The Day I Felt Like Calling It Quits On My Marriage

I felt like calling it quits on my marriage today.

Don’t worry about us (we’re sitting here cozied up on the couch currently), but the rage inside me was definitely a white hot fire at about 8:34 a.m. this morning. My husband offered to drive our kids to school last night and, while I appreciate the gesture, I would have appreciated it even more if he hadn’t stood at the doorway huffing, puffing, and rolling his eyes as they dawdled through eating breakfast, pulling on their shoes, and getting out to the car when the moment came this morning for him to start his chauffeur duties. Your help just hurts, I found myself singing under my breath as he sped away.

A heated text chain between us ensued once he dropped them off, a conciliatory phone call, and then, a common pact to keep giving ourselves and each other grace in light of the stress and strain our family has weathered over the past year. The pandemic has been hard on us individually and as we’ve managed our kids’ needs, but it has also taken its toll on our relationship.

My husband and I have been through a lot together – 16 years of marriage, two doctorate degrees, tackling six-figure graduate school debt, a high-needs child – yep, we thought we were tough pre-COVID. But now, as we look back on the year, we realize we underestimated just how difficult it would be to 1) be around each other constantly, 2) keep our romantic spark alive, and 3) not let the stress and chaos of a completely unpredictable and uncontrollable world crisis get our goats.

The number of moms harboring that same fiery sentiment toward their partners has been off the charts in my pediatrics practice lately. We’re all ready for this pandemic to be over (and the associated extra-intense partner quarrels that have often come along with it). I know, like you do and they do, that when all of this gets better, so should our relationships with our significant others. Even so, I don’t want to wait that long (however long that is anyway). The good news is, you and I don’t have to.

I’ve learned from other successful moms – moms who have weathered thick and thin, good and bad, bright sunny days and global upheavals – a few key principles to parenting in partnership so events like today’s aren’t so frequent for any of us.

1. Don’t Aim for Fifty-Fifty

Forget about that mythical fifty-fifty split. Parenting partnership responsibilities are hardly ever evenly divided. Laundry may be 90% in your bucket, but cooking may only be 10%. You may do 30% of the accounting and bill paying, but your partner does 70% of the school pickups and drop-offs. It matters most that you’re not taking on 70% of everything, tipping the scales toward yourself for every to-do that keeps your lives running.

2. Share The Mental Load

Your partner is not a mind reader. Make it a habit to sit down with your spouse listing off what you need to get done to make the household run (or make decisions about) and then ask your partner to do the same. Make your partner aware of the tasks you’re carrying, and when you’re feeling overwhelmed. How to get the conversation started? Plan family business meetings; put them on the calendar monthly; and, just like you might map out your financial budget, talk through your responsibilities.

3. Divide Up Duties Based on Practical Considerations

Although the world may still expect moms to drop everything to pick up our children at child care for an illness (or to be the COVID-19 family grocery shopper, for that matter), it just doesn’t make sense for many couples where mom is the breadwinner or has a more demanding schedule. Divide up the tasks based on practical considerations, such as: Who has a block of free time right now? Or, What are each partner’s strengths and weaknesses?

If you’re a new mom and you’re breastfeeding, this is an even simpler delineation point. For the duration of your breastfeeding experience, you are the “feeder in chief.” Your partner should be the “soother in chief.” Let your partner have the responsibility of getting educated on the best soothing techniques out there and make him the go-to person when the baby is cranky. If you are not a new parent, figure out some other “in chief” responsibilities you can divide. My husband is also the “nail cutter in chief” and the “get the kids ready for bed in chief.”

4. Use a Common Language 

When talking to your partner about what needs to be done, find a way of talking that makes sense to both people.

If you’re both in business, your conversation might look like this:

“So, I’m trying to strategize about how we’ll get everything accomplished for Leah’s start to the school year. Let’s talk through the components we need to make this successful.”

If you and your partner share a mutual love of sports, try this:

“Listen, what part of the team can you head up the next few weeks? If we’re going to win with everything going on this month, we’re really going to have to work hard.”

5. Use Technology to Your Advantage

There are so many tools at our disposal nowadays: shared calendars, communication apps, online shareable corkboards, trip planners, list makers. A shared calendar means shared knowledge and shared accountability. If you both know what’s happening in your household, you can both be responsible for it, especially when it comes to appointments or events you both need to attend.

6. Ignore When Necessary

Sometimes (I wish it was not this way, but it just is), you have to just totally ignore eye rolls, small huffs, and pained expressions when it comes to handing off a little more of their mental loads to your partner. I could have done a better job of that during my little spat this morning, I realized about 20 minutes too late.

“I feel like I just have to get over it when I perceive that my husband is annoyed when I let him know what he needs to do so we can keep our house and our home running,” said one modern mom.. “I get it. No one wants to be told what to do, but, in the process of off-loading some of my mental load, sometimes that’s just how it has to happen.”

7. Extend Grace to Your Partner (And Yourself)

We all carry the stress of our days and lives into our partner relationships. Approaching our partners with a sense of compassion, and using language that conveys our recognition of their humanity, goes a long way (and leads to a lot fewer fights).

8. Take a Giant Step Back

It’s annoying to have someone looking over your shoulder, micromanaging your every move. If you’ve ever had a super-controlling boss or even a nitpicky parent, you know the feeling. When someone doesn’t trust us or tries to manage us, it makes us feel resentful and irritated. We sometimes even lose our organic interest in the topic and stop putting our best effort into it.

That’s just what happens when we don’t allow our partners to play an equal role in taking care of our children. We kind of sabotage our hope of true co-parenting. Instead, be conscious about how to empower your other half to be the parenting boss more often. That might mean actually leaving the house so he or she has the space to parent without your eagle eyes. It definitely will mean holding your tongue (or your own sighs or eye rolls or judgment) if he or she is not doing things exactly how you would do it.

Clearly, I don’t do this perfectly in my own home all the time (case in-point this morning). Sometimes I feel like my husband thinks he’s “babysitting” or “helping me out” instead of co-parenting. Sometimes he says he feels like I can’t let go of being the family boss. If he had more freedom and less criticism when it came to his parenting decisions, he would feel more ownership and would be more motivated to step up in his co-team leader role. Even so, despite centuries — no, millennia — of societal norms, we continue to strive toward the idea that gender should make no difference when it comes to caring for our kids and that equitable, satisfying parent partnerships are still possible (pandemic or no pandemic).

The post The Day I Felt Like Calling It Quits On My Marriage appeared first on Scary Mommy.

What Being Snubbed By My ‘Gal Pals’ Taught Me

Pretty recently a group of women, whom I consider “my group,” went out for dinner and drinks without me.

I awoke one morning to see dozens of photos posted on social media, captioned “Girls’ Night!” They sat together in a restaurant around a large, welcoming table, holding up drinks and baring gleeful smiles.

I did a head count and a mental checklist of who was there and who was not. As I sifted through more photos with captions like “Much needed!” and “Drinks with the girls!”, it quickly became clear that whatever “Let’s go out” message had been sent, it had missed only me. I simply was not invited.

My initial reaction was sadness. I felt left out in an “I wasn’t invited to the cool kids party” type of way. In a matter of seconds, I was transported back to high school, feeling a sense of self-loathing brought on by a Queen Bee whose mission in life was to make me feel uncool.

I started to type a passive-aggressive comment on one of the photos. A simple, “Thanks for the invite,” would do it. They’d all see it, know I was upset, and feel bad for snubbing me.

As quickly as I typed it, I hit backspace. We are not in high school — I’m 33.

I told my husband about the girls getting together without me. He offered plenty of excuses to make me feel better.

You can’t possibly be the only one who wasn’t invited.

I’m sure they didn’t mean anything by it.

Would you have gone anyway?

Damn, that last one made sense. I’m nearly 30 weeks pregnant, sooo there’s a pretty good chance I would’ve said no to an invite.

But that’s not the point! I protested.

So what if I’m in the “Too pregnant to feel like getting dressed up” stage? They still could’ve asked! They could’ve shown they wanted me there!

Unless… they didn’t want me there.

This is where the self-loathing turned to anger.

Pfft! Screw those bitches. Next time I do something fun, I know who I’m NOT inviting.

My hubs, still trying to be the voice of reason, suggested I come right out and ask one of them, what gives? He assured me that if I asked, I’d get a completely sensible explanation that would make me feel totally better and no longer left-out.

Instead, I decided to let it go for a while.

I’ve learned in my 33 years on this planet that it’s usually not a good idea to make hasty assumptions and go wagging a finger at people I think are harming me. Those may be my very first go-to feelings, but it just seems better to hit backspace and take a breather.

So, I sat on these feelings for a couple weeks.

I wondered if I had done something wrong to one of them.

I watched their behavior toward me after the girls night.

I silently speculated what was going on in their lives.

I thought about the things going on in my own life…

So, now that the moment has passed, I can safely say I have thought this through as a rational human being and not some pissed off, hormonal bitch looking for a fight.

Yeah — I want to be invited out by my friends. But do I want an invite out of shame? Hell no.

Yeah — I want to feel like I fit in. But am I always going to? Probably not.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened in my life, and it’s probably not the last.

And, come on, if I’m being honest, I’m sure I’ve been on the other end of this scenario before.

So, do my gal pals owe me an explanation for the snub?

I don’t think they do.

And the reason why is way less complicated than you would think:

I’m not always going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

I can be sweary and sarcastic, speak wildly inappropriately, and sometimes give way too much information on my preggo body.

If you’re not in the mood for all that some days, it’s OK!

To tell the truth, I’m not in the mood for everyone else’s quirks all the time either.

Does that really make me or you a bitch?

Nope. Just human.

And anyway, the days you guys aren’t in a Jenny-mood, my hubs totally is.

So, really, regardless of who is doing what with whom — I’m good.

My only hope is that you guys feel this way too… because, ya know, we’re adults and I do love you too.

The post What Being Snubbed By My ‘Gal Pals’ Taught Me appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Never Arguing Isn’t A Sign Of A Healthy Relationship

My wife and I take a “see something, say something” approach to our marriage. When one of us does something, and the other notices it and doesn’t particularly agree, we say something. It doesn’t matter where we are: at my in-laws’ house, with my family, out in public, or with friends. We bicker. It doesn’t make our relationship weak or unhealthy or take us on the fast track to divorce court. Bickering, for us and many other couples, is a sign of a healthy relationship. We put communication first and then leave room for further chats later. My wife and I bicker just about every day; it’s part of our relationship and we are okay with that. We also love each other very much and show that affection just as often as we bicker.

I’d consider my kind of bickering borderline nagging. My wife genuinely wants to understand my point of view (while digging in her own thoughts/concerns/opinions a little deeper). And it doesn’t matter what we’re bickering about; it could be something as little as my wife not putting the proper hair products on our daughter’s hair in the morning for school. Or that I didn’t put my clothes away from the night before. Or why I am particular about how I like the fridge arranged after grocery shopping.

Or like this past Sunday, we bickered over a chair… yes, a chair. We have twin daughters, L and A. L wanted the chair A had just left. I explained to L that she could have it. My wife steps in and said, “No, A is returning to her chair,” and I responded with, “It doesn’t look like she’s going back.” This went on for well, probably two minutes … two minutes too long, I know. In the end, neither L nor A chose to sit in the chair and they didn’t argue at all. The bickering ceased and we all went back to our normal Sunday. But this is the kind of bickering we do. We don’t argue, yell, scream or take digs at one another. 

The key to a healthy relationship is communication. And there are healthy and unhealthy ways to communicate. Bickering is not an unhealthy form of communication — unless feelings are hurt and insults are made, then the bickering becomes a problem. There’s a substantial difference between a harmless tiff and a heated argument. If a topic brings up strong emotions, it’s best to approach it privately and during a time when no one is agitated already.

Couples who claim they “never fight” may not be communicating at all. If a couple does not fight at all, it means that one of them is too scared to speak up, and that couple needs to find a good therapist to work with. Holding everything in and not processing issues in the relationship is unhealthy for both partners. 

For relationships lacking in communication, couples therapy is a great idea. It’s like a tune-up for your relationship. You take your car in for maintenance, you go to the dentist, and you schedule your annual with your gynecologist, which you know will be an uncomfortable experience. You may start couples therapy feeling uncertain and uncomfortable, but over time, you’ll ease into the process, just like when it’s time to put your legs up in stirrups at the gynecologist. Even happy couples can benefit from this; therapy shouldn’t be reserved for relationships that are on the rocks.

Therapy is about letting down your guard, opening yourself up for the honest dialogue, and actively changing how you engage with your partner. It does not mean never arguing; it means communicating differently. My wife and I went to therapy together, and it forced us to sit and listen to one another in ways that we previously had not. We still bickered while sitting in our seats in front of the therapist. His response? “There is such love there” — and he was right. There is. Love is the foundation for every relationship, and from that foundation, everything else grows.

When we bicker, we are showing our kids that we disagree about something. And that is okay for our kids to know. It shows them that their parents are communicating, even if it’s about where the ottoman is positioned on the living room rug or how the car shouldn’t be parked on the grass in the driveway. We are creating a safe environment for our kids to witness our disagreement but we are also making space for one another, as a couple, to express our feelings, then and there.

In an article for Psychology Today, Susan Heitler, Ph.D., says that, “Marriage works best when you both aim to stand together, united against the problems, not pitted against each other. Better marriage advice: All married folks have conflicts, but conflict means there are differences that need to be resolved, not argued.” Having an argument is not the end of the world; it is necessary to build one another up, to communicate in ways that will teach you about one another, create a deeper understanding of what some of the marital issues are, and then work it out, together.

As parents, we teach our kids to communicate their needs, their wants, and their frustrations. We help them through sticky social situations, we role-play with them, and we model the behaviors we want them to emulate. We are our kids’ best teachers, and if we fail them in one of the most basic lessons — understanding effective ways to communicate, including conflict resolution — they will have a difficult journey into adulthood.

Couples who say they don’t argue are teaching their kids that no one ever has disagreements or strong opinions or needs to prove anything to anyone else. The word “argue” implies that someone (if not both people) feels upset or frustrated or sad or may have many other feelings about a particular disagreement. But those feelings are okay too and should be expressed and discussed in a healthy way — even in front of the kids.

The post Never Arguing Isn’t A Sign Of A Healthy Relationship appeared first on Scary Mommy.

You Don’t Have To Explain Your Boundaries

I’m intuitive and hyper-aware of my surroundings at all times — yay for PTSD and trauma responses! In some ways it’s pretty cool to scan a room, remember the details, and accurately get a vibe on the energy of the people I’m around. On the flip side, it’s exhausting, and when the vibe sits like a rock in my gut, my Spidey Sense prepares me to fight, flee, or — ugh — set a boundary.

Boundaries are hard, because they indicate a need to set self-preserving limits in order to maintain a respectful and healthy relationship. And OMFG, that’s a lot of work. Whether we’re able to read energy or are listening and reading the words coming out of people’s mouths, we can’t cancel or avoid everyone. We need to find ways to navigate tricky and sometimes toxic people in our families, workplace, and friend circles. What’s more, we can set boundaries and stick to them without explaining them.

Our kids are notorious for pushing our buttons and testing the limits we set for them. “But why!?” they’ll whine. We don’t hesitate to respond with, “Because I said so!” or “The answer is no!” Sometimes I’ll offer an explanation or alternative time to do said thing they desire, but often the answer is what it is. We need to put that kind of energy into dealing with everyone in our lives.

Sure, there will be resistance, and really toxic folks will show their true colors when they aren’t given the power to act the way they want. And some people will become defensive, but that doesn’t mean we need to make them feel better when we express our discomfort.

Cisgender, straight white males really don’t like to be corrected or given boundaries; between their egos and the cishet privilege that has prevented them from needing to understand issues that influence queer, BIPOC, and female folks, they either laugh off a boundary or get angry. Their reactions to boundaries are usually Why can’t you take a joke? or You’re a bitch. Classy.

I don’t owe you an explanation about anything, Chad, including the following: my pronouns, why your racist and misogynistic jokes aren’t funny, why I don’t want you to stand so close, why I can’t help you with that project, why I don’t want to listen to you complain about your wife, why I’m not comfortable with the way you speak to me or to women or about women, or why you need to talk less and listen more.

Cishet males — especially the white ones — have had enough time walking around society without explanation, without being questioned, and without the need to prove they belong. I won’t sugar-coat my disapproval to make them less accountable, and I won’t tolerate aggressive responses. I will suggest therapy.

I purposely avoid most cishet males, but there are plenty of cishet females and queer folks with whom I set boundaries — healthy relationships are for everyone. So we’re clear, boundaries aren’t bad. Direct communication isn’t rude, and honesty should be preferred. Not all confrontation is contentious, and saying no can be healthy.

I’m getting better about saying no to things, and it feels good. I still say yes to plenty of work and favors and have stretched myself thin, but I tend to only say yes to things I really want to do — and even then it may come with a warning about when I’m available versus not. I won’t do things out of obligation, but there is a difference between responsibility and a feeling of self-imposed expectations. This means I’m proactive with my communication; I work with bosses and clients when I need help, time off, or extensions because I can’t do all of the things all of the time. So I say so, rather than letting responsibilities slip or working myself into exhaustion and unhealthy mindsets.

This isn’t just about making “me time,” though that’s fine too if saying no is part of your self-care; for me it’s about self-worth and demanding — not asking for — respect. It’s about making my valuable time as meaningful as possible. And I don’t feel bad about it. Mostly.

Knowing what I need usually isn’t the problem; it’s the fear of someone’s response or judgement of my needs, so I also prepare a reason or justification for my boundary. While I know I’m doing the right thing, I still feel guilty at times for setting limits and boundaries. I wish I didn’t care about the response and potential judgement and questioning of my intentions or worth.

When I have to tell someone no, refuse an invitation, need to change plans, or declare something isn’t sitting right with me, I’m getting more comfortable with just stating the fact and boundary without giving a lengthy explanation. I don’t need to justify or prove my needs and wants. I’m not a failure or disappointment for knowing my limits and asking those around me to respect the boundaries I set, even if they are sudden or different than they were a few weeks or months ago.

People often don’t like boundaries because it means they can’t take advantage of you anymore.  And you don’t have to negotiate your terms or give a why. Draw the line and hold folks to it. No one is entitled to the details of my discomfort, and no one is entitled to yours.

The post You Don’t Have To Explain Your Boundaries appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Did You Have A Narcissistic Parent?

Parents can screw up in a lots of ways. But growing up with a narcissistic parent leaves a special kind of scar. You’re never good enough. You constantly question your self-worth. You have trouble speaking up for your needs. Kindness may startle you, and you may wonder when it will end. After all, kindness has always been conditional, only coming when someone wants something from you. You learn to question everything.

You learn, too, to question if you really have a narcissistic parent. They have you so woven into their web of lies that you can’t believe in their terrible toxicity. Even if you can admit they aren’t quite like other parents, and your childhood wasn’t quite like other childhoods, calling them out as a narcissist seems … impossible. They aren’t that bad. I mean, they’re bad. Not like that, though.

It took me years and a pandemic to realize it, and a long time to accept that I grew up with a narcissistic parent. But once I was able to label the behavior, I felt freed: everything made sense. My childhood slotted into place. I recalled incidents that I had previously seen as normal and said, “What the f*ck was going on there?!”

These memories pained me, and still do at times. It hurts to realize the depth of loss I suffered at a narcissistic parent’s hands. But that label has helped. It’s given me a way to make sense of my life and my interactions with that parent. Many people have said to me they feel loss from an estrangement with a parent. I do not. I mourn a parent in general. I do not mourn that person in particular.

Maybe you’ve never felt good enough. Maybe you have excessively low self-esteem. Perhaps you feel like your childhood wasn’t… right. Perhaps you realize your parent isn’t great, and that tiny voice in the back of your head is whispering.

Here’s how to identify a narcissistic parent.

You = Them

Your achievements and efforts were seen as a direct reflection of them, so you had better not screw up. Many parents require perfection from their kids. But a narcissistic parent requires it because they see their child’s performance as an extension of their own, and they crave excessive admiration and attention: a key trait of a narcissist, according to Medical News Today. When people praise their child, they praise the narcissistic parent. The child may fulfill dreams the narcissistic parent never had a chance to, or the parent may live vicariously through the child. Because of this, they demand perfection.

For example, after a sports practice, you were subjected to a long list of what you did wrong and how you should have fixed it. Your parents may have basked in praise of your achievements and perhaps even exaggerated them; if you didn’t succeed (for example, I wasn’t admitted to an Ivy League college), loud excuses were made to relatives and friends.

A Narcissistic Parent Has Two Faces

According to Surviving Narcissism, a narcissistic parent presents a charming, attractive face to the public, and in private, you may see “many traits that do not present them in a positive light.” Perhaps that kind PTA mom who’d do anything for anyone places unreasonable demands on her children. She’s always sweet, but at home she’s a yeller who tears people down.

Most of all, you see the lack of empathy towards others that they mask in their public persona. That lack of empathy is a key trait of a narcissist, says WebMD. They will “give you something to cry about.” You have long-learned that you can’t expect true emotional support from your parent, no matter how well they may fake it in public. They don’t notice (or seem to care) how their behavior affects you.

For example, when you cried, little to no comfort was offered, and if it was, it seemed awkward. If you were bullied, little sympathy was offered, and it may have even been blamed on you. Disappointment was ignored or brushed aside. However, these traits only showed in private.

You’d Better Be Grateful to a Narcissistic Parent

Surviving Narcissism also notes that a narcissist “remind[s] you of your obligations towards them.” If you remember having to express gratitude for every little thing your parent did, you may have been raised by a narcissist. You may have had to thank them every time for lessons or practices, for example. Things other parents did for other children as a matter of course required excessive thanks on your part, and woe to you if you didn’t express appropriate gratitude to your narcissistic parent.

Envy: Of Them and For Others

A narcissistic parent believes other people envy them for any number of reasons, but also envies others at the same time, says Medical News Today. For example, other people may want their position, authority, wealth, or success, but at the same time, they speak disparagingly of people with more authority, wealth, and success.

If your parent bragged about what authority they had over others, but anyone with more gained it by illicit means, abused it, or didn’t handle it properly, you may have had a narcissistic parent. I had parents who loved to show off their antiques and looked down on people who bought modern furniture as trashy, but who suffered from severe class envy: rich people were terrible humans.

Narcissistic Parents Cut People Out

What would your kid or sibling have to do for you to never speak to them again (other than abuse)? Rack your brain. A narcissistic parent, according to Surviving Narcissism, cuts people off. If you don’t agree with them, or do what they ask, or match their ideals, or behave in ways they want you to behave, you’re cut off. You may have seen them do this with friends again and again, and possibly with relatives.

Even if they don’t cut people off entirely, they may disparage them in private and see them as little as possible. Do you have relatives your parent despises, speaks badly of, and seldom sees for reasons you really don’t understand? If your parent has left a trail of cut-off friendships behind them, ask yourself why.

They Can’t Apologize

Surviving Narcissism notes that a narcissistic parent would be unable to apologize — because they can’t admit that they’re ever wrong. If you’ve never heard your parent say “I’m sorry,” your parent is likely a narcissist. It took me a very long time to understand that real people, in the real world, apologize when they’ve done something wrong.

You may have trouble with apologies yourself because of this trait. In fact, you may see an apology as weakness, and view arguments not as a chance to reach a compromise, but as an adversarial event in which one person emerges victorious and another loses. This is not how arguments are supposed to work. I learned this in my late thirties.

Moreover, you may see “arguments” where there are “discussions” and have difficulty taking criticism — because taking criticism without rage was never modeled for you. That’s another trait of a narcissistic parent, according to The Mayo Clinic. Criticism of any kind is met with anger — it’s not helpful, it’s always a personal attack.

You may have grown up with a narcissistic parent. They may have a clinical, diagnostic disorder, or they may not. Either way, their behavior has damaged you. You need to label that behavior so you can cope with it. Surviving Narcissism is a great site to help you start dealing with the pain and difficulty you’ve been through. But most of all, you need therapy and help to cope with your childhood.

The post Did You Have A Narcissistic Parent? appeared first on Scary Mommy.

The Concept Of The ‘Friend Zone’ Is Toxic AF

It’s funny how we can get so used to a social concept that we neglect to notice it’s toxic AF. Like a man asking a woman’s father for her hand in marriage, as if the woman herself has no agency, or like telling a woman who’s frustrated her husband isn’t pulling his weight around the house, Well, why don’t you just ask for help? Or like men telling women to smile, as if we are decorations on a shelf. We’ve come a long way, but the patriarchy runs deep, and we’re still accepting a lot of bullshit double standards as normal.

Take, for example, the concept of the “friend zone.” I’m not sure when I first heard this phrase used to explain the status of a man who is unable to win the affections of his love interest and, as some kind of sad consolation prize, is thrust into the dreaded zone of friendliness. The horror. It feels like this phrase has always been there, and to be honest it wasn’t until I came across a TikTok video a little while ago that it occurred to me that the idea is toxic.

@alex_falcone

I hate the term “friend zone” #standupcomedy #comedy #jokes #standup #friendship #friendzone #friendzoned

♬ original sound – Alex Falcone

In the clip above, comedian Alex Falcone breaks down why he’s sick of the term “friend zone.” “Yeah, what you’re saying is, you pretended to be nice to her, and she didn’t sleep with you,” he says. “And so you’re the victim of a huge injustice!”

I’m a little embarrassed that despite considering myself a raging feminist, I never thought of this term that way. To me, “friend zone” was simply a tongue-in-cheek way of describing rejection. And I think many people probably do still think of it that way. I’m sure I’ll get lots of “Oh, for fuck’s sake, do we have to overanalyze everything these days, ugh, why does this even need to be a whole article” type comments in response to what I’ve written here.

But this is a topic worth discussing, especially in today’s climate where we’re unpacking so much of the aforementioned ingrained toxic behavior that we’ve previously taken for granted.

Let’s be real, though — rejection sucks. No one would deny that unrequited love is a straight-up dagger to the heart. But the problem with “friend zone” rhetoric is two-fold. First, it implies manipulation on the part of the man. He was nice to a woman with the expectation of a specific outcome that would meet his needs. When that hoped-for outcome was not granted, the woman to whom he had previously presented the idea of a friendly relationship is now viewed with negativity, and the man is viewed as a loser/victim in a game that he initiated.

Second, as Falcone so aptly pointed out in his TikTok video: “What kind of monster is mad about getting a friend?”

Ironically, the term “friend zone” came from the megahit ‘90s TV show, “Friends.” In season 1, in the episode, “The One with the Blackout,” Joey tells Ross, who has a secret crush on Rachel, “You waited too long to make your move, and now you’re in the friend zone.”

The term spread and in 2003 was added to the Urban Dictionary, described as “What you attain after you fail to impress a woman you’re attracted to.” In 2012, “friend zone” began making the rounds on Reddit and other popular sites, with some conversations focused on how “nice guys” can get out of the friend zone, and other conversations pointing out the problematic nature of the concept right off the bat. A Morpheus meme circulated, with that iconic image of Morpheus from “The Matrix” with his reflective Matrix-y sunglasses, with text that reads, “What if I told you friendzoning is bullshit because girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into and sex falls out.”

The Friend Zone… from Feminism

Where is the lie?

There are so many pieces of culture that leave the managing of men’s behavior, and the care of men’s egos, to women. From dress codes to how to say no without bruising a man’s fragile ego, the onus is far too often on the women to do the emotional heavy lifting (not to mention keeping ourselves safe, since one can’t predict how a man who’s had his ego damaged will react). It should bother us all that it is apparently incumbent upon women to constantly coddle men’s feelings while at the same time men are not allowed to have any.

No one should be made to feel guilty, as if they’ve intentionally harmed someone, because they made a decision for themselves that didn’t align with the hopes of a romantic pursuer. A woman should not be made to feel as though her friendship is only valuable if it comes with the promise of eventual sex. And a man sure as hell shouldn’t accept “friend zone” status with the expectation that he will eventually “level up.” Friendship isn’t a weapon to manipulate a woman into a sexual relationship.

So let’s stop talking like it is.

The post The Concept Of The ‘Friend Zone’ Is Toxic AF appeared first on Scary Mommy.

PSA: Women Are F*cking Sick Of Having To ‘Parent’ Their Partners

I specifically remember leaving the house one Saturday morning in a rush or my son’s basketball game so mad I felt like I wanted to burst out of the car window and never come back. I’d asked my (then) husband to run the vacuum cleaner while I went for a run. I came home to find he couldn’t quite handle doing it. Not to mention, the kids were still sitting around in their pajamas as they all watched television.

This means I had an hour to get myself ready, three kids ready, and leave my house with all the floating dog hair (we had two dogs at a time), only to come home and have to do it.

The weekends were a time when I knew I could head out for a walk or run since my husband would be home to stay with the kids and I looked forward to it.

I was constantly getting them ready for school on my own each and every day, then working, then doing the housework, while he was out running the family business. I wanted to be able to count on him to walk in my shoes for an hour on a Saturday morning so I wouldn’t have to pick up the pieces, but it never worked out that way. It was something I didn’t think I should have to ask for, yet something I felt my partner should know to do.

In fact, it was so much effort to get him to help out, at times I saved my energy and did it myself.

I would always be so disappointed when I would see he just decided not to do something because it was “too hard” or the “kids were happy” and he didn’t want to disturb them.

It left me feeling like I wasn’t important and he didn’t want to put in any effort to make my life a little easier or give me a break from things I did every day.

A lot of men will play dumb and act like they didn’t know it was that big of a deal, or gaslight you by telling you to calm down. But I call bullshit. This is pure laziness.

PSA: Women get really fucking sick of constantly telling their partner what needs to be done, how they can help them out, or constantly ask them to do things they should automatically do, because hello, they share the same four walls.

One afternoon I was listening to Oprah in the background while making dinner and trying to occupy my three toddlers when I heard a psychologist on the show talking to a married couple who was struggling.

The husband didn’t understand why his wife got so pissed at him for not putting new paper towels on the roll when he used the last one. 

“It’s not the paper towels,” he explained to the husband. “It’s because you’ve ignored her request again and again.”

It was the first time I was able to articulate why it made me so mad when I would see things my husband could have done, but chose not to. It’s because he kept doing it over and over and over again. 

And who has to pick up the pieces? The other parent, that’s who. 

This post written by divorce coach Matthew Fray about leaving the dishes by the sink and divorce really breaks down the true reason why couples struggle with seemingly small things. 

In reference to something like leaving a glass by the sink, Fray says, “Unfortunately, most guys don’t know that she’s NOT fighting about the glass. She’s fighting for acknowledgment, respect, validation, and his love.”

It’s easy for the person who doesn’t care about the dishes, or the laundry to leave the mess lying around and just pretend they don’t know their spouse is going to do it.

But this is where it gets dangerous. As Fray puts it,  “I understand that when I leave that glass there, it hurts her — literally causes her pain — because it feels to her like I just said: ‘Hey. I don’t respect you or value your thoughts and opinions. Not taking four seconds to put my glass in the dishwasher is more important to me than you are.’”

It’s not about the object lying around. It’s about what it stands for. When my ex used to do things like that (which was much too often), it would make me upset because I felt disrespected, unseen, like he didn’t care, and like he was my child versus my husband. That led to me being turned off by him, which greatly affected our sex life.

All these things combined slowly broke down our marriage. And no, it’s not as simple as “You left a glass out, I’m not going to have sex with you and there goes our marriage.”

We don’t want to parent our partners. We want to feel like equals. There were some things that were really important to my ex that I didn’t understand, like his love for canoeing. I hated going, but I’d do it because it made him happy to go as a family.

He also loved this really time-consuming chicken recipe, but I’d make it because he loved it and it was one of things I did to show him that. It’s hard to keep that up if you aren’t getting some of that back.

We don’t want to have to micromanage our spouses. Saying “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it” when your marriage is already on its last leg isn’t going to cut it. We aren’t your parents — we are your life partner. 

You already know what to do — just look back at your last argument, or think about all the times she’s told you what you aren’t doing — and there’s your answer.

It’s not that hard and it’s not too much to ask to roll up your sleeves and do your part in running a home and taking care of the kids. 

I see how my ex is now with his live-in girlfriend. He does a lot of the housework, and yesterday when I picked up my kids, they were both bringing in groceries from the car — something I used to do alone.

I’ve asked him about this because the truth is, it’s been hard to watch him be a better partner to her than he was to me.

He told me he didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Maybe someday his girlfriend will thank me. 

The post PSA: Women Are F*cking Sick Of Having To ‘Parent’ Their Partners appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Why I’m So Glad I Threw Out My ‘Never Date A Guy With Kids’ Rule

Dating as an adult is so overtly complicated. As a teenager, you always end up dating people in your friend group. You get set up by a friend of a friend of a friend. Maybe you meet at school, camp, a party — life is simple and everything is so low stakes. Then, you grow up. Now we’re these chickens running around without heads trying to find someone to navigate us through this Rainbow Road in Mario Kart. We’re all falling off the sides.

When I first got back into the dating scene, I was so lost that I had no idea where to even begin. Sum myself up in 3 sentences or less for a dating app? Choose five pictures of myself that look good (honestly, who has five pictures of themselves that they look good in?) It was stressful. I felt like I had to always be “interesting” and “on.” It also made me consider a lot about dating altogether.

When you’re set up with people in the “real world,” you don’t often think about the “perfect person,” as you kind of see if the two of you just vibe and flow. When you’re navigating people through cyberspace, it’s kind of like trying on an outfit. You get to know someone and you try to see if they “fit” with you. It’s less about that natural chemistry at first and more about who they are, what they’re about, and are you into all of that — way before you even get to see if you naturally vibe and flow. If you don’t like a few things about them, you don’t even have to bother, really. You can just move onto the next one.

It’s really a wild concept.

When I started using apps, I realized that I was at that age where a lot of people were old enough to have had a big history. Like, I wasn’t just at the age where guys had exes, I was at the age where guys had ex wives. Some with a kid. Some with multiple kids.

I always said I didn’t want to get into a relationship with someone who already had kids.

It was just one of those rules that you checked off when you began thinking about who you want to start going out with. It’s not that I don’t like kids — I love them — it’s that I didn’t want to be wrapped up in the age-old drama you always hear about “psycho baby mommas” and “evil stepmothers.” I was scared that I wouldn’t be “good enough” to be a stepmother and that dating someone with a kid would be so profoundly difficult and hard.

Then, I met a guy on Hinge.

We had matched with each other, and after talking on the app for a while, I gave him my number. He didn’t have a picture with any kids on his profile, and he didn’t mention having kids when we texted. But there was an instant connection between us whenever we talked. We would text a few times a week and then it became an everyday thing. We’d share jokes, stories about our day, bond over our shared love of Pop Punk and early 2000s skater trends. After a month, we decided to finally go out on a date.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in a “spark.” But I’ve never been one to believe in love at first sight. I never bought into the whole “when you know, you know” kind of narrative. But when we went out, something clicked. Everything felt right. It felt like the energy in my life aligned and my aura changed. If I didn’t believe in love at first sight, this was something that could turn me into a believer.

After we had dinner, we went for coffee and I noticed a tattoo on his arm that read a name. Jokingly, I asked if that was another girl’s name. And, it was. It turns out that he had a daughter. A red light went off in my head like a siren. My head went, “sh*t.” All of this spark, and energy, and auras, and now I find out he has a kid? A thousand questions were running through my mind and I wanted to ask every single one of them — but it was our first date. Was that going to push us too fast? What happens when he invites me back home? What about his ex? It was like my head was a merry-go-round and no one was hitting the “stop” button.

I’m not going to lie, I was hesitant. I always said I didn’t want to date someone with kids. Kids complicate things. There’s another person in our relationship — it’s never just us. There’s always going to be a third party, someone to always consider, someone to always take into account. In a brand new relationship, I was hesitant. I’m not just dating him, I’m dating him and his daughter.

While I had all of my reservations and laundry list of questions, something in me told me — jump. Don’t think, jump. Go for it. Trust the energy. Trust the vibe. Become the believer. Buy into the “love at first sight.” Do it.

Well, it’s been two years, and jumping was the best decision I ever made.

Dating someone with a kid has changed me and shaped me into a better person. It’s opened my eyes that not everything is as it seems and that sometimes, how you think things will be isn’t always how they truly are. My boyfriend’s daughter has brought so much love and light and wisdom into my life. This little ray of sunshine, in all of her six-year-old glory, has shaped me into a more patient, empathetic, and thoughtful person.

She has shown me that I am capable of being a positive role model and a great friend. That I can be flexible and understanding. And eventually, when we’re ready, that I will be a fantastic mother to our own children, too.

The three of us have made our own world. With inside jokes and laughs. With adventures and memories. And, the more I watch him love her, the more I fall in love with him. Seeing him be the father that he is makes me realize how incredible of a person he is, beyond just loving me.

Here I was, second-guessing and double-checking and resisting all of this, not knowing all of the joy and amazement it would bring into my world. It’s true, I’m not just dating him, I’m dating his daughter, too. But, my God, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The post Why I’m So Glad I Threw Out My ‘Never Date A Guy With Kids’ Rule appeared first on Scary Mommy.

We Quit Drinking, And It Saved Our Marriage

I’d been a non-drinking, recovering alcoholic for 10 years when my husband had his last bourbon. He did it quietly and I didn’t even know for two weeks. We went out to dinner to one of our favorite restaurants with an extensive wine list, and he just asked for water. I was shocked. He said it was time.

That choice has made our relationship so much stronger. We are better together when alcohol isn’t coming between us.

Early on in our relationship, alcohol was at the center of everything. We met up for drinks after work. We sat on his back patio drinking beer until the wee hours of the morning. Dinners out always included a few glasses of wine. I’m not sure we really had much in common that didn’t include drinking. We grew up in different cities. We were raised in different religions. He is six years older and was in college when I was in grade school. Our pasts were different; so were our presents. He liked sports, I read People Magazine. I listened to pop music, he preferred talk radio. There really wasn’t much there aside from our mutual affinity for Budweiser. Yet, we trudged along.

Once we were married, the drinking continued. But now it was becoming a nightly thing. A glass of wine after a long day at work, celebratory cocktails on Friday night for getting through the work week. It was always something. I started to recognize that my drinking was becoming a problem when I was going to work hungover all the time. I was pounding beers at least four nights a week, probably more, and it was destroying me.

I got pregnant and gave it all up for nine months. I was back on the barstool right after the birth of my son. But a few months after his first birthday, I got pregnant again. That was the end. I haven’t had a sip of alcohol since. I went on to have a total of four children. I have never drank at all in three of their lives. That feels good to me.

My husband continued to drink, though his drinking wasn’t the same as mine. He was less about getting drunk as he was about being habitual. Get home from work, crack a beer. Fire up the grill, get a cold one. Settle down for a movie after the kids go to bed, grab a bottle of wine. But he was doing it alone. It didn’t bother me … until it did. When he was drinking, we were fighting. It brought out the worst in both of us.

I began to resent him and his love for booze. We started to drift apart. I would put the kids upstairs and head to my bedroom to watch TV or scroll the Internet. He was left in the basement with a bottle and the TV. No wife to hang out with, so alcohol became his friend. After a while, he got annoyed. I was choosing to be alone because I didn’t want to sit with him drinking. He was drinking alone because I was choosing to head upstairs instead of hanging out with him.

We were living separate lives. Not as a married couple, but more like roommates. We would go out on Saturday nights and inevitably it would end up in an argument. I was tired of being the designated driver while he drank $20 glasses of wine. When I was doing it with him, it was fine; now it felt like he was just pissing money away. And that made me angry. I would pick at him when we got home, he would insult me, and we would go round after round until someone stormed off to sleep on the couch.

There was no straw that broke the camel’s back as an impetus for him to stop the drinking; he just did. As I said, it was quiet. He’s not the type to make big announcements about things like that. Instead, he makes a decision and sticks with it. He realized his children and I deserved the best version of him. He is nothing if not a man of integrity.

We are closing in on two years as a sober team, and our lives are so much better. Sure, we still argue — what married couple doesn’t? But now, it is less about tearing each other down as it is getting a point across. In that vein, the things that we used to blame on alcohol, we now have to face as being real challenges that we must work through. I am not nagging because I am drunk. He is not yelling because he’s had too much. Those are our true demons and we have to get through it.

Our lives with our children are better when they’re not clouded by a hangover. We have patience to deal with them and choose to spend our time doing what we love as a family, not getting drunk.

I want you to understand something. We do not have a problem with people who drink. We have a drinking problem. We will pour you a beer, glass of wine, or a snifter of bourbon at our parties; we just don’t drink it. It is perfectly fine to drink around us, we’re not judging or tempted. Many people can have a glass of wine here and there and function totally normally, but we are not those people. If I said that it didn’t concern me for my children, I would be lying. Alcoholism runs deep in their veins and I pray that when the time comes that they will think about their parents and choose their drinking path wisely.

I feel so fortunate that we didn’t let alcohol destroy us. Instead, we chose to end that relationship and work on our own. I love my husband with every fiber of my being, but if I said that I didn’t love him just a little bit more without the booze, I’d be lying. We say, “Cheers to saving our marriage,” but I toast it with a Diet Coke, hold the Jack. He’ll have an Irish coffee, sans the Bailey’s. And that’s perfect for us.

The post We Quit Drinking, And It Saved Our Marriage appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I Was A Victim of Child Abuse; This Is How I Became a Survivor

My mother never hit me. She never struck me, and while my father (regularly) whipped me with his brown leather belt, I never considered him an abuser. He was angry and temperamental, sure. But he was a parent of the ’80s, embodying dads of a different time. However, when I began therapy in the summer of 2020, shortly after my mother’s passing — when years of traumatic memories rushed forward and I became paralyzed by nightmares and flashbacks — I realized I was the victim of mental, physical, and emotional abuse, by him and my mother. My childhood was punctuated by damnation, manipulation, exploitation, put downs, and neglect.

Of course, I’ve long known my upbringing wasn’t “normal.” I mean, facets of it were. I was born in Florida in 1984 to a “good” family. I had a mother, father, brother, and dog. We lived in a gated community, complete with an eight-foot high privacy fence and above ground pool. And early on, everything seemed rosy. From the outside looking in, things were good. We had the perfect, nuclear, middle class life. But sometime between my fifth birthday and sixth, there was a change, and whether it was physical, sexual, or emotional in nature, I do not know. What I do know is that one day I was comfortable and carefree, a singing, dancing, happy-go-lucky kid. And the next day my head was turned down.

My voice had been altered forever. I was silenced by abuse — and I stayed that way for years, from age six to age 36. Every fiber of my being was crafted and created in this environment, in a place and space where I wasn’t respected, honored, cared for, or loved.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: How do I know I was abused if I cannot recall the details? If I do not remember the who, what, when, where, or why? Well, because trauma is like that. That’s the nature of PTSD, and sometimes the details are hazy. There are feelings and sensations associated with a memory. But they are not the memory itself. Instead, that is a dark spot. An (un)intentionally repressed moment.

But that’s not the only reason I know I was abused. While I do not recall the details of this first incident or even the second, I do remember large swaths of my childhood. And I remember being hit and called names. I was stupid and worthless. Once, I was called a mistake. I remember being posed, naked. A camera was aimed at me in the pool and while I was in the tub. I was regularly encouraged to “strip down.” And I do recall the belt.

That damn belt.

Of course, I am not alone. It is estimated that 1 in 7 children in the US has experienced and/or will experience child abuse every year, and while many individuals assume abuse hurts — i.e. many assume it is physical in nature, that child abuse involves broken bones and black eyes — most “victims” of child abuse are not hit. Neglect is the most common form of child abuse, followed by physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse. Some individuals, like myself, experience multiple forms of abuse. My father struck me, for example, but my mother manipulated me. She took the damn photos. She put me down. She also neglected me, particularly after my father’s passing. At 12 I was forced to feed, care for, and fend for myself, all while being verbally and emotionally attacked. And these “attacks” changed me.

Emotionally, my development was stunted. I am needy and people-pleasing. I desperately need approval and love. Mentally, I am trapped. I am still victimized by the voices that told me I was not good enough or smart enough. I struggle to be more than a “mistake.” And physically, I feel unsafe. While I need others, their touch makes me recoil. I feel unwell, nervous, ill. I literally shake. 

The good news is, I am growing and fighting. I am working closely with a psychologist and psychiatrist to reclaim both my body and mind and to rewrite my story. This week I will begin working with a trauma specialist, one who will use EDMR to help me move past my past. And every single day I tell myself I am enough, even if I don’t believe it — because eventually I will. As my psychologist tells me, the brain hears the words I say. And while this year has been hard — these traumatic memories make me feel as though I have been victimized, again and again — I do not see myself as a victim. Not really. Instead, I am a thriver. A survivor. My life was different, yes, but it is a difference which I can, and will, overcome.

The post I Was A Victim of Child Abuse; This Is How I Became a Survivor appeared first on Scary Mommy.