it out; motherhood, being a wife, being a good friend, living on my own terms, surviving the shittiest of days and embracing the little profound moments of complete bliss. I have no clue how I’m going to make it all work. I never have but I do it. I do it because that’s life. Failure really isn’t an option.

So the next time you’re laughing and you start to pee a little, look around, is there any place else that you’d rather be? Probably not. Not really. Not when it’s all said and done and the kids are asleep and your husband is beside you watching your favorite show. Laugh on, laugh hard, laugh loud and then change those panties and live to laugh another day.


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