Valentine's Day Should Come More Than Once a Year
We came across this blog post and thought it had a pretty universal appeal. How do you plan to celebrate Valentine's Day?
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Seriously, what happened to Valentine's Day?
The Bride! The Groom! The Kids? Second-Time-Around
This is another in our series of articles about dating and mating for single moms. You can also join the single moms discussion in our MomTalk.com forums.
By Chris Grannis
You have done the groundwork, laid the foundations, and now you and your partner, are ready to announce the big day. All your hard work has paid off and the families are gelling well and are accepting of this new phase in their relationships. This is an exciting time in your life and the future looks rosy. After putting in so much effort to get to this stage it is crucial that you don't drop the ball at the wedding.
Having paid special attention to your children during the dating and engagement process, it is just as important that you continue this nurturing process through the planning and celebration of the wedding, and beyond. A wedding is an ideal opportunity for a couple in a second marriage to really let their children see how important they are and to include them in the planning and celebrating of the marriage. Whether it is a lavish occasion or a private family affair, it is possible to have everyone involved and feeling that their input is important.
Talk About It
Once the decision has been made to marry it is important to sit down with all the kids and discuss your plans for the wedding. No matter what age, children tend to be more secure when they are involved in planning events and it helps boost their self-esteem when they feel that their opinion is valued. At this planning stage it is important to write down everyone's suggestions, no matter how bazaar they may seem to you. If your fourteen-year-old daughter suggests that everyone should wear black you can make a positive remark such as, 'Oh yes, black can be so slimming!' And then write it down. You can later come up with an excuse that it makes you look drained, is a bit too hot for a summer wedding, or that a colleague wore black on her wedding day and you would hate her to think you were copying. The important thing here is that all the children feel involved and that their voices are heard. And even if you suspect that they are making ridiculous suggestions just to test the waters it is important that you stay calm and make an effort to neutralize the situation.
Involving Young Kids
Younger children will generally have adapted so much quicker to this new relationship and will be excited to be involved in the wedding ceremony. The key for this age group is to keep it simple. Toddlers and small children can participate as flower girls and ring bearers. Of course, there is also the added benefit of 'the cute factor' where little ones are concerned. They may even be able to recite a few lines of poetry but try not to put too much pressure on them. The key is for everyone to enjoy themselves and for you to have as little stress as possible. At a friend's wedding her two-year-old step-daughter, looking very cute in her flower-girl outfit, found a very large, very yellow bucket at the entrance to the church and decided this was much more interesting than the flowers she was carrying. Rather than risk a tantrum the toddler was allowed to carry the bucket up the aisle, which she did with great dignity and pride. It was such a hilarious start to the wedding and set a lighthearted tone for the rest of the day.
Big Kids and Teens
Older children and teenagers can participate as bridesmaids, groomsmen, and ushers. If the bride is being 'given away' it is quite common for the eldest son to perform this duty. However, he needs to be of an age where he can understand that this symbolism will not change your relationship with him. Tell him, 'This is just for fun. You're not really giving me away. You can't get rid of me that easily!'
At this age children often enjoy being involved in other parts of the preparation and ceremony. If they have creative talents they might enjoying helping with the decorations. If their talents run towards performance they could participate by reading, reciting poetry, singing or playing a musical instrument. A child's imperfect performance is often much more moving than the most polished of professional recitals.
Many couples give their children disposable cameras and let them loose to take pictures of whatever they please. Older children might also be trusted with a camcorder to get comments and views from guests on the day and this can turn out to be a wonderfully personal addition to the official wedding video.
Regardless of how you involve the children in the big day it is important that they are comfortable with it. Each child must feel that they are as valued as the next and that their part is of equal importance. If they are reluctant to participate in the actual ceremony don't force the issue, but do make sure that they have some part to play, from addressing the invitations to bagging up the wedding favors. And don't forget to make a fuss of what a great job they have done.
... Continue reading The Bride! The Groom! The Kids? Second-Time-Around.
Regardless of how you decide to involve the kids in your wedding make sure it is an enjoyable and positive experience for everyone. Having a great day can seem like a positive omen for the future, and is something that everyone can look back on with fond memories.
Preserving Your Relationship Once Baby Arrives
by Tracey T. Serebin
Whether you are expecting your first child or your second, as you are gearing up for the arrival of this little bundle of joy, one area that seems to get overlooked is how this new baby will change your life once he or she arrives on the scene, and especially how a little one will affect your relationship with your partner. The reality is that for any couple, whether they have been together for a short time or have weathered many changes over a number of years, this transition will alter every aspect of your relationship. The first few months are especially the most difficult, as each person grapples with the new responsibility and what that responsibility means on a day, to, day basis, and how it defines their relationship with each other.
There are concepts such as: What sacrifices will be made by each party for the benefit of the child? What duties will be covered by each person? And how will the responsibilities of work and family come into play? These are rarely discussed up front and end up becoming sore subjects within a relationship. This is because they are being worked through while each person is sleep deprived, emotionally spent, and overwhelmed with their new responsibilities.
This transition, however, can also create an opportunity for an even stronger relationship if the foundation for working together is laid down ahead of time. Which is why I created the book 101 Questions for Expectant Parents; Preserving Your Relationship through the Transition; as a talking tool to talk through the changes that will occur as couples welcome baby into their family. Communication is so critical for a harmonious relationship to exist and a solid partnership to work and time needs to be taken to communicate about changes on a regular basis.
While the first six weeks are a tough transition your relationship as a couple and as parents to your child will hopefully last a lifetime, and that requires constant nurturing of both. Below are ways to preserve your relationship through the early years with your baby.
1. Find time to talk when not emotional to discuss conflicts.
There are always going to be times when disagreements occur, but the key to working through those moments is to make time to talk when each person is not defensive, and real communication can occur. Sometimes that may not happen for several days, allowing each person to cool off and be able to listen to the other person's point of view. But agree to make that time and clear the air.
2. Be open to listening to the needs and feelings of your partner. Sometimes couples need private time to reconnect, learn how each other is feeling, and open up about what they perceive is missing. Life can be so busy and chaotic that weeks can go by with Mom really needing a hug and Dad truly wanting intimate time, and neither are able to get those needs met.
3. Talk about your physical and emotional needs to maintain closeness and intimacy.
While talking about what each other might need in the short term, also talk about what initiatives you want to put in place now that spontaneity is not as easy to achieve. Can you arrange date nights in the bedroom, where you can make plans to meet up right after putting the baby down. Or what about trying to rendezvous in the middle of the day when the baby is taking a nap. Now is the time to be creative, rather than allowing the moment to unfold. Be proactive because it won't happen otherwise.
4. Plan a regular date night.
This is another way to reconnect to who you are as a couple and not just as your baby's parents. Find a great babysitter (whether it be a grandparent or family friend) to watch your baby so the two of you can go off and do something fun. Or plan a night as simple as having a picnic in your own house with private time. Dedicate this time to yourselves. It will keep your relationship fresh.
5. How do you appreciate and cherish each other on a regular basis?
With a new baby occupying your full attention, it's easy to take one another for granted. So try to make an effort to do little things to show how much you care. A few examples are leaving a note for your husband before he goes off to work, having Dad rub Mom's back or shoulders when the baby is sleeping, cooking a special meal, offering to take the baby and give each other a break, or arranging a babysitter so the two of you to go out together, alone.
6. Learning how to collaborate?
This is where parenting as a team comes in. Start to learn how to come together and agree on the parenting methods you will use. Find ways to help each other with the responsibilities, and utilize one another's strengths and weaknesses. Communication is vital because each person needs to talk about where they require assistance, what they like or don't like about what their partner is doing, and what compromises will be made.
Remember that when parents are happy, baby is happy.
Tracey Serebin, is a Family Communication expert with an office in Franklin Lakes, NJ, working with kids, parents and families. She is author of 101 Questions for Expectant Parents; Preserving Your Relationship through the Transition book and host of Family Matters Radio Show on WebTalkRadio.net. Visit her at www.TraceySerebin.com
©2008 Tracey T. Serebin
... Continue reading Preserving Your Relationship Once Baby Arrives.
Women Starting Over
How to take charge of your financial future
Women are more educated, earn higher incomes and have a more powerful role in the workplace than women of previous generations. But in spite of this progress, 90 percent of women say they feel financially insecure, according to the 2007 Allianz Women, Money and Power Study. The vast majority of women will need to take financial responsibility at some point in their lives, so it is vital that they have the knowledge and confidence to take charge of their financial future.
A 2009 report by The Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) says that women are particularly vulnerable going into retirement. The findings in "How Can Women's Income Last as Long as They Do?" show that:
* Women at age 65 are expected to live, on average, another 20 years - four years longer than men. That means they will need to save more for retirement.
* Less than one third of retired women today receive pension income. And less than half of today's working women have access to a pension or retirement savings plan through their jobs.
* For more than 40 percent of older women living alone, Social Security is virtually all that they have. This group is four to five times more likely to be poor than married couples.
"Each stage of life holds events that can shape your financial needs and impact your ability to achieve long-term goals," says Katie Libbe, vice president of Marketing Solutions for Allianz Life. "Divorce and widowhood are two stages that have significant financial impact for women, so they need to learn how to take control of their financial futures."
Here are some tips to help begin the process of starting over.
Gather all the information you need to evaluate your current financial situation. These include:
* Checking and savings account statements
* Credit card information
* Tax returns
* Social Security records
* Investment information - stocks and bonds certificates, mutual fund statements
* Insurance policies - homeowner's, life, auto, health, long-term care
* Retirement assets - 401(k), pension, IRA, ROTH IRA, annuity statements
* Wills and powers of attorney
Evaluate how much money you will need for the next six to 12 months and keep that money in an easily accessible account in your own name.
* Pay Your Bills. Failure to pay your bills can result in bigger problems due to late payment fees, interest charges, and damage to your credit history.
* Take it Slow. Don't make any major purchases or changes right away. Give yourself time to heal emotionally before rushing into major decisions.
If you don't already have a financial advisor, it may be advisable to get one. "A professional financial planner can help you improve your current financial management and help you through these challenging changes," says Libbe. "Their expertise and objective perspective can save you time, and help you invest for your future."
To find a qualified financial advisor, you can ask trusted friends or professionals, such as lawyers and accountants, for references. You can also get references from professional associations such as the Financial Planning Association, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, or the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Make sure that you have a support network made up of trusted family, friends and professionals who can give you feedback, go with you to meetings and help you follow up on the actions you need to take.
For more information on finding a financial advisor and to download free financial checklists for the widowed or divorced, visit allianzlife.com/WomenMoneyPower.
Illustration courtesy of Getty Images
... Continue reading Women Starting Over.
Keep Passion Alive: 7 Tips
by Barbara Calvi, LMFT
Marriage and Relationships -- Do You Know the 7 Secrets to Keeping Passion Alive in Your Marriage?
We know that often, most of the time, passion and sparks tend to diminish in long-term relationships. Familiarity, tedious daily tasks and daily living, and oh, yes, caring for young children 24/7 all seem to conspire against passion and sometimes even interest in intimacy. Yet, research shows that one of the biggest determinants to well adjusted children is the health of the parental relationship. And...a healthy mutually satisfying sexual relationship plays a big part in the emotional and relational health of the couple.
The good news is passion and sparks can be reignited in long-term relationships! Read on and discover 7 tips for reigniting those sparks and keeping the passion alive in your marriage.
Tip #1 -- Create intimacy and bonding. You do this outside of the bedroom and reap the benefits inside the bedroom. Start by really listening to your partner. When your partner talks, give them your full attention, look them in the eye and use active listening skills. In other words, avoid interrupting or trying to fix it and instead, reflect back to your partner the essence of the underlying emotion of what they are saying.
Tip #2 -- Develop a mutual love language. We can't talk about sex without words. And sex is better and more intimate when we do talk about it with our partners. However, some words may be acceptable or even arousing to you but may be bothersome to your partner or the other way around. Find a private time to talk about your love language. You can do this over a glass of wine after the kids go to bed, while sharing a warm bath or while sharing a bowl of ice cream. You can make it serious or silly but take some time to discuss words and phrases for body parts and specific acts that appeal to both of you. Keep in mind that some words or phrases may be bothersome in casual conversation but may be sexy and arousing when you are feeling frisky.
Tip #3 -- Use requests instead of criticism. Instead of saying to your partner, "You don't ever...." in an attempt to get them to do something specific when having sex, figure out what it is you really want instead and then ask for it in a very inviting way. "Tonight I would love it if you would..." Instead of saying "no" to something your partner is doing, provide an alternative to get them on the right track.
Tip #4 -- Share your ideal love making experience. Create a sexy environment, light candles, play sexy music, eat sensual finger foods, sit outside under the stars -- and share each other what would make for you an ideal love making experience. Be sure to include some reminisces of previous lovemaking sessions between the two of you.
Tip #5 -- Vary your sexual routine. For most couples, after a while sex is pretty routine in terms of what people do, how long they do it, how they do it and where they do it. Most people eventually fall into the 15-30 minutes long just before bed or first thing in the morning category. Remember to add in the quickie once in a while (good to peak spontaneity and surprise) AND the more luxurious and romantic longer version once in a while.
Tip #6 -- Share your erotic maps. Maybe you've changed what you like or what you are interested in doing since the beginning of your relationship. Let your lover know what you like now. Remember, talking about sex can be very arousing. Don't miss an opportunity to talk about it.
Tip #7-- Be very specific about what turns you on and what techniques you want your partner to do. We usually don't get what we want unless we ask.
I invite you to use these 7 tips to bring some spark back into your marriage and your sex life.
... Continue reading Keep Passion Alive: 7 Tips.
I would also like to offer you my Free Report: "21 Ways to Renew Fun, Love and Passion" when you subscribe to my newsletter, "Love Your Love Relationship," a monthly newsletter with tips, advice and insights on creating stronger, healthier, and more passionate marriages. You can have access to both at www.Beatthemarriageoddscounseling.com.
Seven Secrets to Affair-Proofing Your Marriage
By Barbara Calvi, LMFT
Do you know the pitfalls that make your marriage vulnerable to an extramarital affair? There are certain dangers that do make a marriage more vulnerable to an affair occurring.
Research shows that most people who become involved in an affair did not intend to. In fact, most say they consider having an affair is against their values. Research also shows that over half of affairs occur in the workplace. Most of these affairs seem to blossom because good people don't know the pitfalls and danger signs. They become too chummy with a coworker and intimacy grows slowly. They find themselves ensnared in a whirlwind of emotion and attraction that could have been avoided.
The good news is most affairs can be avoided. Read on and find out what those dangers are and the secrets to affair proofing your marriage.
Danger #1 -- Getting too chummy with a coworker.
Tip #1 -- Keep conversations at the water cooler and else where casual and don't get personal. Once personal information is shared you are developing intimacy with someone other than your spouse. Most affairs do not start out with the married partner intending to have an affair; they end up as a result of a "slippery slope."
Danger #2 -- Talking about your spouse or your marital problems with a member of the other gender.
Tip #2-- Whether you are experiencing minor frustrations with your spouse or you believe your marriages in big trouble, talk with someone who could not possibly turn into a threat to your relationship down the line. Avoid any intimacies (sharing personal information) with a potential partner.
Danger #3 -- Your friend/coworker confides in you.
Tip #3 -- Extricate yourself form the role of confidant. You are now in an intimate relationship with someone other than your spouse. Also, "being the one who understands" is very seductive.
Danger #4 -- You put effort into looking nice for this person.
Tip #4-- Be very honest with yourself about what you are doing and how you are feeling about your spouse and your marriage. There may be absolutely nothing lacking in your relationship or marriage but having someone new can be very seductive and exciting.
Danger #5-- Working late starts to include going for dinner and a drink.
Tip #5 -- Keep work at work. Working late is how many affairs begin. When at work late try to have a third coworker involved in the project.
Danger #6 -- You've stopped talking about your friend or coworker to your spouse.
Tip #6 -- Keep your spouse in the loop about this friend like you would any other friend or business associate. If you find you have stopped mentioning someone you used to mention to your spouse it is again, time to be very honest with yourself. And, start talking about them again.
Danger #7 -- You keep your business calls from home "private."
Tip #7 -- Avoid dong this at all costs. Keep these calls strictly business. If you need some quiet and go in your den make sure the door is open. If you are reluctant to do so ask yourself why.
I invite you to follow these tips to help guard against an extramarital affair.
Have access to my Free Report: "21 Ways to Renew Fun, Love and Passion" when you subscribe to my free monthly newsletter, "Love Your Love Relationship," a monthly newsletter with advice and tips on creating a strong, healthy and loving marriage. You can get access to both at www.Beatthemarriageodds.com.
For further assistance with your marriage or relationship you can go to www.Beatthemarraigeodds.typepad.com or www.Beatthemarriageodds.typepad/affairrecovery.com.
Photo courtesy Geo Okretic
... Continue reading Seven Secrets to Affair-Proofing Your Marriage.
Keep the Home Fires Burning: Sexual Healing
Stress levels are high these days. Some of us have lost jobs, are afraid of losing jobs, or have close friends and family who have lost jobs. Everyone is worried about money to some degree. There's uncertainty and tension everywhere you look.
All this attention to worry might have left you giving little attention to other pursuits - like sex. But forgetting to give attention to your partner can lead to more stress, and that creates problems. If you are able to switch gears and forget worry for a bit, you can create a bit of sexual healing.
How can you do this when you're stressed and distracted all the time? That's a challenge, we know. But learning how to switch gears is an essential component to bringing back the romance and even affecting a little sexual healing.
Let's look at some ways to make this happen.
Make a cut-off each day
Easier said than done, to be sure, but this can be done with some focus and consistency. Decide on a time each day (perhaps around 9) when work and chores should be done. By this time, you should be done thinking about money, fretting over the job, or worrying about anything else.
Consider coming up with a formal transition each day. Perhaps at 9, you get in the bathtub and read a book. That signals that you are ready for other pursuits beyond the worries of the day.
Spice it up
When romantic endeavors are consistent from encounter to encounter, it's easy to get bored and allow worry to take over these activities. But if you do some things to spice it up, you might see sex as a welcome escape from the troubles of the day.
What entails spicing things up will vary from person to person, and couple to couple, of course, but consider adding toys or different positions. You might even consider a weekend where you send the kids away and reconnect with your partner sexually and romantically, sparking more interest beyond that weekend.
Speed it up
When life gets busy, it can be easy to let romance fall by the wayside, because there "just isn't time" but if you make time, you'll find that you want to make time more often. While a true quickie isn't for everyone, it can be a way to build more romantic and sexual connection, which often begets more and more romantic and sexual connection.
Or slow it down
The flip side of this is where the connections and healing can take place. When you slow down and really take time to enjoy being with your partner, you can begin to find some solace in that connection and be reminded of why you found comfort in your partner in the first place.
Take the time every now and then (at least once a month, but ideally more often) to slow down and enjoy every inch of your partner. Relish the sensations and the connection and relax into the comfort of having a loving partner to come home to each night.
by Deb McLeod
... Continue reading Keep the Home Fires Burning: Sexual Healing.