February 3, 2012 at 11:17 am , by Lauren Piro
Newlyweds Isabella and Ryan assumed that married life would be blissful and easy. Kids, right? Read on to find out how they learned to communicate (and keep their problems off the internet!), and find the full story here.
Isabella’s turn: Isabella comes from a very close-knit, traditional family. Her mother’s home was always immaculate, Isabella is very close to her sister, and everyone in her family knew they had responsibilities. Then she married scruffy, free-spirited Ryan, and found that their home life was, well, different. To Isabella, Ryan is a slob stuck in a dead-end job. He never helps around the house and resents the fact that she makes more money than he does (even though she knows he could be a successful comic-book writer if he put his mind to it). Tensions were rising, and then Isabella stumbled upon the real kicker. Ryan had been keeping a blog (which had garnered a bunch of readers!) complaining about life with Isabella. She feels betrayed and wonders how well she knows him at all.
Ryan’s turn: Isabella is overreacting—he’s only using a the blog as a way to express his feelings, and likes the advice he gets from his readers. He says it’s like anonymous group therapy, that’s all. Ryan’s life has always been a bit difficult. His parents had him at a very young age, his dad was an alcoholic, and recently they got a divorce, which Ryan took pretty hard. For awhile, Isabella made his life better—she was romantic and caring, and he loved spending time with her. But now, she just nags him as soon as she gets home from work. He feels like nothing in his life is working right now (including his dull job), so he took to the internet to sort things out. It’s not a big deal. Why can’t Isabella just drop it?
The counselor’s turn: Like many couples, Ryan and Isabella didn’t think it was important to discuss how they would handle everyday tasks once they got married. They seem trivial, but responsibilities like managing housework can quickly cause fighting and marital disappointment. Ryan’s blog was definitely hurtful, but it helped the couple finally get their feelings and problems out in the open. After working with the counselor, each agreed to try harder. They created a chore schedule to organize their household management in way that worked for both of them, and Isabella curbed her constant nagging, trading her resentment for better communication. Ryan apologized for hurting Isabella and minimizing her concerns, and admitted that it bothered him that Isabella was the family breadwinner. The counselor recognized that Ryan had a tough childhood, but told him it was time to change the outcome of his story and earn some self-worth. The couple decided that Ryan would enroll in art school to kick-off his new career, and before long their closeness returned.
January 20, 2012 at 10:38 am , by Lauren Piro
Infidelity, fertility troubles, major work-life imbalance—Anna and Brent, both 37, hit every relationship-shaking rung on their fall down the marriage ladder. But even big bumps and bruises aren’t necessarily a death sentence. Listen in on how they started to patch things up, and find the full story here.
Anna’s turn: Anna always thought she and Brent had the perfect life—they don’t fight, their families love each other, and they’ve always shared similar values. But before long, some hurdles got in the way of wedded bliss. Both Anna and Brent have super demanding jobs, which adds a ton of stress to their schedules, including time spent trying to have a baby. Anna’s had fertility treatments to help them along, but she’s also had two miscarriages. She’s devastated, but Brent barely batted an eyelash—he often keeps his feelings hidden. When he started drinking more and dodging her phone calls, Anna started to get suspicious. She never thought he would cheat, but one day it all came out. Brent confessed he was sleeping with a woman named Kay, a co-worker, and he’s not even sure he wants kids of his own. Anna believes that marriage is forever—but how will she ever trust him again?
Brent’s turn: Overall, Brent had reached his breaking point. He loves his work as a lawyer, but of course, it’s quite stressful. He feels overwhelmed with baby-planning—a life stage he’s not even sure he’s ready for—and hates his and Anna’s house. The tension has forced them further and further apart, and they rarely make time for sex. Instead, one night after a particularly rowdy office party, he turned to Kay. He’s ashamed, so he ended the affair, but Kay still works with Brent, and he’s not in a position to move her to another department or leave his job. He’s just not sure what to do any more.
January 13, 2012 at 10:10 am , by Lauren Piro
Oh, love in the time of Facebook. Such innovation. Such connectivity. Such possibility … that your high school flame will friend you and want to reconnect in a more-than-friendly way. (We’re onto what that “poke” button is for, Mark Zuckerberg. How sly of you.) That’s what happened to Jenny, 38, wife of Tom, 36. Her old sweetheart Grant came-a-clicking and before she new it, she was in a hotel room with him. Read on to find out what transpired, or check out the full story in our February issue, on newsstands now.
Jenny’s turn: Jenny was feeling trapped—Tom is a workaholic, and all the couple ever talks about these days is how to homeschool their kids. All the parents at their church do it, and the couple was supposed to take it on together, but now Jenny basically does all of the work, and occasionally Tom makes a bossy suggestion. With all of this on her plate—and all of the housework—Jenny doesn’t have time for the gym, Bible class or coffee with friends, so she started spending hours on Facebook to feel less lonely. That’s when Grant sent her a message. They started talking and texting, and Grant made Jenny feel like herself again, which she really missed. Eventually, they decided to meet up and spend the day together. Jenny lied to Tom and had dinner with Grant. Every step of the way, she knew it was wrong, but couldn’t help it—until her kissed her in their room at an inn. Jenny immediately felt awful and told him to leave, and she went home the next morning and told Tom everything, sobbing. Will she be able to convince him that he’s the only one she truly loves?
Tom’s turn: First of all, there’s no way he believes that Grant didn’t spend the night with Jenny. Does she take him for an idiot? He was shocked when Jenny confessed, but looking back on everything he can’t believe he missed the warning signs. Their cell phone log shows 300 pages of calls between Jenny and Grant, and Tom always thought she was just excited to reconnect with her friends on Facebook—not her ex-boyfriend! He knew the homeschooling was hard on her, but he didn’t think it had gotten this bad. If he ever cut Jenny off when they were talking about the kids, it was only because he hates arguing. He can’t believe she’s done this to him—and he’s not sure he can move past it.
January 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm , by Lauren Piro
We picked The Bird Sisters for December/January hoping to inspire chatter about sisters and family ties with your own loved ones over the holidays—and many of you did just that! We successfully hosted our first LHJ Book Club author Facebook chat, and tons of you came out to ask Rebbecca Rasmussen your burning questions on her life as a novelist, share your favorite recent reads and declare your love for the book (read some of chat here—and stay tuned for more author chats in the future!). Still haven’t been bitten by The Bird Sisters bug? Read Rebecca’s letter to her readers and thoughts on the novel from the bloggers at Girls In The Stacks to get you started.
And now that February issues are on newsstands, it’s on to the next for the LHJ Book Club! This month we’ll be chatting about The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, by Elizabeth Stuckey-French. Sound like wacky one? It is—sort of. Stuckey-French’s tale of a woman who plots revenge after she’s unwittingly involved in a Cold War-esque government study tackles themes of struggle and sadness, but from a darkly humorous angle that makes Radioactive immediately addicting. Visit our book club page for an introduction! And, as always, stay with us on Facebook, Twitter, and right here on our blog to join the conversation as we chat about the book all month long.
January 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm , by Lauren Piro
Did you read that headline and immediately say, “Whoa!” So did I. Let’s dive right in and find out what was really going on with this couple, Pam, 40, and Jack, 42. And be sure to read the full story for even more details.
Her turn: Pam’s adult life was a challenge from the start. After growing up with an alcoholic mother, Pam found out she was pregnant at 17. She decided to keep the baby, Zoe, and marry the father, but that quickly turned disastrous—he was abusive and Pam eventually left him. But then things started to look up—she got her GED and met Jack in class. She thought he was charming and fun, and after two years they were happily married. Jack even adopted Zoe, and a few years later twin boys Sam and Max were born. At about that time, Pam took motherhood on by storm and Jack threw himself deeper into his work. Over time this caused tension—Pam appreciates that Jack provides for the family but he never spends time with them or helps out with parenting. And now she’s discovered the kicker. After answering his cell phone one day, she heard the voice of another woman. She confronted Jack and it all came pouring out—he’s been having one-night stands when he travels for business. He says they mean nothing, but can she ever trust him again?
Jack’s turn: Jack, too, had a rough childhood and an alcoholic mother, so when he met Pam and fell in love, he was delighted. He and Zoe hit it off, he was finally doing well in school, and before he knew it, they were married, he was a new dad, and he’d earned himself a great (though intense) job. He doesn’t know how he came to start cheating on his wife—it’s just something that happened. After working long days on his many business trips, he’d meet up with colleagues, have a little too much wine and well, one thing would lead to another. He’s filled with regret, but he’s not totally giving Pam a pass. He thinks she treats him like an outsider when it comes to raising the kids and criticizes him all the time. He feels like he comes in last, and he’d prefers to retreat into his work than argue. Still, he hopes Pam can find a way to forgive him so they can try working harder on their marriage.
December 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm , by Lauren Piro
I know, these are questions I’m not supposed to ask, right? Of course you have friends! You were a Girl Scout, a glee clubber and a sorority sister, so you’re set. You might as well embroider yourself a “No Vacancies” sign to match your massive collection of friendship bracelets.
Right…? Or do I hear some murmurs of dissonance in the audience?
I just moved to New York, and my life-long friends are scattered across the country (sure, I’m proud of my friend who’s off bettering herself in grad school, but did she have to do it 3,000 miles away from me?), so recently I’ve found myself a little lonely and worried that I was, well, weird for craving a few more gal pals in my post-college life. That’s why I devoured Rachel Bertsche’s new book, MWF Seeking BFF (Ballantine), a memoir documenting her search for a new best friend.
It all started when Rachel and her now-husband, Matt, moved to Chicago, a new city for both of them. Even after two years there, she still felt like she was missing some local BFFs.
Her husband, though a great guy, didn’t get it (“I needed girl time; he’s just not going to re-hash a problem of mine for the eighth time”), and her work friends didn’t feel quite right for a last minute text to go to brunch (“We just weren’t there yet!”).
So Rachel made it her mission to meet people, challenging herself to go on one new “friend date” per week for a year, hoping to end up with some new girlfriends—even a best friend—by year’s end. (The introvert in me shudders at the thought, but Rachel thinks one date a month would probably also do the trick—and afford you a more manageable social calendar.)
“There’s this stigma against loneliness,” she says. “And we’re scared to say that we’re looking for new friends; that people will think we’re desperate. But, really, there are so many great women out there looking for people, too!”
Phew! That’s music to my ears, and realizing it helped Rachel truly shed her shell for her quest— MWF’s chapter on her fun and genuine experience online-friending at GirlFriendCircles.com and her story about renting a friend (!) alone make the book a must-read.
And since she’s done it all—with success!—I had Rachel spill her soundest advice for friend-making (you know you wanna), even after the meet-markets of high school and college are long behind you.
Leave The House
“Say yes to all invitations that come your way, even if it’s something you’re not super excited about. I used to think, ‘Oh she’s just inviting me to be nice; she doesn’t really want me there.’ But really, inviting someone to be nice is a really good reason to do so!”
Be a Joiner
“It might be obvious, but just join something. Research shows joining a group that meets even only once a month can radically improve your happiness. I did an improv class, joined two book clubs and started a cooking club for all of the new women I was meeting—some of them are really close friends now, and even spend holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year’s together.”
Spread the Word
“Tell people you’re looking for friends. People assume that you’re set with the friends you have, even if you move to a new city like I did. But people know people in a lot of places! So if you move to San Francisco, tell people you’re looking for friends there, and they’ll be happy to help.”
Assume The Best
“Going into my year-long project, I thought people would think I was weird, that they weren’t open to friendship, that they’re too busy, or that the world is just meaner these days—whatever. But I found that the opposite is true—you should assume people want friends, because they do!”
Photo of Rachel Bertsche by Jennifer Troyer Photography
December 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm , by Lauren Piro
Here’s a couple with a head-scratching dilemma: Glenn, 47, has never wanted anything more than to be a stay-at-home dad. And when his wife, Sheila, 45, had twins three years ago, he got his wish. Glenn quit his job to raise his kids, and Sheila spends her days as a business executive, but still dedicates time to cooking wonderful gourmet meals for her family. And Glenn is quite ticked off about that. Huh? Read on; it’s more complicated than it seems. And pick up our December/January issue for the full story, on newsstands now.
Sheila’s turn: All Sheila wants to do after a long day at the office is come home, hug her kids and cook her family a healthy and tasty meal. She wishes that Glenn would appreciate her efforts, but no. He complains that they’re spending too much money on food; Sheila thinks they’d be eating PB&J’s for dinner if it were up to her husband. When they got married, Glenn was intelligent, rugged and ambitious, but now he just whines all the time. Sheila isn’t sure he realized how overwhelming parenting would be, and it shows. The house is a pigsty, he makes lame excuses to avoid doing things he once loved (like mountain biking), and he’s constantly negative. Maybe he’s jealous that Sheila gets to be out doing fulfilling work everyday? Whatever it is, the tension is at an all-time high, and Sheila is losing her patience.
Glenn’s turn: Glenn really hates Sheila’s gourmet cooking habit, but not because he dislikes good food (duh). He’d rather she come home to chat and unwind with him, not spend two hours over the stove while he’s stuck parenting alone. He has long days too—kids aren’t a cakewalk!—and also knows they need to curb their spending on non-essential fancy meals and hobbies like his mountain biking. Now he just avoids his wife to avoid a fight, so Sheila thinks he’s always off sulking somewhere alone. Glenn’s glad Sheila’s given him the opportunity to watch his kids grow up, and is actually happy with his new job as dad, but still feels short-changed. He’s constantly making sure everyone’s needs are met, but Sheila only blows up at him when he mentions what’s bothering him.