I Lost My Daughter To Estrangement — Here’s How I’ve Learned To Heal

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What Losing A Loved One To Addiction Is Really Like

When I entered my mother’s house on June 24, 2020, I knew what I was going to find. No one had heard from her in days. Her phone had gone unanswered. Texts had gone unread. When I rang her doorbell, there was no response. The intercom buzzed loudly. Incessantly. But I was met with silence. I didn’t hear her say “hello” or (her usual) “go away.” And that was because my mother was unconscious. Well, more accurately, she was face down on her bedroom floor clinging to consciousness. And while the exact details of that moment belong to me — to us — what happened next needs to be talked about. It needs to be explored. Because my mother died three days later, and while cardiac arrest claimed her in her final moments, addiction took her life.

It was a battle she lost.

She was only 65.

Of course, if I’m being honest, I knew this day would come. My mother, born the same year as “Sports Illustrated,” was a stubborn woman. A hard-headed woman. And while she endured her fair share of traumas and hardships — she lost her husband in 1996 and her job in 2001, and again in 2013 —  she was (in many ways) not a nice woman. She regularly said things like “screw him” or “fuck that.” She also had her demons. Shortly after my father’s passing, grief took hold of her. Depression consumed her, and she became a ghost in a shell. For 24 years, she lived in the shadow of death. But things got particularly difficult in 2013 when she lost her job. When, months later, she lost her mother-in-law because it was then she turned to the bottle.

She became an alcoholic in her 50s.

I tried to intercede. Two years before her passing, my husband — a recovered alcoholic — and I staged an intervention. We tried to support her and help her, to let her know she didn’t have to live like this. She wasn’t alone. But it didn’t go anywhere because she was sick. Sick and stubborn. She also hadn’t “bottomed out.” Unfortunately, she never would because her bottom would also be the end of her battle. Would be the end of her life.

We mourned her, in masks, on July 3. We buried her, alone and (still) in masks, on July 26, and while COVID has made our grieving process complicated, losing a loved one to addiction is even more complex because there is anger, guilt, sadness, and shame. Because there is disappointment and heartbreak — agony, anguish, and remorse. And because I’m not grieving her death as much as I am grieving the loss of her life. Of the moments we could have made, and the memories we should have shared. 

But that’s not all: When a loved one dies of addiction, there is a sense of responsibility and regret. While I know there is nothing I could have done, I blame myself, frequently and regularly. I shouldn’t have served her during holidays. I should have forced my way into her house and dumped her supply of booze. When a loved one dies of addiction, there is heartache and heartbreak. I distanced myself from her during her last year of life, taking the tough love approach, but it failed. I failed, and that hurts. The sadness is overwhelming. When a loved one dies of addiction, there is discontent. The loss feels like a slight. Like you’ve been robbed. And when a loved one dies by addiction, there is anger — a lot of anger — because things didn’t have to be like this. There was help available to my mother, but she didn’t see it. She refused to take it. 

There is also a sense of relief. I am no longer “on edge,” waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. Instead, it’s over. It has. The worst has come to pass.

That said, it is important to note that addiction isn’t just a “weakness” or a battle of wills. It is an illness, a complex disease which alters the structure of the brain. But knowing this doesn’t make things any easier. It complicates the grief process in ways I’m still coming to terms with, ways I am just beginning to understand. But I’m trying. I go therapy to process the pain, the shame, the guilt, the trauma. I run, journal, and write. I take care of myself in every way I can, and I speak about my mother’s addiction — openly and freely — so others do not have to struggle in silence. So others feel less alone.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of alcohol or addiction understand there is help and hope. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website and/or contact at 1-800-662-4357,

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My Husband And I Grope Each Other In Front Of Our Kids, And Here’s Why

My husband and I grope each other constantly. I don’t think a day goes by without at least one of us copping a feel. I say this proudly because after almost 20 years of being together, we are still hot for each other. And I don’t see any reason to hide this from our kids. 

Let’s be honest, keeping up with intimacy once you add kids to a marriage gets extremely challenging. You don’t have near the time or energy you used to have to focus on your spouse. And that can often mean that your sex life slowly dwindles down to nothing. So my husband and I will do just about anything to tend to the remaining embers of our childless sex life.

Yes, we hug each other for no reason, share lingering kisses in passing and cuddle up on the couch. But we also grab each other’s butts, purposely rub our bodies against each other, and cop a feel on various body parts. Although, the cop a feel part we usually do behind a counter, in the pantry or when we think the kids aren’t looking.  

We aren’t tonguing each other down and grinding in front of our kids. It’s almost always super casual and all in fun. It happens in the midst of mundane, everyday tasks like doing the dishes, folding laundry or making a meal. I mean, can you blame me for wanting to grope my husband when he is in the middle of washing dishes?!?!

We see groping each other as showing our love and affection in a quick, fun way. It’s like little snacks throughout the day to keep us looking forward to the meal to come behind closed doors. And no, we don’t have sex every night, so get your mind out of the gutter.

Now, based on a quick google search I did of married couples and groping, it seems I may be in the minority when it comes to liking my husband groping me and returning the favor. I will admit the word in and of itself is not the sexiest sounding word. And granted, groping is not the most romantic way to get in the mood. So, I get it if groping is not your cup of tea.

What works for my marriage may not work for your marriage. PDA might make you really uncomfortable. Or the idea of your spouse groping your behind might be a total turn off. But I can bet that every person in a relationship wants some form of physical affection from their partner. 

The way I see it, it’s a good thing that after 20 years, four kids, and lots of ups and downs, we can’t keep our hands off of each other. A little butt grabbing can go a long way in a marriage. It reminds me that my husband still thinks I am hot and still wants me. The day my husband stops is the day I start to worry that something is wrong.

We also bicker and fuss at each other in front of our kids over normal marriage things. They need to see that your partner can be your favorite person and still annoy the crap out of you. And you can fuss one minute and want to kiss each other the next. That is what real every day love is really like. 

I don’t want my kids to confuse the unrealistic grandiose romantic gestures they see in movies and TV with real life. That doesn’t mean there is zero romance going on. That just means that the majority of marriage is raising kids, working, keeping a house running, washing and folding clothes, cooking meals … and sometimes a grope here and there is how you let your spouse know you still see them and want them.

I want my kids to see the ups and downs of a healthy relationship. There aren’t many grand romantic gestures happening over here. Just everyday little moments that add up to a happy marriage. So I don’t hesitate to grab my husband’s ass even when my kids can see me doing it.

My kids rolling their eyes and yelling “ewwwww” brings me pure delight. I know they do it all in fun. And my husband and I never fail to point out how lucky they are to have parents that actually enjoy each other.

The way I see it, we are being the example of what we want for our kids. My husband and I are the barometer from which our kids will develop their future attitudes about sex and intimacy. I don’t want my kids to feel shame around physically expressing their attraction to their partner. I want my kids to see that there are multiple ways to be intimate in a relationship and it’s not always something that happens behind closed doors.

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t tonguing each other down or feeling each other up. We do have boundaries. But I see nothing wrong with my kids seeing us getting handsy with each other just as I see nothing wrong with them seeing us have respectful disagreements. It’s so very important that they see all sides of our relationship.

Whether you agree with groping your spouse in front of your kids or not, I think we can agree that parents should be mindful of the relationship example they set for their children. Children deserve to be in a home where their parents exhibit love and affection towards each other. And every relationship will have its own version of what that looks like. So don’t judge me for groping my husband and I won’t judge you.

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I Knew My Wife Was Amazing — But The Past Year Has Shown Me She’s A Freaking Rockstar

My wife and I have been married for 16 years. I’ve said this a lot during that time, and I’ll say it again: She is pretty freaking amazing. I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone so dedicated and thoughtful, and in love with her family. But living through a pandemic with Mel has really shown me, up close, exactly how hardcore she is as a mother and wife, and when I think about her contributions over the past 10 months, I cannot help but be completely, 100% impressed and grateful.

Here’s an accounting:

I’ve watched Mel sort through information about a life threatening virus, much of it contradictory, much of it changing by the week — but despite all that inconsistency, she always held to one simple and important goal: keeping her children safe, healthy, happy, and educated.

I’ve watched her sit at the kitchen table with a laptop in front of her, keeping up with her teaching job while one of our kids sits next to her with an open textbook, one eye on the computer, the other watching our child as they learn. Feeling stretched in two directions, but always doing the best to meet her obligations.

I’ve watched her adjust with each change from our children’s school, at first doing home packets, then online, then hybrid, and finally home packets again, each time taking it in stride and making the best of a complex and ever-changing situation.

I’ve watched her comfort our kids as they struggled to learn online and as they longed for friends and normalcy. Giving them support when they needed it most, lending an ear, and helping them sort through contradictory information.

And when things were bad for me, and I was hit with a dangerous spell of depression and anxiety in the shadow of a hard year, she was at my side, helping me find resources and supporting me when I needed it most.

And when things got bad for her, and she was stressed and uncertain and needed a good cry, I just sat and held her as she expressed her frustrations. Together we worked on a plan to better juggle the madness of pandemic living, and then I watched her get up the next day, her feeling determined — and I felt nothing but admiration.

When she was in the hospital for three weeks fighting for her life because of septic shock, and the kids couldn’t visit because of COVID-19, I watched her open up a laptop from her hospital bed and get on FaceTime to hassle our kids about their homework, making sure they were meeting their academic expectations.

I’ve been right there with her, knee deep in caring for our kids, both of us splitting the obligations equally, because this is a partnership. Together we have made sense of a very hard time, while also partnering in educating our kids from home, and supporting their emotional needs during a hard time. She has, without a doubt, not been doing all of this alone. I want to get that straight right now.

But I also want to say that this post isn’t about me. It’s one husband taking notice of his wife’s amazing contributions during a crazy time, because they are remarkable and worthy of gratitude. And 10 months into a pandemic, when the world still seems to be spinning in the wrong direction, one of the best things we can do as couples is sit down and give our spouse gratitude. Let them know that we appreciate their contributions, the way they have struggled to adapt to a difficult situation, and despite all the uncertainty, still demonstrated an incredible love for their family.

I’ve heard it said that challenges can bring out the best in people. Living through the craziness of 2020, and now 2021 (no, it obviously didn’t stop with the new year), I have been given an up-close look at how much my wife cares for our family, how determined she is to see them do well regardless of the obstacles. And all of that has translated into an even deeper love and admiration for who she is as a mother and as a spouse.

I have no doubt that the last 10 months have been chaotic for all of us. But if you have seen your spouse rise above, fight for what your family deserves, and continue to show up each and every day with love and compassion for the people they care the most about, then I suggest taking a moment and expressing your heartfelt thanks for their amazing contributions during a difficult time. If there is anything couples need right now, it’s more gratitude. The sacrifices have been great, and sadly, we are not out of the woods just yet.

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Why 50/50 Never Works In A Marriage (And What To Strive For Instead)

When my husband and I first got married, 15 years ago, we ran into one of the most vexing question of modern marriage: how can we create a life where we’re equals, connected, and in love? We didn’t want the marriage of our grandparents, where one of us took the spotlight while the other toiled away behind the scenes. We wanted to share the work inside and outside the house together, as equals.

Like most modern couples, this desire led us to create a marriage based on 50/50 fairness. When arguments arose, we asked, “how can we make this fair?” When one of us went over and above to help the other, we sometimes thought, “I just did way more than my fair share. Now he/she owes me.”

We lived like this for well over a decade. And after hundreds of attempts to find it, we finally realized that the idea of 50/50 fairness wasn’t working. In fact, it was making our life miserable. We finally reached the point where we wanted to know whether we were the only ones locked in this battle for 50/50 fairness or whether this was a more universal experience in modern marriage. So we interviewed over 100 people about their marriages for our book “The 80/80 Marriage.”

What we found is that just about every couple has their own version of this battle for fairness. For some couples, the war is waged over who does more and who does less around the house. For others, it’s about who saves or spends more money. For still others, it’s about who cares more, listens better, or even has the higher level of sexual desire.

The content varies but the result is always the same. The more we fight for fairness, the more we both end up feeling resentful, irritated, and misunderstood.

Researchers in psychology have a relatively simple explanation for this problem. First, it turns out that our judgments of who does more in marriage are distorted by what cognitive psychologists call “availability bias.” We have perfect insight into all of our trips to the store, tuck-ins, and other acts of contribution. But when it comes to our partner’s, things get fuzzy. And that leads us to consistently underestimate the other person’s contributions.

Second, the research of Jill Yavorsky at the University of Carolina Charlotte shows that we’re also really bad at estimating our own contributions to marriage. Her longitudinal time-diary research suggests that we significantly overestimate the amount of time spent on things like childcare, cleaning up around the house, or folding laundry.

This is why the battle for fairness is impossible to win. Even if we could find the perfect, 50/50, solution, our cognitive biases would still lead us to argue over what is or isn’t fair. Fairness, it turns out, is an illusion.

Is there love beyond fairness? We think so, and here are three tools for experiencing it in your own relationship.

Shift to radical generosity.

What’s the alternative to 50/50 fairness? It’s the practice of striving to do well beyond your fair share. We call it “radical generosity.” If we had to quantify it, we might say that it looks more like working toward the outrageous goal of contributing 80 percent.

This may sound edgy, uncomfortable, even irrational. “Why should I do more than my fair share?” you might be wondering. The reason is that this radical practice shifts the entire culture of marriage. It creates a contagious spirit of generosity – a spirit that dissolves the resentment of trying to make everything fair and brings you back into connection.

Appreciate your partner.

Fairness not only turns us into marital score keepers. It also keeps us fixated on all the great things we are doing, while staying relatively oblivious to the kind acts of our partner.

Appreciation reverses this pattern. It’s the simple practice of scanning your partner’s actions throughout the day for moments when they did something right or acted with compassion. When you catch them in the act of contribution, all you have to do is express your appreciation. It’s as simple as saying, “I noticed how much time you spent this morning getting the kids ready for school. Thank you for all of that work.” The research on this is clear: appreciation is one of the most powerful practices for enhancing the strength of your marriage.

Reveal the hard truths.

When locked in this battle for fairness, the way we handle conflict often amplifies our experience of anger and resentment. Instead of revealing our feelings of resentment or irritation, we tend to lash out at our partner with sarcasm, underhanded jokes, or silent, passive aggressive, displays of anger.

There’s a better way to handle these inevitable moments of misunderstanding and conflict. It’s the practice of simply revealing your inner experience to your partner. It’s a simple as saying, “I notice that I feel upset when you come home late without texting me. Can you please give me a heads-up next time you are going to be late?”

The key is to offer this feedback from a spirit of kindness and radical generosity. When you do, these moments of misunderstanding and conflict can turn into opportunities for growth and connection.

Using these three tools, you can change your experience of marriage. And while that might not seem fair – why should you be the one to have to make this change? – your change is likely to be contagious. It’s a change that your partner will notice. It’s a change that can help you shift out of resentment and back into love.

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Verbal And Emotional Abuse Is Sometimes Hard To Recognize, But It Can Leave Scars

She didn’t push you. He didn’t hit you. There are no bruises. No cuts. No wounds. No scars. But the absence of a bloodied nose and broken bones doesn’t mean you are well. It doesn’t mean you are cared for or safe, and it doesn’t mean you haven’t been abused. Why? Because abuse can take many forms. From putdowns and neglect to character assassination and emotional manipulation, it can wear many faces, and while the signs of emotional and verbal abuse are harder to recognize, that doesn’t make said abuse any less detrimental or dangerous.

Emotional and verbal abuse can have both short- and long-term effects.

“Staying in an emotionally or verbally abusive relationship can have long-lasting effects on your physical and mental health,” the Office on Women’s Health explains. Chronic pain is a frequent reaction to emotional and/or verbal abuse. Mental health-related issues, like depression or anxiety, are also common, as are self-esteem issues and feelings of guilt, fear, or shame. Some individuals who have been emotionally and verbally abused will turn their pain and anger inwards, injuring or harming themselves, and some will have suicidal thoughts.

When I was in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship, I made the first of several suicide attempts. 

But before I get into the effects of verbal and emotional abuse, I should talk about the signs – the all-too-common indicators you are in an unhealthy relationship. Those who are verbally and/or emotionally abusive are demeaning and demanding. They speak to you in an aggressive way, one which diminishes your voice and sense of self. Those who are verbally and/or emotionally abusive are controlling. They tell you what to do or wear. They want access to your computer, phone, and friends — if they still “allow” you to have friends. Those who are verbally and/or emotionally abusive are insulting. They call you names, such as “stupid” and “disgusting” and “worthless.” They constantly put you down. Those who are verbally and/or emotionally abusive are manipulative. They coddle you and apologize before hurting you, again and again, and those who are verbally and/or emotionally abusive gaslight you.

They make you believe you are bonkers, or at the very least, overly sensitive. Your account of events is (almost) always wrong.

But that’s not all: Some verbal and emotional abusers yell and scream. They use their voice to instill fear and make you feel small. Some are neglectful and dismissive. They ignore you, dehumanize you, and shut you down, but most abusers are a combination of all of these things, as was the case with me. My abuse started slowly, subtly, with coercion and manipulation. 

“You don’t want to hurt me, do you? Stay with me. Don’t leave me. I need you.”

It morphed (somewhat quickly) into something deeper. Something darker. Something more cunning, hateful, and insidious.

“You’re nothing without me. You’re helpless and hopeless. Stay. You cannot make it on your own.” 

And when I was mentally beaten into submission, my abuser’s tone changed. There was yelling. Cursing. Screaming. I was put down on a constant (and chronic) basis. They “loved” me, overtly and covertly — keeping me from friends and family. I was manipulated in ways I didn’t understand, and both the short- and long-term effects were damning. My self-esteem has been shattered. I often feel I am worthless and broken beyond repair. I also struggle with mental illness; anxiety colors my days, and depression consumes most nights.

That said, I am not alone. Millions of individuals have experienced the effects of verbal and/or emotional abuse, individuals like Sara — who survived an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship — and Brandie, who survived an abusive marriage. 

“When I was in an abusive relationship, I questioned everything,” Sara said. “I hated myself and felt like I was an awful person. Like I was going nuts.”

Brandie tells Scary Mommy she “didn’t recognize” herself anymore. “I stopped showering, stopped brushing my hair, and didn’t care what I wore,” she says. “I also NEVER smiled in pictures… because I couldn’t. It hurt too much.” But the long term effects have been particularly damning — for myself, Sara, Brandie, and all of the individuals I spoke with.

“I have beyond low self esteem,” Brandie says. “I question every decision I make and put myself down.” One woman, whose name we’ve withheld at her request, echoed a similar sentiment.

“It’s been over three years since my relationship ended, and a bit over two years since I last saw him in person… but I still feel unsafe and violated,” she said. “I still feel worthless.”

Why? Because while bruises fade and wounds heal, the pain of verbal and emotional abuse — scratch that, the pain of any form of abuse — remains. Events like these shift your mind. Your character. They alter who you are. According to the Office on Women’s Health, many survivors of abuse struggle with shame and guilt. They also feel helpless and hopeless. They struggle to feel safe and secure in their body (and their voice). 

The good news is, there is help, and hope. You do not have to be hurt or victimized any more. This isn’t your cross to bear. It is not your lot in life. And while walking away sounds easy — while overcoming, rather, undoing the effects of said abuse seems easy — I’ll be the first to tell you it isn’t. Leaving an abusive relationship is hard, and undoing the toxic tapes is damn near impossible. But you can do it. You can get out, and I promise you: There is light on the other side.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911. If you aren’t in immediate danger and/or you have an opportunity to reach out, do. Confide in a trusted friend, family member, therapist, and/or volunteer with an abuse shelter or call a domestic violence hotline

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Tired Of Fake Friends? Then Stop Being Fake

Do you trust all your mom friends not to talk about you behind your back, or do you worry that they’re insincere and toxic?

Do you find it difficult to find fellow moms who get you? Are you lonely even though you have a crew of mom friends? Are you longing for people around whom you can be authentic? Are you sick of pretending to be someone you’re not?

Are you sick of fake friends?

Here’s the thing — if you don’t want fake friends, the only answer is to be 100% real yourself.

Yeah, I said it.

If you’re being fake, you’re attracting fake friends. The kind that are insincere and toxic. The kind that talk shit about other people.

Now, wait a sec, you may be thinking. You don’t know me. How dare you judge my friendships?

And you’re right. I don’t know you. But I’m not wrong, either.

The reason you’re finding yourself with fake friends may be because like recognizes like — and authentic people would rather swill poison than willfully consort at length with phonies. Genuine people seek other genuine people because they don’t know any other way to live — it’s simply too exhausting to try and be anything else.

But also — fake people don’t particularly enjoy being around authentic people because no one likes to be called out on their shit. And not that genuine folks will be pulling a ton of “the emperor has no clothes” shenanigans, but it’s a lot more likely.

I don’t say this to be mean.

While some folks use “keeping it real” as an excuse to utter cruelties, I say this out of kindness. If you really are sick of contrived friendships and want a change, think of this as the personality equivalent of “you’ve got something in your teeth.”

So, in the spirit of friendship and reaching across the aisle, here are some ways to stop being a phony.

1. Figure out why you aren’t “real”

Now, this will require some self-discernment and self-awareness — and it may hurt a bit — but it’s important to dig a bit deeper. Are you afraid of being rejected for who you really are? Do you want to seem in with the “cool” crowd? Are you worried about trying to fit in for your kids’ social lives? Do you hate making waves?

2. Tell the truth

Again, people conflate telling the truth with saying all the horrible things you’ve been keeping inside. That’s not it. What it means, though, is to tell the truth about how you’re doing, if you need help, if you are having a bad day, if you want something or not, and if you like something or not.

3. Stop gossiping

Gossips break trust. Make it a habit to only speak of a person what you would say to their face. If other people gossip with you present, say you are uncomfortable talking about someone behind their back and change the subject. This can be easier said than done at times, I know, but if these folks are often talking to you about fellow acquaintances, then you can safely assume they are talking about you as well.

4. Be vulnerable

We often associate vulnerability with telling everybody everything about ourselves — however, this is unnecessary (and also, unwise). Rather, it simply means to be yourself. It can feel incredibly exposed to be ourselves — especially if we are unsure of the reception. Isn’t that why we contrive to be someone else? This way, if we’re rejected, it’s not really us being rejected; it’s our persona being rejected.

5. Be the friend you want to have

What do you want in a friend? Do you want someone loyal? Kind? Funny? Courageous? Is it cliché to cite The Golden Rule? Maybe. But it works. Instead of searching for a great potential friend, be a great potential friend.

6. Drop the people you don’t actually like

You don’t have to give folks a powerpoint presentation on why you no longer want to be friends. After all, we’re still in the middle of the pandemic. You aren’t hanging out in person, and you can slowly ease out of replying to texts or group chats and blame it on the coronavirus. Friendships phase out all the time; why hang onto people who don’t bring you joy?

Keep in mind, this shift will take time and it will likely be uncomfortable before it isn’t. And — I’m not shitting you — fake it ‘til you make it. Did I really just tell you to fake being real until you are real? Why, yes. Yes, I did.

But seriously, it’s just a catchier way of saying “practice makes permanent.” Pretend you are the kind of person who is themselves all the time and behave as you truly are, and soon, you really are an authentic person. The best part? Like really does attract like — and now you’ll be surrounded by people who are attracted to the real you, because who you are now is really great.

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Making Friends As An LGBTQ Parent Is Not Easy, And COVID-19 Doesn’t Help

Friendships are hard to come by at any age, but especially right now. Some of my closest friends are the ones I have from college, a very small circle of people. The other group of friends I have are the ones I’ve acquired from various jobs over the years. Since becoming a parent, I’ve been very intentional about keeping a small friend circle — a group of people in my life who understand the intricacies of being a gay parent.

With COVID-19 promising to stick around for some time, maintaining my friendships is now accomplished mostly through text messages. And now, as we try to maintain some normalcy for our kids and help them keep up their friendships, I’m asking myself if it’s worth putting energy into trying to make new friends of my own, to befriend the parents of my kids’ friends. I don’t know, and I am far from figuring it out.

It’s exhausting to make new friends and even more time consuming to maintain said friendships. Parenthood can be a very lonely endeavor from conception. When my kids started daycare, I thought I’d perhaps make friends with the parents of their toddler friends as we crossed paths at drop-off or afternoon pick-up. For me, that never happened. There is a huge part of me that feels like I am putting undue pressure on myself to make new friends simply because of the isolation we’ve all been in — and then, there’s the fact that I am an introvert.

A simple internet search of “how to make friends with other parents” points to a helpful New York Times article that gives clear advice on how to make friends as a parent. The top three ways, according to this article, are: “start close to home,” “make the first conversational move,” and “find an online parenting group that’s right for you.” It reminds me of online dating, and how awkward it all feels at first until you find your groove or that person who you enjoy talking to. But COVID-19 makes that even more challenging.

Mom of one, Anrielle George, says she and her wife haven’t made any new parent friends since the pandemic began. “There is nowhere I feel safe enough to gather,” she told Scary Mommy. “Even at drop off or pick up at daycare, our daughter is taken at the exterior door and brought to us at the door. We have never seen inside the building, let alone the classroom. I think this plays a huge role; interaction with everyone is different and limited. Maybe gaydar isn’t as effective through masks?”

Perhaps Anrielle is onto something here; safety plays a role in how far we can push the possibility of making friends. Our “gaydar,” she reminded me, is less effective when we cannot see the entirety of someone’s face. Body language is interpreted differently, and we must find new ways to assess the intentions of strangers — the way that we, as gay people, keep ourselves safe and our kids safer by observing their behavior.

And then there’s step two — to initiate conversations and be the first to do so, which is hard enough in normal times. We must use our words (something we also teach our kids to do) to not only make friends, but to understand the kind of person we are dealing with. This can be nerve wracking for anyone, but it’s even more so if you’re gay; will they be a closed-minded bigot? Just as importantly, how will their kids react to yours? Add the pandemic into the mix, when social distancing is a necessity, and easing into a comfortable conversation is nearly impossible.

One of the pieces of advice in the New York Times article that stuck with me is to initiate conversations free of expectations. Melanie Dale, author of “Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends” and mom of three, states in the article, “If another mom tells you she can’t hang out, she may just be busy or maybe she was burned from her last friendship and she’s nervous.” In other words, we shouldn’t try to predetermine where a potential new friendship is going to lead, so we won’t be disappointed (or take it personally) if the conversation ends up going nowhere.

I don’t have time to invest in others when they do not have time to invest in me. As a gay parent, I have high expectations for the people I let into my life. But perhaps if COVID-19 is teaching me anything, it’s that I should expect nothing and be more flexible not only with my expectations, but how I make friends — if I make friends.

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Dating During The COVID Crisis? Here Are 6 Ways To Meet Guys, Gals, And Non-Binary Pals

Dating is tough, but thanks to the coronavirus crisis, finding a casual or romantic partner is more laborious than ever. After all, there are no restaurants to go to. No bars to visit. Even libraries and museums are shut down. But you don’t have to put your (love) life on hold. There are ways to date in this age of social distancing, lockdowns, and quarantines.

Here are six ways to meet guys, gals, and non-binary pals.

Create an Online Dating Profile

The easiest — and arguably — most efficient way to meet a casual or romantic partner is via an online dating site, like eHarmony, Match, Bumble, Grindr, Tinder, BlackPeopleMeet, and HER. Of course, which site(s) you chose will vary, depending upon your personal interests or needs, but the first step won’t change: In order to date new people, you need to meet new people. You need to put yourself out there.

Join a Virtual Club

If online dating isn’t your thing, fear not: You can make new friends — and, potentially, meet new love interests — in other ways. Virtual book clubs and online religious groups are a great way to meet like-minded people. Online music classes, art classes, and writing classes will get your creative juices flowing and place you in contact with others. You can even host or join a virtual happy hour.

Not sure where to begin? Sign up for Meetup! This online service will help you locate groups that host in-person and virtual events for people with similar interests.

Update Your Social Media Status

While I know this sounds strange — after all, how will a social media status change improve your love life? — it’s important you put your desires out there. Plus, you never know who will see this update. Someone on your friends list may like you or they may know someone who is interested, which brings me to my next point…

Network

Networking is common in the business world. It’s the action or process of meeting (and interacting with) new people — and this is done through connections. So-and-so introduces you to so-and-so. Rinse and repeat. But you can also use networking in your personal life. How? Well, ask your friends and family members to put you in touch with someone you may get along with, romantically or otherwise. This expands your “network.” Plus, pre-vetted connections are some of the best connections, since your friends already know your interests, needs, and desires.

Go on “Video” Dates

Once you’ve found someone, it’s time to plan a date. But how does that work work, especially now — in an age of social distancing, lockdowns, and quarantines? Well, the safest way to get together is virtually. (Yes, virtually.) But fear not: You can still have fun. How, you ask? Well, you can watch a movie using Teleparty, an online video synchronization playback system. You can visit the Guggenheim Museum in New York or the National Gallery of Art. Playing games online is another great way to meet and mingle. Games like Scattergories, Bingo, Quiplash, cards, or Guess Who work great. You can also just have a virtual happy hour or hang. After all, there’s nothing quite like cocktails and conversation.

Plan an Outdoor Rendezvous 

If you want to meet up, the best (well, safest) way to do so is to meet outdoors. Go for a walk, a hike, or a bike ride. Stroll and sip coffee. Ice skate or go skiing. Picnic in the park or head to your local beach, if you live near the water. You can even build a campfire and have s’mores. However, know that in-person meetings come with inherent risk. The only way to truly protect yourself from COVID-19 is to isolate and quarantine beforehand.

If you decide to move forward with an in-person meeting, wear your mask, social distance, and pre-test if possible. You should also plan to have the COVID talk, if and when things become serious. Why? Because COVID-19 is a very real health concern and Dolores Albarracin, PhD —a professor of psychology, business, and medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — tells WebMD “each party needs to understand what the other person is doing, their attitudes toward mitigation measures including mask wearing, disposition to testing and/or quarantine, before meeting.”

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.  

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Your Friends Don’t Always Need Your Advice

My mother is one of those people who asks you a question so she can get you to talk about your experience for a second or two before she cuts in to blab about her take on it. She doesn’t actually care what you are doing for the holiday, or how you spent your summer. She’s not fishing about symptoms of a sickness or your feelings on politics because she wants to know. It’s a gateway for her to be able to talk about herself. She’s asking so she can interrupt you and inject her thoughts and opinions.

While she was over here a few weeks ago for a short visit, she probably interrupted me 10 times (I stopped counting after 7) and my son became so frustrated with her, he left the room. She was asking him what was going on in his life lately and since there wasn’t much to report, he was telling her about some truck trouble he was having. Newsflash: my mother knows nothing about vehicles but suddenly she turned into the author of “Auto Repair For Dummies.”

Even my teenage son simply wanted to vent his frustrations without getting advice.

While I’ve dealt with her my whole life and am used to her soul sucking ways, it got me thinking about how we all have someone in our life who feels the need to give and give and give. By that I mean unwanted advice — without really listening. 

It wasn’t until my thirties that I really started to treasure my friendships who practiced the art of listening. I was venting about my then mother-in-law one day of my neighbors front porch. She didn’t interrupt, she didn’t try and give me advice. She didn’t even pull an “I know what you mean because my mother-in-law does the same thing.”

She said (when I was done telling her how glad I was she was finally out of my house), “Your mother-in-law. Tell me about her.”

That was it. After that sentence she was done. For the rest of our visit, she listened without judgment or opinion and I felt so much better.

I swore from that day on I would be a better listener because I’d never felt so validated or heard in my life.

I’m all for chiming in and relating to each other; it’s how we connect. There’s nothing like knowing you aren’t going through something alone. However, there’s a time and a place for that kind of talking and feeding off of each other.

There’s also (an even bigger) space to just sit and listen. There’s no need to tell a story that happened to you that’s similar. There’s no need to cast an opinion about the situation or person someone is dealing with. And there’s especially no need to give out advice unless it’s specifically asked for, or if you ask if you can give it and permission is granted.

I’ve learned through the years that most people do what they want to do, regardless of the efforts you put in to try and change their mind.

But you know what’s rare? For someone to sit in silence and let you do the talking. Someone who can be still and let you know they are present while you get it all out. Someone who doesn’t break eye contact, look at their phone, or seem distracted while you are telling them a story and trying to verbally talk something out. 

I think it’s become our natural response to think someone is looking for us to fix their problem if they come to us when they are struggling or stuck. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but most of the time they are just looking for you to listen. To give a bit of yourself with no strings attached.

Because when you do that, you are saying, “You matter, you don’t need fixing, and I’m here to listen to you because I believe in you and know you can figure this out for yourself.”

In today’s world, we are all dealing with so much and yes, we all have limited time. But when someone is trying to talk with you and you feel the need to finish their sentences to hurry them along, give them your opinion on how they should handle it if they didn’t ask you, or tell them about a time when something similar happened to you but it was ten times worse, it takes up a lot more time and energy than it would to just sit and listen.

My friend gave me a gift that afternoon I never received before — simply by inviting me to talk while letting me know the only thing she was going to do was listen.

I didn’t leave her house feeling like I had to take her advice, or keep it from her if I didn’t, because she didn’t give me any.

I didn’t feel judged or like she thought I was awful for having secret fantasies for yelling at my mother-in-law.

I also didn’t feel ashamed because she told me a few stories that put my situation to shame.

I felt heard and loved.

Listening to someone is free. Saying, “What can I do to help you right now?” is a hell of a lot more effective than trying to turn into Dear Abby. And I’ve also found it’s a better way to really get to know someone when you sit back and let them talk freely without jumping in. 

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