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Mental Monday: ‘Til Death Do Us Part

I walked along the beach with my 90 year old grandfather over the weekend. He lost his wife, my beloved grandmother, on January 1st of this year. The entire family has been reeling from her passing but, obviously, no one more so than my grandpa. As we walked along the water and watched young couples and families enjoy the beautiful sunshine, he reminisced about their life together. As a couple for 70 years, they spent a very active and full life together filled with the ups and downs of business ownership, moving across country, world travel and adventures, and the joys (and pains) of parenthood, grand-parenthood, and even great-grand-parenthood.

Now that my grandmother is gone, the grandfather I once knew is missing as well. A man who was quick to laugh and share funny stories has become more subdued. A man who worked well into his 70′s and prided himself on his excellent health is now slowing down quickly. He complains about the everyday life of living in an old man’s body. He can’t sleep and he doesn’t enjoy the same things he used to, like even a walk on the beach. That was something he and grandma would do together everyday. As we walked along, it was evident that all he could think about was her and their life together.  “My partner is gone” he told me as we looked out across the ocean, “it doesn’t matter anymore.”

I didn’t ask him to elaborate what “it” meant. I knew.

His pain is the kind of pain that only the luckiest people in the world will ever know. It’s the kind of pain that I can only hope either the Dude or myself will actually experience one day, hopefully not until many many years down the road. To know this pain means that you have known a deep love that only partners in a very long and loving relationship can possibly experience. (continues…)

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Mental Monday: My Grandparents’ Guide To Love

My grandmother is dying and it is not known how much longer she will be here with us. It could be days, weeks, or even hours. Up until last night, my family was very confused about what was going on since she seemed perfectly fine a matter of days ago.  But the onset of her illness came on very quickly and unexpectedly. My grandfather knew it was bad before any of us could wrap our heads around it. He told us that she was dying before we received any type of confirmation from medical doctors.

No one knows you better than yourself, unless you’ve been married for as long as my grandparents.

Theirs is a love story that spans 70 years. She is 88 years old and he just turned 90. They lived together for nearly 68 years, up until a matter of days ago. They were rarely apart. Now she lies in a hospice bed, exhausted and weak from the dying process. My grandfather visits her, holds her hand, kisses it softly and tells her he loves her. He calls her “sweetheart”, a term of endearment I’ve never heard him call her before. He is very gentle with her, even when she asks him to go away. He won’t go away. He never has and he never will.

Their marriage is far from perfect, and some have even questioned how they managed to stay together so long…including me. I would see them fight. I would see my grandmother in tears or my grandfather’s frustration and anger. But I also saw a very fierce love. It is the type of love that only comes from years of practice. They didn’t always get along, but they always loved each other and respected one another.  They love sharing stories with one another and bring up many fond memories of the past. They often talk about how they met, share stories of raising their two boys, leaving New York for California, and all their travels and adventures. They love talking about their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In essence, they constantly remind each other of all the things that brought them together and kept them together over the seven decades of their life together.

Too many couples forget about the good things that brought them together in the first place. They ignore the things that are essentially the glue to their relationship and the roots to their foundation.  It takes years to cultivate a truly deep connection and commitment. It takes work and practice. Far too many people throw in the towel when it become too challenging. If you ask my grandparents, they would tell you that it’s the challenging stuff that really makes you love and respect your partner. When it’s too easy, it’s simply boring.

A few months ago, I asked my grandmother how she managed to stay married for so long. What was her secret? She replied, my feet get too cold at night and I like having grandpa in bed to keep them warm. I laughed when she said that and found it very endearing at the time. It’s only just recently that I have come to the realization that there was actually a deeper meaning to her humorous quip. The best kind of love, the deepest kind of love, is when your partner is simply there for you when you need him or her the most. The challenges, the joys, the tears, the laughter, the warm days and the cold nights – these things are meant to be shared with those who love us. And the best love is the love that endures through all of it.

My grandparents’ love story is not over. It will always endure, even when they pass away. It is a story that is meant to be remembered and passed down to the generations. In a time when marriage seems to be as disposable as the paper used to sign a prenup agreement, theirs is the kind of  love story that is truly valuable.

I should only hope to be that fortunate.

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Mental Monday: How Do You Define “Forsaking All Others?”

Here we go again.

Another celebrity with “indiscretions” is in the news and the chatter online and at the water-cooler is abuzz.

Scandalous! Exactly how many women were involved with him?!? His poor wife. He liked to do what? He did what where? He says he loves her?!? If that was my husband, I would….

We all hear about the (insert celebrities, pro-athletes, politicians) who cheat on their spouses. It makes front page news and fills the 24/7 news and gossip cycles. Their personal marital problems become subject to our opinion, judgment, and fodder.  It’s also apparent that there are people who get some sort of sad satisfaction knowing that even the “perfect” people and couples among us are not so perfect after all. These stories humanize them. The reality is, they deal with the same problems that many of us will face in our own relationships. The only difference is that our relationships are not typically available for public scrutiny.

Extramarital affairs are a common occurrence. Why is that? People claim all sorts of reasons: biological urges and impulses, revenge, avoidance, to get attention, a need for independence, to feel special or desired, etc… There are varied reports, but studies indicate that about 60% of married men and 45% of married women report an extramarital affair (Glass & White, 1992).  In a 2001 study, one researcher noted that 70%  of marriages experience an affair (Brown, 2001). And in case your head isn’t spinning yet, here is another statistic out there – 90% of first divorces included some form of infidelity (Pittman and Wagers, 2005).

That is staggering. (continues…)

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Guest Post: The Dude Speaks (and Speaks…) About Marital Name-Change

My Name Is?Dude here.  First things first: I didn’t pick that nickname, and I certainly don’t use it at home.  Aimee calls me certain expletives and my friends call me by last name.  Speaking of last names, after reading Aimee’s identity theft post (the one about maiden names, hyphenation, yadda, yadda), I offered to write a complementary post on the topic, as viewed from my perspective.  Here goes…

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

The oft-quoted passage from Shakespeare obscures Romeo & Juliet’s real lesson.  While a rose by any other name may indeed smell equally sweet, I’m not sure that Signores Montague and Capulet fixated on scent.  It was pedigree and genealogy about which they worried, and, to that end, names disclosed and meant quite a bit.

Names come to define and signify us.  More than just labels, they also become laden with emotion, identifying information, and meaning; giving up a name means forfeiting a portion of our identity.  People have come to know me as my name, and to know my name as me.  I wasn’t willing to give that up when I took my vows, and I didn’t expect that Aimee would be any happier to either. (continues…)

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Marriage: The Biggest Identity Thief of All

When I got married a little over four years ago, I did something that I never thought I would do.

I took my husband’s last name.

The Dude never asked me to take his name, nor did he assume I would. After we got engaged, I had a full year to think about whether or not I would change my name. It was a good thing I had that kind of time since it took me about a full year to come to my decision. I went back and forth quite a bit but, in the end, I decided that taking his last name was the best thing to do for logistical purposes. It didn’t matter to me whether or not I shared the same surname as the Dude, but I did want the same surname as our future children.

These days, it’s not necessarily expected for women to take a husband’s last name. I know plenty of wives that never took their husband’s last name and I know plenty more that hyphenated the two surnames together. Some couples are getting creative with sharing a family name. I know couples who adopted both surnames and then hyphenated while others simply combined the last names to create a new name. I’ve even known a few husbands who took the last name of their wife.

As appealing as some of these options were, none of them really seemed like the ideal fit. The Dude liked his name and, considering where he was in his law career, it would have been difficult for him to make a name change. Although I had an established career of my own for many years, I was about to embark in a whole new direction shortly after the wedding.  A few months before I got married, I had quit my job in preparation of starting another graduate program and a new career. From that perspective, changing my name was not going to be  a problem. I figured if I was going to change my name, there was no better time. It would be a fresh start with everything: new name, new career, and new husband. What’s the big deal about giving up my surname. It’s just a name. Right?

Not really. (continues…)

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