Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Way-Extended Mishpocheh

I had a very interesting weekend--took/taking a couple days to process & I think it was overall a good one.  Xing Fu's dad & stepmother came in from Texas to spend the weekend with Xing Fu, his kids, me, & my son.  Talk about blending a family.  It was the first time that they met me & my son--that was nerve-wracking just by itself. But it was a learning experience to be sure.  It was also good to learn a little bit about the father of the man I am planning to spend the rest of my life with. I can say that he is spartan (an austere air about him) in his approach--I think Xing Fu is as well--this is not necessarily a criticism--but I see that he comes by it honestly.   I think I am still processing that a bit--but the time spent with everyone was a good one & my son made me proud by being affable & genuinely involved. 

On Sunday, we drove down to DC to visit Xing Fu's oldest at college--we needed two cars so I had one of his kids on the way down & both on the way back (my son was with his aunt (my former sister-in-law)). We had lunch, visited the campus & drove back.  It was a very nice afternoon & I think everyone enjoyed the time together.  Later, we would all have dinner together including my kid.  But first he had to come back from his aunt's house--he had spent Sunday at her boyfriend's music shop--he just loves going there & playing all of the guitars.  So I asked my former SIL if she'd drop him off at Xing Fu's place.  She said sure & now we have a convoluted mess of a mishpocheh...My ex's sister, my son, & Xing Fu's kids, dad & stepmom.  It is kinda cool--my former SIL knows Xing Fu & now his dad & his kids--how strange is that?  My mom says that it's a good thing that everyone is willing & interested to be involved with one another--mebbe eventually I'll get to know Xing Fu's ex's family too--it would be nice if everyone figured it all out & developed a positive relationship--if my SIL, Xing Fu, & I can do this, (and my parents who are also quite fond of my SIL), then I think we all can.  That is my hope for the future--that all of the sides of the families can spend time together in some capacity.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

House Woes

Busy, busy...this house thing is so frustrating.  All I want to do is get this damn house listed & all I seem to be able to do is find more & more problems.  I have a contractor who is working on the house right now & I've been unable to take a shower in my bathroom as he's been up to his elbows in tile, pipes & drywall.  And it is still not done.  After getting everything fixed, drywall replaced, tiles replaced, grout & caulk...there's no water pressure!    So now he'll need to investigate this problem & of course this issue will lead to another.  And the front hallway is torn up & soon the kitchen floor will be as well.  And painting, and buffing & sanding the hardwood floors & steps, and do I get a new vanity for the bathroom?  Oh, and did I mention the new roof?  Xing Fu reminds me that it is an old house & I should expect these issues, but...but...

And I have a timeline--I want to have this house ready to list at the end of February & I am hoping to be moving by April.  Maybe my thinking is pie-in-the-sky but I just want to get this done & get a move on before the summer whirlwind hits.  Yes, part of this is moving on, moving out, & my impatience to get there & close a chapter in my life that my current house represents.  But I know it takes time but I really wish things in this frickin' house would stop breaking!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Communication Tips

Recently I've been reading more relationship stuff--not because I think things are stale but because I always think that we can improve.  (Well, mebbe one time Xing Fu mentioned that he thought something was kinda like a relationship rut--TV on, or something like that)  Anyway, that kind of off-hand comment usually sends my antennae a-quiver & I'm off to the races looking for stuff to prove & fix that 1) there ain't no rut & 2) if there is, then let's do this....

From Yahoo Shine:

Say "please" & "thank you"--The logic here is that you won't take each other for granted--we actually talk about that a lot.  Kiss every morning & say "good morning" while you're at it.  Grab each other's butts everyday (or every other)Cuddle--This one's huge, imho.  Switch doing dishes--our rule is if one person cooks, the other cleans up--takes the conflict out of it.  Spend at least one night a week with other people (family, friends, etc.) not holed up by yourselves.  Practice honesty--even when it makes you or your SO uncomfortable--so incredibly important--if you cannot be open & talk honestly to one another, & avoid difficult topics that throw those speed bumps into the relationship, then I begin to question how long it can continue without dealing with them.  And while you're at it--listen to each other.  These pieces of advice seem kinda obvious but we often quickly lose sight of the obvious stuff--it was good to come across this little article to remind me.

The second one came as a spin off of the first article--from Your Tango
A lot are the same but I really liked this little tidbit in particular.  When you can't decide where to eat, what movie to go to (except us--we're working on 2+ years of NO dinner & a movie dates), & instead of being wishy-washy & non-committal, do this:

  "If you and your partner are indecisive about where to eat or what movie to watch, play the "5-3-1" game. One person names five choices, the other vetoes two of them, and then the first person eliminates the remaining two. Ta-da, no more "Where you do want to eat?" "I don't care, what do you want to do?"

Good stuff!  I also liked  not sweating the small stuff--in other words, if Xing Fu says that Queen's News of the World album was released in 1976 & I know it is 1977, I may want to choose to let that one slide, unless it was a challenge....

Another piece of advice that dovetails with that is not saying something like "I told you so," when the other person admits fault--instead, let it go--accept it & MOVE ON! (I sometimes need to remind myself of this--I guess because I am often suspicious that an admittance of fault is somehow disingenuous.) Along with that is to remind yourself to think before you speak--particularly when having a disagreement.  Pause, gather your thoughts, & let some of the irrational thoughts go.  Then say what you need to say.  Difficult to do when there is a lot of emotion, but the outcome is often waaaay better.  

And lastly, (this appeals to the writer in me):

"Play the "He's Not an A**-hole" game. Whenever you feel angry at him, imagine that you're a novelist (or a movie writer) assigned to write a story in which your man is the protagonist. That way, you'll have to think of the situation from his point-of-view and make him sympathetic to readers and viewers."

Good, solid relationships take hard work--particularly when communicating with one another.  I was remarking to my friend the Zen Bicyclist that I work harder in this relationship than any I have previously--mebbe it's an awareness that I never had before or maybe it's because I think Xing Fu is really worth it.  And I'm not complaining about the work--I love the outcome & it reminds me that I know that I have it right.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Couple Friends

Earlier today I came across a little snippet of an article about the importance of having couple friends. So I did a little research because as it was, my BFF(J) was over last night & actually mentioned something like having couple friends.  In fact, her insight was pretty much spot-on.  She said that having good couple friends helped her with her own relationship.  She mentioned BFF(A)'s marriage in particular.  But she also said that watching Xing Fu & I navigate a second relationship also teaches her about interaction with her own spouse.  She says that she observes other couple' interactions (positive & negative) & is able to see other ways of handling her own relationship.  And, based on my research, that is exactly what the "experts" recommend.  According to a USA Today article by Sharon Jayson, the experts Geoffrey Greif & Kathy Deal (both from U of MD Baltimore) say the following: 
 "Being close with another couple and watching how they manage their ups and downs is a role model for how you can manage your ups and downs," Greif says.
And, it can enhance your relationship with your partner, Deal says. "Some couples said, 'When I see my husband or wife with other people, it really makes me appreciate them in a different way. I see how charming or thoughtful they are or what a sparkling conversationalist they are.' It makes them feel very positive about their partner," she says."
I agree too--in fact, well before there was a relationship with Xing Fu, I talked to BFF(A) about her marriage & how she navigated the rough spots quite a lot.  I think I've learned a lot from her as well as from BFF(J).  It is a good thing that we do enjoy each others' company as much as we do & that Xing Fu fits right in because BFF(J), BFF(A), myself, & their spouses have spent a great deal of time together over the years & it would be a shame if everyone didn't get along.  Case in point, we had a blast with BFF(J) & hubby last weekend when we all went bowling.  It is nice to have those relationships & finding couple friends as I've heard is notoriously difficult.  So raise a glass to your close couple friends because they will help you with your own relationship (and watch how they do cheers).  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2 Years & Counting

This is the springtime of my loving - the second season I am to know
You are the sunlight in my growing - so little warmth I've felt before.
It isn't hard to feel me glowing - I watched the fire that grew so low.

It is the summer of my smiles - flee from me Keepers of the Gloom.

Speak to me only with your eyes. It is to you I give this tune.
Ain't so hard to recognize - These things are clear to all from
time to time. 

--Led Zeppelin  "The Rain Song"
Funny how songs pop up that have instant meaning.  I am listening to Radio Paradise--it is an online "radio station" which I love--they play such a cool variety of songs & usually & uncannily they seem to match my mood quite a bit.  It is raining & I sit here waiting for Xing Fu so that we can have dinner & I've turned introspective.  "The Rain Song" came on & it just fit so well.  Xing Fu teases me because I get tired of hearing Led Zep all of the time on his XM satellite especially since they seem to only play "Stairway to Heaven" or "Kashmir" & ask him to turn it off.  But I'd forgotten about about this song--how beautiful it is & how peaceful.  It reminds me of how I am with Xing Fu--peaceful.

Narrowing down on 2 years together--I am such an incurable romantic--I go back & re-read posts & old emails--because sometimes I have to pinch myself that what has happened with us has happened & that two years later I'm even more sure of where we're headed together.  Have we been lucky, was it timing, synchronicity, or all of the above?  I remember writing about "Red Flags" at one point early on in our relationship & now, I still find that overall there just aren't any.  Sure, there are the realities of any relationship that has developed over a longer period of time--we don't always see eye to eye, believe it or not & we have had a couple wicked arguments.  But those are few & far between & for the most part we tend to resolve our issues through discussion--it may be heated but it is discussed & not hidden to fester into resentment.  I also think about the idea of fighting fair--all of the advice columns talk about that--not calling names, belittling during an argument, etc.  And the cool thing is that we don't do any of those things.  I used to so I'm kinda hyper-aware of that & other bad behaviors from my past.  But they seem not to be there.  My friends & family remark on how much calmer I am now--I think I am too--Xing Fu makes me feel happy & warm; glowing, if you will--even 2 years out.  Yeah, it's not that "head-over-heels" kind of love where I was giddy ALL of the time for about six months (probably more), but a quieter one, a content one.  A happy frog one.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Many Tentacles

Nope, not like this!
Blending is difficult--I think mixing is better--"Shaken, not stirred" kinda describes what it is like to smoosh families together.  Here we are, two separate formerly intact families with our own histories, ups & downs, trials & tribulations, interactive scripts, etc., & now the shake-up: the two families are expected to blend into a new family unit.  HAH!  In fact, an article in the New York Times talks about how truly unrealistic it is:

"The old, Brady Bunch stepfamily model — the so-called “blended family” — has long been out of favor. Indeed, the term is almost universally loathed by family therapists for the unrealistic expectations it promotes of previously unrelated children blending harmoniously with one another and a new adult, and the disjunction between that rosy vision and the more prickly reality that is stepfamily life." --Penelope Green 11/17/10
The article goes on to say that with "blended families", & really any other non-traditional family,  "there’s not one container for this new, many-tentacled thing called 'a family'.”  I concur--and we are learning to make it work daily.

I spent the second half of my vacay with Xing Fu & his kids more or less living with them & it was certainly a good dress rehearsal for the real thing--except that my kid wasn't there--that will be the real test--when all of us are in the house together.  I guess that won't really happen until we move but at least the days together were an opportunity to see what it all may be like.  Again, coming off the week, Xing Fu remarked that he felt it was a great success & I suppose that it was, for us at least, as he stated.  It was certainly far more difficult for his kids--sharing his attention.  I think my son is used to sharing my attention by now as he has had to do so longer than Xing Fu's children--for them it is still an adjustment.  But it is getting easier I think as the weekends go on & I continue to be a significant part of his weekends with his kids.  And I think it is important to continue to do so, so that when the inevitable move occurs, no one will be in a state of shock & awe.  We are no Brady Bunch that is for sure--even when, during one of the first times both of our families were together, one of Xing Fu's kids said that it was like the Brady Bunch & now they had a brother!  Yeah, we'll see how having a brother goes over when they have to deal with stinky socks....