Your friends + My friends = Our friends?

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Healthy relationships are vital to life. When cared for, relationships bring us joy. They bring us strength. They bring us connection. And so many other great things. But relationships are work! And, I’m not just talking about relationships that come with a lifelong commitment like a marriage or parenting, but friendships too.

Friendships are relationships we choose to have. We start to take this autonomy of deciding our friends when we are young, even before we truly understand what it means to be a friend. When I was in elementary school, I remember sitting around the dinner table with my family and one of my parents always would ask, “Did you make any new friends today?” I don’t remember what my answer was on a given day, but I’m sure I answered yes.

Back then, a friend was someone who held the door for you while coming inside from recess. Or someone who would trade you their peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your egg salad. Or maybe even the girl who has the pretty bow in her hair … maybe we’ve never actually played together, but she seems cool, so I’ll say she’s my friend. (more…)

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The Impact of Gradual Change

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I recently read a (fictional) book about a woman, Alice, who takes a fall at the gym and bumps her head. After a series of comical and confusion-filled interactions, she eventually figures out that she has completely forgotten the last ten years of her life. In her head, she’s 30 years old, happily married to the love of her life, and expecting her first child. In reality, she’s getting ready to celebrate the big 4-0, has three children, and is going through a hostile divorce. I’m sure you can imagine the hilarity—and awkwardness—that ensues.

The main storyline of the book revolves around Alice’s inability to reconcile the present-day state of her marriage with the one from ten years ago, which she believes is the present. What could have possibly happened in the past ten years to make them fall out of love with each other? (more…)

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Why Your Partner Shouldn’t Be Your “Everything”

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Social media has exacerbated the romanticism of your partner being your “#everything.”  We constantly see Instagram posts about our friend’s boyfriend with captions like, “He’s my everything.”  Facebook photos of a picture of a couple’s silhouette in the sunset with cute calligraphy typed over top, “She is my everything.”  Or tweets of a sleeping spouse with hashtags of, “#myeverything.”

What?  Where does that even stem from?  What lead us to the problematic belief that our partners are the one and only person we need in our life? (more…)

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Maintenance Required

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My husband and I have lived in our house for four years. There are still rooms I consider “unfinished” and boxes shoved in closets. You would think that four years would be enough time to get completely settled in. While we have made significant improvements to the quality of our yard, it is still a constant work in progress. In the last couple of years, our small deck, that seemed nice enough four years ago, has slowly devolved to a state of warped, loose planks and even one that fell off completely.

I’ve learned that being a homeowner is a lot of (ongoing) work, whether we choose to do the work or not. You might even say it’s kind of like being married or in a long-term relationship. (more…)

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I am a Recovering Complainer

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I am a recovering complainer.

We were having a picnic lunch on a beautiful May afternoon.  There were three moms and four children.  While the children played, the moms talked. I remember talking about my house.  Actually, I did a lot of talking about my house.  I had a lot of complaints.  I live in a 117-year-old house that, by default, we are fixing up.  It is one problem after another. Not only did I complain about all there is to fix, but I also complained about the layout, the size of the rooms, the lack of closets, the location of the bathrooms, the lack of air conditioning…  I’ll stop there.  The picnic ended.  We parted ways.

Not long after the picnic, one of the three moms invited all of us over to her house. I parked in front and my daughter and I followed the sidewalk to the back of the house where there was a tiny backyard.  We greeted each other and were given a tour of the house.  I thought my house had small rooms.  I thought my house had problems.  Her living room was smaller than our office. There was one bedroom for four people, and it was smaller than my bedroom.  The floor was uneven.  It was dark.  It was crowded.  I was embarrassed.  I had complained about my house and here she lived in a smaller, more run down home than I did.  I felt terrible(more…)

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How to Maximize the Night Owl vs Early Bird Trade-Off

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I’m the early bird. I’m typically awake when the first glimmer of light peeks through the curtains. I lie there and doze, but by 6:00 a.m. I decide it’s a reasonable time to get out of bed, carefully without disturbing my husband. As I pass by the closet, I grab a basket of laundry. By the time the clothes are in the dryer, I’m planning the weekend activities while mentally visualizing what needs to be replaced in the pantry. I move on to watering the garden while enjoying my second cup of coffee.  At 8:30 a.m., it’s time to roust the household to get this laundry put away.

What might seem like work is actually peaceful, quiet time for me to enjoy the early morning. It might sound lonely, but I quite like this time to myself. Once the rest of the household wakes up and starts the day, we move into doing our Saturday “together.” My husband and I walk to the local grocery store and pick up a short list of items for the coming week. Once we get home, we decide to check a few things off the “to-do” list, which includes giving the dogs a bath. We make a new recipe for dinner; actually my husband makes a new recipe, while I follow behind cleaning up the dirty dishes. We end the evening with a glass of wine and movie. (more…)

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In an Independent World, is There Room for Dependency?

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Dependency is a unique word – one with many negative connotations.  We live in a world where being independent is so important, the thought of depending on someone or something is an ostracizing thought.

Think about your convenience store excursions.  What is flooding the front of the store?  Self-checkout kiosks.  What about gas stations?  Pay at the pump.  Taxi services?  There’s an app for that.  We have gone from asking our friends and neighbors questions about the world to owning a hand-held device that has all that knowledge right there, in the palm of your hand.  It’s only natural we stray away from the thought of being dependent on someone.

But unfortunately, that is a toxic way of approaching a relationship.  (more…)

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Love and Intimacy Takes a New Form

Words to think about from our staff at PE

They have been married for 66 years. The wife lives in the family home. Her husband is in a full time care facility.  She won’t drive much anymore and he can’t drive at all.

Every Sunday morning he hires the accessibility van to bring him home. If the bus is late picking him up, he knows she will worry.  He calls her from his flip phone to give her a new ETA.

She cooks his favorite breakfast and has it ready as soon as he arrives. For a special treat for lunch, some Sunday’s she will go to the local fast food place and bring home his favorites. When she asks him what he wants for supper, he always answers “Whatever you make will be delicious.” They share and enjoy the comfort of eating their meals together at the dining room table; the same table that in the 50’s and 60’s sat a family of five, then six, and finally a family of seven.

These people are my parents.

(more…)

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The Art of Jumping to Conclusions

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We all do it – we all make quick decisions without hearing the whole story.  It’s our human nature; we had to make these rapid pivots to stay alive as cave dwellers.  Imagine yourself as a Neanderthal – there’s a giant snake in front of you, blocking the entrance to your home.  Unfortunately for the snake, you don’t have time to research if it is poisonous or not, you just have to smash it with a rock so you can protect yourself and your family back in your cave.

We still do this, but instead of a giant snake in front of the entrance to our home, it’s the garbage over-spilling in the kitchen, the same garbage your partner promised to pitch out last night.  She knew you asked her to do it, since you did it the last two times.  She must have decided it wasn’t a priority to take out last night.  This thought is appalling, what did she do all last night?  Watch documentaries about people with weird addictions?  That’s more important than committing to your partnership? (more…)

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5 Easy Steps to Relax While on a Family Vacation

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Who doesn’t love to go on vacation? In the summer, we Minnesotans usually flock up north to a cabin on a lake. The warm sunshine, refreshing lake water, and lovely breeze are unbeatable – especially when you realize winter is only a few months away. But sometimes, the serenity vacation brings can be dampened by family dynamics and the little things that just drive you nuts. You know, your nephew waking you up at 6am, your father-in-laws tasteless jokes, and your husband’s grandma constantly tidying up when you’re trying to relax. It’s one thing to vacation with the family you grew up with, but it’s another thing to spend days with a family you are new to. Depending on how similar and different your family of origin was to your partner’s, your vacation might not be much of a vacation. (more…)

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