For Growth’s Sake

Growing up in Alaska, I was surrounded by a number of people I recognized as family. Whether it was by blood or the amount of years and connection forged in close friendships, from a young age to present day I’ve had an example of what family “should” be.  I was lucky enough to grow up with a great set of cousins, two grandmothers, uncles, aunts, great aunts and uncles, and family friends that I can’t list here because I’d be typing for entirely too long. The traditional definition of family, according to Google, would be “all the descendants of a common ancestor.” While that definition stands scientifically, for the most part, we all should be aware of the concept of chosen family.

Family friends are a perfect example of chosen family. These people aren’t your relatives by blood, but you call them your “play cousins” or “sis” or “bro” because they’ve been there and you don’t intend on letting them go. This is a queer blog, so I’d be remiss in not sharing queer examples of chosen family. I know individuals who have been cut off completely or kicked out from their households after coming out as queer. Their chosen family from that point would be who they invited into their lives after that point. Now, chosen family have their faults too, hence why I bring the concept up for this post I’m scribbling down at the moment. Family to me is whoever you share your life with, whoever supports you unconditionally, through the good and bad, and shares the joy you give each other in life.

Now before we continue, read the following note aloud so it resonates with you: Relationships, regardless of the type, aren’t one-sided. It takes effort from all that are involved.

no one should expect

In my experience with family, the good far outweighs the difficult periods that have occurred over the years. There were petty Christmases here and there – the battle of the aunties is what I called it, lol – divorces, and some tough times surrounding drug and alcohol abuse, but there were also celebrations, endless laughter, and plenty of love to go around. To this day, I think the pettiest tiff that lives on for my side of the family is who is supposed to call who. That’s right! Phone calls. But let’s dive into that some more, because as petty as it seems, I’ve found that this has been a real source of tension or frustration in other areas of these relationships.

My dad used to get on my siblings and I’s case for only calling when we needed something. I’d say this spanned from the years my parents were going through their divorce – the last half of high school for me – and the early years of undergrad. As we came up in age, he’d also get on our case about reaching out to family outside of Alaska; specifically my grandmother after she moved back to New Jersey. Naturally as people, we gravitate and are more comfortable with the people we know and that have been around our whole lives. Looking back at those moments I totally understand his perspective and respect it. If I had children, I’d want them to have a close relationship with my parents too, but what’s the use in forcing something that’s not there? I don’t mean that disrespectfully. It’s a hard fact and I take full ownership of my role in what I “should” have been doing. We’ll get back to the “should” of it all here in a bit.

As we aged, the fight of who should call who dissipated, but ended up resurfacing within the last year from other members of the family. I called my grandmother the day after her birthday and a sassy uncle of mine, immediately got on my case. “Why couldn’t you call yesterday?” was the question. I found myself explaining my day, and stating that I was “very busy.”  I didn’t owe anyone any explanations, so I was highly annoyed in the moment. Eventually I had to flip the script and remind, him in a medium tone of voice, that no one from the East coast calls me to ask how I’m doing. I can say the same thing about my family in Chicago, but guess what? I’m not calling either! There’s no shade or ill intention there at all. It all goes back to people are living their lives and have schedules. We’re going to prioritize those that are a little higher on the connection list, and that’s not to say we can’t make adjustments. Reaching out to more family and old friends more often, is something I’ve been doing my best to improve. I can’t speak for others on this front. It’s on each party to make the effort.

I'm a big fan of productively using your words in conflict.

Communication and effort are just a couple expectations that come to mind as I reflect on what I’ve shared thus far.  We should call to say hello, we should respect peoples’ time, we should check in on each other when we can, young people should respect their elders. There’s a lot that is expected of us at times, without the expectation being clearly set. The ego takes over and says “I feel this way, so they should respond or act this way, because ABC or XYZ.” That’s no way to grow, move forward, or to enhance the quality of relationships. Now, I’m no therapist. I can and will only speak on my experience. If you’re going through a major situation with your family and you’re at odds, please seek professional help or a trusted, neutral, party to help you work through the issues.

I’m a big fan of productively using your words in conflict. It’s easy to avoid the people in your family when problems arise, but it takes more guts and honor to face them directly. Not letting the drama go beyond what it’s worth is the best thing you can do for your mental health. Why create drama that isn’t present, especially when the other party has no idea a problem exists? Pouring gasoline on a fire that isn’t there doesn’t make any sense to me, unless you fully plan on throwing a lit match upon it. This sets the scene for more confusion, concern for loved ones involved, and does absolutely nothing in the problem-solving department. As mentioned earlier, relationships aren’t one-sided, and it takes all parties involved to work through any rough patches. No one should expect their asses to be kissed or egos constantly stroked for any reason if you fully intend on repairing connections. Assumptions and perceptions have a tendency to run rampant the longer avoidance is ruling your decision making in conflict. Face the issues. Stop the smoke before the fire ignites.

I’d like to route us back to the “should” of it all as we near the end of this piece. Our egos and very human emotions would have us all believe that we know what is best for someone in a situation; or even what’s best for a tougher situation we may be in ourselves. It’s easy for me to stand up proudly in conflict and say “well he should know, or she should not be putting up with, or they should understand this because…” It’s easy for any of us to say what others should do, or how they should act when we’re only seeing things from our perspective. Being open to others’ views or asking them why they may be perceiving a scenario a certain way will save you a great deal of energy and encourage growth in connection. On the flip-side, however, people need and should be open to receiving the feedback. This particular “should” is one I fully believe in and stand by. If you’re only interested in selling your points or winning your case, and not being open to the other side’s view of an issue, no progress will be made.

At the end of the day, people are going to do what they want and act how they want to act. As a family member, you want to be open and present when family needs you (and if they deserve it). What I learned a long time ago was that you can only share the same piece of advice so many times, you can only hear the same story so many times, you can only let yourself be disrespected so many times. If you’re in the position of providing guidance or giving advice of any kind, don’t take it personally if the advice isn’t followed. Some people need to go through whatever they’re going through on their own. If that involves some form of rock-bottom or keeping themselves distant from those trying to have a healthy relationship with them, then so be it. No one should be in the “I told you so” business. Be a support system for yourself – i.e. not being taken advantage of emotionally, financially, or otherwise – and be a support system for who needs it to your best ability. I like to believe that people come around, learn lessons, or grow into better human beings, but I’ve also learned not to wait around for that to happen.

Gays in the Life started as a blog focused on my marriage and romantic relationships in general. This is the first of many more relationship themed posts to come on the blog. Thank you all for reading and remember to be kind to yourselves and have faith that all will be well. If you’re going through something with close friends or family, please feel free to use this post as a talking point, and to help shed light on some of the darkness you may be working through at the moment. 

Simple Ways to Support Each Other Throughout the Workweek.

At the top of each workweek, we have the best intentions to be organized, responsible, and productive human beings. We do our best to fend off piles of dirty dishes, dust bunnies, thoughts of skipping that workout, and the large wave of exhaustion that comes with working a full-time job. Here’s a snapshot of my week:

  • Work – 40+ hours 
  • Podcast/Blog tasks  – 3-5 hours
  • Realty school – 10+ hours 
  • Work out at least 3-4 days

If you’re anything like me – and you’re a crazy person – you enjoy being creative and thrive having multiple projects to work on. I love the feeling of being creative and putting out content I’m proud of, but come on, I know you can tell my posts have slowed down this past year.

It can be tough to manage passions and life schedules, especially if you throw kids or pets into the mix, so how do we thrive without driving ourselves crazy? Well, all we can  do is our best, and having a little help never hurts. 

If  you’re currently living with your partner or have roommates with similar schedules as you, it’s not a bad idea to sit down and figure out how you can help each other have the most successful week. If you’ve got the game mastered and slay life week to week, this post  probably isn’t for you, and as Queen Gia Gunn would say: “YAAAS, bitch, werk.” You did that. Here are some simple ways my husband and I plan to support each other throughout the workweek:

CHORE-LOADING. Maybe one of you is having a much busier week than the other, and the impending doom and feeling of giving up is tapping you on the shoulder. The person with the lighter load can easily take on a couple extra chores and errands. Not only does this relieve your partner of the added stress they put on themselves, it adds to the bond and promotes deeper connection and love. Who doesn’t want to feel like they’re being thought of and supported?! Taking care of the person you love and the household you share is sexy, and most of the time, doesn’t take much.

CHECK-INS. We talk about this all the time here on Gays in the Life. Ask your partner how they’re doing. Go beyond the typical work-bitch-session and get into how they’re doing and how their week is going. If one of you is having a down week, this is a great idea to help break the ice and  let the other know you’re here for them and that they have support. It’s amazing what this does. It’s very easy to get stuck in your head and go inward. On the brighter side of the check-in spectrum, ask how their personal project or goals are developing. It’s so nice to talk about passion projects or other interests. Keep things light and keep work at work. Connect!

ACTIVITY DATES. Schedule at least a couple workouts, walks, or quick home improvement projects to do as unit; a team. My husband and I go on evening walks on a nearby trail. Outside of walking on the trails of  Eagle Creek, we try to attend two workout classes together each week. Working out is proven to improve mental health and is a good way to bond with your partner and to have shared goals. Another fun and easy way to keep the pressure of the workweek and household responsibilities at a low level, is to work on quick  home improvement projects together. Take an evening to put some music on and organize that garage together. Pour some wine and finally hang up that artwork that’s been collecting dust over the months. Get crazy and reorganize your living space. Keeping environments clean, fresh, and feeling like it’s yours does wonders for the mood. 

Give these few tidbits a go, and please feel free to share your  experience in the comments. Find me @gaysinthelife on Instagram and Twitter to continue the conversation there.  

Have a good week! J,

5 Married Years Later

Today is S and I’s fifth marriage anniversary. This question is beyond cliche to ask in a post like this, but, where did the time go? Five years isn’t a long time at all, and so far our history together has felt like a whirlwind and a lifetime all at once.

Let’s see, we started dating Summer of 2011, moved in together Summer of 2013, got engaged, bought a condo, got a puppy, got married in 2014, I completed my degree at Indiana University, we’ve both been on massive career journeys, and during all of this have had a lovely niece and two nephews join our family.

Life is going to life, and it did just that. We’ve faced our ups and downs and have managed to navigate darker days with the grace of a Swan Lake prima ballerina. Our relationship has been an easy one for the most part, yes, but that’s not to say we haven’t had our bumps in the road.

At times my content can slow down because I’ve been busy, sure, but it’s also because I may not feel like I have anything to share. I love seeing happy couples post on Instagram and in other corners of the internet, but I have to wonder, how many of them are actually happy? Are they posting all this lovey-dovey bullshit just for the gram to grab a like or two? I’m so not into that.

I love love, but love is hard. If what I’m seeing from happy couples online is their truth, then great! That’s amazing. I try to be honest with my readers and followers, and I connect more with those I follow who share this sentiment.

 

jamal stony 1

(Us on New Years Eve 2011, a few months into dating)

 

S and I have been married for five years, but come October, we will be together a total of eight years. I’ve written about what we’ve learned in our relationship a number of times on Gays in the Life, but one major lesson sticks out to us in this moment:

Honesty. You have to be honest with yourself, and with yourselves as a unit. If you’re not, you will fail.

I’ll leave all my lovers out there with this tip. Seriously, take this with you moving forward; it’ll change the game:

Check in with each other! Check in on each other’s personal goals, any issues you both may be working through, mental health, happiness, and darkness. Over the years we’ve learned not to take reactions or things said personally because you never know what someone is going through.  If you’re able to level with yourself in honesty, you’ll be able to help your relationship stay just as honest and strong.

Happy Anniversary, S! I love you so much, and thank you for being a constant source of strength and inspiration for me. 

XXOO,

Seeing Red

When frustration strikes, she doesn’t hold back. Every couple has their expectations when it comes to their partnerships, but what happens when wires become crossed? Is that pile of laundry still stacked in the corner forming fresh wrinkles with every hour that passes? Do you find yourself having the same conversations about relationship items that need improvement? Whatever it may be, those are just two examples that rest at opposite ends of the frustration reasons spectrum. Here are some tips to help keep frustration at bay and your partnership healthy:

Time – Give the scenario a moment. We don’t have to collect all the answers and solve the problem right this second. Most of the time, an issue or touchy subject needs time to breathe. If you’re having a tiny disagreement, try waiting twenty minutes or so before approaching the topic again. Not only will this give you both a second to recapture some zen, but you’ll also adjust your approach when you reconnect.

If the problem is heavier or in the danger zone, do your best to allow necessary space in between communication or problem solving. It’s easy to jump the gun and rage if frustration is boiling over and you haven’t had an adequate resting period. Maintain the cool so productive conversation has the chance to breathe and flourish.

 

red block

 

Space – Walk away if the need arises. We all watch reality television, and know that circular discussion or yelling won’t fix anything. Do yourselves a favor and press pause. Go to different rooms – or for a drive or a walk – to allow the minds a recollection period. You’ll thank yourselves later when you notice the progress made in the resolution. The trick is safely processing the problem with yourself, and allowing your partner the same. Take care of number one so you can take care of others.

Communicate – We say this all the time on Gays in the Life. You have to communicate clearly and safely. You want to be honest with yourself and your partner. Share your true feelings and why you have them in the first place. This is not an attack. Communicate this and remember to listen.

When tension is high, or you’re at your last wits end, things can go left at an accelerated rate. Save yourselves the drama and don’t even go there. You’re adults. Listen to each other, be honest, and respectful. This gets easier with practice. So do your best and be kind to yourselves with this one. Communication pros aren’t manifested overnight.

 

red block

Special note: These tips apply to email and texting scenarios as well. Reading text is particularly tricky when dealing with frustration in relationships and marriage. You’re already on edge if a resolution hasn’t been met, so the brain will immediately highlight each word in red. To avoid constricting progress, read the text or email a few times and process the communication. From there you can decide to respond or wait a bit before following up. Use your best judgement and be open.

Remember these few tools the next time you find yourself furiously responding to a text, dishing out silent treatment, or screaming like a psycho at your partners. Teamwork makes the dream work!

Happy loving.

Say NO to Hesitation & Fear

progress note

I tend to struggle a great deal with tackling various tasks, life adventures, or projects out of fear of failing. Who will join me in just going for it? What do we have to lose anyway? Take this note into the weekend, let it sit and simmer on your brain, and let’s all start next week off in full slay mode. Happy Friday!

Weekly Audit 4: Face the Scary Stuff

Every couple goes through a rough patch at some point in a relationship. Maybe it isn’t a rough patch, but a period of discovery. What’s the topic on the table? Do you have something you’ve been meaning to ask your partner but just can’t? Why is that?

S and I have learned to communicate whenever possible if there’s conflict. Communication is still probably the most important key in a relationship, but just because you can talk doesn’t mean there isn’t any lingering darkness from time to time. Maybe you’re just in your head, right? Get to the bottom of whatever it is. 

Don’t get me wrong, every talk doesn’t have to be sitting around having therapy sessions every night, but it’s important to check in with each other. Go on a walk and chat. Explore a new bar; someplace vibey and romantic.

Not every conversation needs to be heavy, but addressing any hurt feelings, disagreements, and new territory in your relationship is of the utmost importance if it’s going to last. 

There’s always a slight feeling of, “ugh, I don’t want to talk about this yet…” but you have to get over it – come into the light! Face the scary stuff in your relationship. If love is present, the support and love of  your partner should help you through the conversation.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN! ANSWER THE QUESTION WITH YOUR PARTNER OR FRIENDS, AND SHARE YOUR RESPONSES IN THE COMMENTS. Ciao!

Coming Next Week! Weekly Audits.

Hey there,

How often do you check in with your partner and yourself? When is the last time you both sat down and asked yourselves “are we happy?” A couple that’s cohesively existing together, under one roof and in a good place with their relationship would say they are happy.

Now don’t go looking for problems in every nook and cranny of your relationships! All I’m saying is that it’s important to talk about your relationship with the person you call your other half. Couples fear asking the hard questions because they’d have to be honest with themselves. It’s amazing how grown people freeze in the face truth.

“What makes you most happy about our relationship (or marriage)?”

“Are you okay? Honestly, how have you been?”

“What’s something we need to work on as a couple?”

These conversations don’t have to be hard at all. Put on some music to set the vibe, mix a couple cocktails, and chat about your relationship. This person is supposed to be your best friend, you know… And this should be fun! Think of it as free weekly therapy sessions.

If you’re a couple in a more turbulent relationship or going through a tough time, I suggest you face the issue(s) head on. Trying to dodge and avoid what needs to be faced will only cause your mental health harm. Get everything on the table, hash it out, and make a plan for improvement.

Starting next week, Gays in the Life will post weekly audits. These audits will consist of questions and thought provoking activities – to be done with your partners – that will inspire conversation about your relationships with one another.

Answering the questions together, listening and processing every word shared, will encourage openness. These audits only work if you’re honest and open with yourself, your partner, and your relationship.

I can’t wait to get this going!

Cheers,

 

Unpack with These 3 Tools

What’s next when you reach the point of feeling like two bumps on a log? There’s talk of this and talk of that, but how can the message be received when it’s coated in moodiness.

Interpretation can be a very helpful or disastrous factor when it comes to this. A joke that’s taken the wrong way after a long day can feel like sandpaper on a fresh sunburn. A half-smile or a noticeably thoughtful demeanor could be an opening to ask “hey… you okay?”

It’s best to process these signals without ego though. You’ll quickly enter a downward spiral if ego is your focus. Be wise and truthful in your interpretation.

Or maybe it’s action… it all comes back to action really. Because what do you have outside of what you’re doing – what you’re both doing together – to inspire growth. A lot of us talk extremely well but drag our feet when the time comes to perform.

Is this you? We’ve all had our moments, so be honest with yourself.

Be present. Be present in your interpretation, your actions, and your relationship as a whole. Not every moment together needs to be filled with words or deep thought, so keep that in mind if you feel like you have just one more thing to say.

Let love breathe, let whatever nonsense go, and remember these few items when things seem a little foggy.

The Key

Communication is the key to life. Communication is the key to love. Communication is the key to us… Will you communicate with me? – TLC & Dallas Austin. “Communicate-Interlude.” Fanmail 1999.

Communication will make or break any relationship. What do people fear when they’re finally in their own relationships, or marriage? One thing I knew I would have to respect – maybe “fear” is the wrong word – within my relationship was the communication aspect.  This stems mostly from growing up in a two parent home, up to the age of sixteen, just to watch it all fall apart because my parents did not communicate properly within their situation. Do I think my parents would have stayed together if they did communicate effectively? No, probably not, but I think they would have gotten to a better place as peers – raising their three children together – faster than they did in real time.

Communication can be simple if both parties are willing to participate, listen, and learn. I remember a time during my husband and I’s first months of dating. I was usually the one to initiate communication – whether that be text or call – and after some time, I decided to give him the chance to reach out first. Well two days went by before I heard anything, and I was absolutely pissed.  I ended up calling him and making sure he knew how I felt. At the time we were living an hour apart, and during those couple of days of no contact, I didn’t feel wanted anymore; this worried me, but I had to test him.  From that point on, if there were ever any issues, I made sure to communicate them to S, and encouraged him to do the same with me.

You never stop learning when you’re sharing a life with someone. Flash forward to yesterday – married and three years into our relationship – when I was expecting my husband home at a certain time. I decided to call after the minutes on the clock totaled to an hour past his estimated time of arrival. Now, I was not mad at him, but I was worried. I don’t make excuses for anyone, and he is no exception. Any form of message informing me that he would be running late would have kept my spousal jitters at bay. There is no perfect way to communicate. The act itself can be as easy, or as hard, as you make it. The important thing is that you try. I’m a firm believer in communication, and as long as it’s present… you can’t lose.

Gays in the Life

Communication is the key to life. Communication is the key to love. Communication is the key to us… Will you communicate with me? – TLC & Dallas Austin. “Communicate-Interlude.” Fanmail 1999.

Communication will make or break any relationship. What do people fear when they’re finally in their own relationships, or marriage? One thing I knew I would have to respect – maybe “fear” is the wrong word – within my relationship was the communication aspect.  This stems mostly from growing up in a two parent home, up to the age of sixteen, just to watch it all fall apart because my parents did not communicate properly within their situation. Do I think my parents would have stayed together if they did communicate effectively? No, probably not, but I think they would have gotten to a better place as peers – raising their three children together – faster than…

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Will You Go Out With Me?

Dating. It’s so important once you’re married. Any person that’s been in a long-term relationship knows this to be true. Long days (and nights) at the job start to eat away at you mentally and physically. Weekends seem to be the only time you can hang out, but somehow you’ve overbooked yourselves. You begin to question whether you’re slipping away from yourself and/or the relationship because there’s not enough time or energy for “us” time. That is when insecurity and doubt surface.

 

The great thing about S and I is that we can discuss these insecurities and doubts and figure out how to work through the fog. Just today we’ve identified that we’ve become too comfortable relaxing and hanging out on the couch together; binge watching old seasons of America’s Next Top Model. The mental fatigue that comes with working in the corporate world can’t rule every ounce of energy we have left in our free time together. It’s time to fight the lazy and rediscover who we are as a couple.

So what do we do? That’s the question. We’re both almost too easy to please and can never seem to decide what sounds fun; I know how that sounds. Thank goodness summer is near because at least we’ll be able to get back to our regular evening walks. Whatever it is we decide to do, it’ll be together. Our third wedding anniversary is next week – CRAZY – so we’re taking that as our cue to get regular date nights scheduled. In the past, I didn’t like the idea of scheduling time together. I see now that it’s a necessary pleasure.