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.

 

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(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.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! Single? Taken? Don’t give an EFF about today? Who cares! In our opinion, every day should be treated like Valentine’s Day – whatever this day means to you. Check out an older post of mine The Other 364 for more on that topic.

If you are single and are feeling bummed about not having a significant other, please be kind to yourself today. This Hallmark-generated holiday shouldn’t be solely about celebrating your romantic relationships, so tend to your other relationships and people that are currently in your life.  

Grab dinner with the girls. Enjoy a guys night or some bro time. Go see a movie or schedule a movie marathon for the weekend. Let’s be real here – we can’t be having slumber parties on a Thursday night. We are grown-ass working adults. If for some reason you can have mid-week slumber parties, I’m jealous.

What do S and I have planned you ask? We’ll be making some low-carb calzones and enjoying red wine berry spritzers! I’m actually pretty excited about it. We’ve been better about getting out and exploring romantic spots of Indianapolis, but a night in is always the height of excellence for us.

Enjoy the day, everyone!

J

js vday pic

“Why we Broke up”

The ebbs and flows of life can be such a whirlwind at times. Adventure and massive success in relationships, while exciting and inspiring, can threaten the connection; the spark that started it all.

Mark and Ethan are a couple that has found huge success with both their YouTube channels. The energy that flows between the two of them is infectious and they shoot absolutely amazing content for their channels.

We’ve followed them on numerous explorations around the world, family visits to the lake house, and my personal favorite, a little town called Bloomington – Go Hoosiers!

I wanted to write a little note about one of Mark and Ethan’s more recent videos, “Why we Broke up.” The title alone shook me. I quaked, honey. These two can’t possibly be separating!

False alarm. There’d be no breakup, but the two did share why Ethan had recently moved into his own apartment, five minutes away from Mark in LA. Some words the two shared hit me like a speeding truck:

Ethan: “We need to re-evaluate how we’re doing individually, because everything was just so habitually together.”

Mark: “Something that you had said, and that will always stick with me is that ‘you want to appreciate my love.’ There are days that I don’t appreciate him, and I don’t want that to be a thing. I just don’t want that to happen.”

This couple has shared so many good times through their lenses and YouTube channels with us. What we as the viewers forget is that these are real people, in real relationships.

It’s amazing that these two have been able to build their platforms together, but what happens when your relationship and business blends too well? Mark and Ethan explained how they need to focus back in on how they’re doing individually, and what a word this is.

Ethan goes on to quote RuPaul.. “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Obviously, I don’t know these guys from Adam, but I get what they’re saying. You need time to focus on you; to take care of you. Without a strong sense of self-love in place, you won’t be able share that with the ones you love.  

I’ve talked before on Gays in the Life about making time for each other and not forgetting to take care of the relationship. A big part of that is taking care of number one so you can continue to be that support system for whoever it is on the receiving end of your love.

I want to thank Mark and Ethan for taking a moment to share these thoughts with us, and to remind us that relationships are work. The highs can be really high, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be low lows.

Put in the work, people! And don’t be afraid to face and enter the shadows – It’s the only way you’ll find that light in the end.

 

A Quick Getaway

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(Reynold and I in front of IU auditorium)

 

Sometimes you just have to get out of town. S and I decided weeks ago that we would take Friday off and spend a weekend in Bloomington. Bloomington, Indiana is the home of Indiana  University – Go Hoosiers! – and is where our story began. This makes it an easy place to visit if we need to escape the city and relive the college glory days, as it’s only and hour south of Indianapolis.

We decided that we  didn’t want to let too many know that we were in town. Reconnecting and refocusing our energies on each other, at times, can mean tuning everyone and everything out for a moment. This is not to alienate or disrespect those in the area, but to share valuable time with each other  and have a private adventure away from our cozy couch. We did stop by a good friend’s house to visit with her and her son, but we hadn’t seen her in ages! We had to say hello.

 

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The weekend was nice and simple. Before checking into the Hotel, we got to hangout with Reynold – our pup – at one of  our favorite Bloomington spots, Crazy Horse, and walk the B-Line trail. Later that evening we enjoyed dinner and drinks at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants and turned in after a couple more drinks at the hotel bar.

We spent the next day walking around campus with puppy, exploring shops, and recounting all the wild and crazy times we had as undergrads. I really got a kick out of walking all over the IU campus with our dog – it’s like I was taking my kid to orientation or something, haha, showing him the beauty and glory or IU’s campus. Saturday evening was a very enjoyable and relaxing time for the both of us. We’d planned to go out, but somehow, we never made it out the door 🙂

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Sidebar: Orientation is currently going on at IU. If you didn’t know, I was an IU orientation leader the summer of 2007 for the university and to this day say it was probably the best job I had. It was fun and exciting for me  to spend a summer greeting our new students and parents; getting them excited about the adventure they’d begun. I smiled every time I saw a group and spotted one or two orientation leader t-shirts in the middle of the crowd. Has it really been eleven years since I was in that t-shirt? Goodness.

The weekends are never long enough, but we appreciate any bit of time we can spend with each other. A quick weekend trip down the road is inexpensive and a fun way to experience the escape of a vacation without breaking the bank or taking too much time from work. Could we have used another day in Bloomington? We could ALWAYS use another day. Have any of you ever taken a little staycation with your significant other? Share your experience with us in the comments! We’d  love to hear 🙂

J

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!

Weekly Audit 3: The L Word

How do you say I love you? Is it the way you look at each other or in the little isms in your day to day with each other? Think about this for a second. How important is it to you that you hear the words I love you, and if this does matter to you, how often?

S and I aren’t terribly expressive in person. We say I love you here and there – sprinkling the phrase throughout the week, but not necessarily each day – and this isn’t something that’s been an issue for us.

 

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(This picture was taken the night we first told each other we loved one another… Awe.)

I tend to show love with physical contact, while S translates the little things as me caring for him. For example: I’m not a big toucher… Family, friends, I won’t really hug you unless I haven’t seen you in quite some time. I’m the complete opposite when it comes to S. I’ll mess with his hair or sneak up on him in the kitchen; hugging him from behind. My favorite is holding a free hand while he’s driving or resting my hand on his leg.

S usually tries to bat me away as he’s got a different love language – acts of kindness. He stays pretty busy so I try to accomplish whatever I can in our home – chores, errands, taking care of our fur-child – before he even has to think about it. Whenever he has a moment to relax and decompress, I make sure he can enjoy it fully. 

Don’t get it twisted though… I usually save the hardwood floor cleaning for him 😉

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

(If you haven’t already, I suggest you dive into finding out what your love language is… do that here.)