Date Your Wife, Not Your Daughter: Avoiding the Electra Complex by Christina Knowles

It’s mid-January, and that means Valentine’s Day is just a month away, and with that comes something I dread—social media flooded with pictures of daddy-daughter dates and the ultimate gross-out, the father-daughter dance. These don’t always happen in February, but the fact that this seems to be the most common time for these activities, adds to my revulsion.

Now before you get too offended, I know that the fathers who take their daughters to father-daughter dances and on “dates” have the best intentions. I’ve heard the explanation that these dates teach your daughter what to expect from the men in her future—that she should be treated gently and with respect. Unfortunately, many psychologists disagree with this logic, and I think we intuitively know that. Just think about it for a minute.

Your daughter probably watches Disney movies where the princess wins the prince, often after competing with another female character. Little girls in our culture are predisposed to think they have to compete for male attention. Your daughter may know you love your wife, and she sees you dress up and go out together. She idealizes you, and if your relationship with your wife is good, she may envy it. She may want to win you from her mother. This is a normal stage of development, but should not be encouraged to linger. If she thinks she has a chance, this can cause an unhealthy dynamic between all three of you. When the daughter becomes confused about her place in the relationship, this phenomenon is called the Electra Complex.

According to educational psychologist, Kendra Cherry, “The Electra complex is a psychoanalytic term used to describe a girl’s sense of competition with her mother for the affections of her father. It is comparable to the Oedipus Complex” (Cherry). Wikipedia defines it this way, “In Neo-Freudian psychology, the Electra complex, as proposed by Carl Gustav Jung, is a girl’s psychosexual competition with her mother for possession of her father” (Wikipedia). The origin of the phrase (coined by Carl Jung) comes from Greek mythology. Electra conspired to kill her mother after discovering her mother was plotting against her father. As an allusion, the term has come to generally mean a woman whose love for her father is inappropriate, and therefore, unresolved, so she transfers these feelings to other men, thus harming her ability to have healthy relationships with others, often dating older or unavailable men to unconsciously resolve the desire for her father.

It is my contention, and I think this is common sense (I don’t pretend to be a psychologist), that dating your daughter, especially the formal father-daughter dances, confuses the relationship between parent and child, may cause competition between mother and daughter, and may result in resentment towards the mother, possibly leading to the daughter trying to resolve these issues in future relationships. This is the opposite of the message you are trying to send to her.

If you don’t see how this practice is romanticizing the father-daughter relationship, think about the connotations of the terms we use. Most men would never say they were taking their son on a father-son date. They just “hang out” with their sons. Why the confusing romantic terminology when it comes to daughters? Face it; it’s creepy.

Do you really want to create friction between your daughter and her mother? Do you think it’s healthy for your daughter to romantically idealize you and resent the attention you pay her mother? To be in direct competition with her mother for her father’s attention? You don’t have to agree with Jung or Freud on everything to realize that this is not only unhealthy, it’s actually kind of gross.

If the goal of dating your daughter is to teach her to expect gentlemanly behavior and respect from a man, then the best way to teach her this is to simply treat your wife that way in front of her. Date your wife, not your daughter. Treat your wife like a princess, and your daughter will learn the lessons you want her to without all of the confusion and conflicted emotions.

It is not confusing for her to see you treat her mother romantically. She will have more respect for her mother, and she will desire the type of relationship you have with her, but she won’t be fantasizing about you being her prince. You have to admit that the idea creeps you out a bit. At least I hope it does.

Listen to that feeling in the pit of your stomach; listen to your intuition. Date your wife and hang out with your daughter.—Christina Knowles

 

Sources:

Cherry, Kendra. “What Is the Electra Complex?” About Health. Updated 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 15 Jan. 2016.

“Electra Complex.” Wikipedia.org Updated 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 15 Jan. 2016.

Father-daughter photo. Finding justice.org [http://findingjustice.org/father-daughter-dance-violates-the-law/]

Grateful by Christina Knowles

garden_of_the_gods_by_jawahunter003-d4p9tfg
by jawahunter003

It’s that time of year, hopefully not the only time of year, when we take stock of all the good things in our lives and express our gratitude. Well, this year has been a difficult one, and it would probably be a lot easier to list all of the things that went wrong, but that makes engaging in this type of positive reflection even more important. Realizing how good I really have it is most critical when it seems like everything is going wrong. So here are a few things for which I’m very thankful.

  1. My husband. I am lucky to have married a kind and gentle man, who is genuinely a good and ethical person.Randy and me He’s compassionate and sincere. My husband is a true artist, a musician, who feels deeply, sees deeply, and thinks deeply. He also makes me laugh every day. When I feel lost and alone, he’s there to let me know that he’s always on my side. He’s loyal and understanding, and he never expects me to be anything other than what I am. He doesn’t need to be in charge or have everything his way. He respects my independence with no macho bullshit, and his easy-going personality makes our home a peaceful refuge from the harsh world.
  2. Family. My brothers and sisters are very close.

    We don’t agree on everything, but we always love each other. They are the kind of people you can always count on to drop everything and be there when you need them. My sisters and I get together often for movie nights and scrapbooking days. We are so different from one another, but it never matters when we are laughing and talking, sharing stories from our individual lives.

  3. Health and well-being of those I love.morganfamily I am thankful that my children are healthy and are passionately pursuing things they love. ValerieI’m thankful for the medical science that has given my grandson the opportunity for a vibrant and happy life, and I’m thankful that my other grandson is full of joy and enthusiasm for life.

4. Home. I appreciate my cozy home. ChristmasWith all of its needed repairs and upkeep, my home is a beautiful refuge for me, and I love coming home to it every day. I love spending time with my husband and dog in front of a cozy fire on a cold day and planting flowers in our jungle of a yard in the summer. I love puttering around in my art studio, writing on my computer, or curling up in our family-room-converted-to-library, reading a book. It’s pure peace and relaxation.

5. Friends. I am thankful for my close friends, old and new. FriendsSome I see all the time, and some I see a few times a year, but I love them all. I am grateful that my friends do not engage in typical “friend drama.” They are mature and above that nonsense. Old friendsThey are trustworthy. I can tell my friends anything and everything, and I do. My secrets are safe with them. I am safe with them. I can be myself without any pretense, and I am still loved and accepted. They make me laugh and think. They are silly, bold, caring, intellectual, and fun. I am lucky to have them.

6. Employment. This has been a good year at work, at all of my jobs. English DepartmentTeaching high school is wonderful if you do it right. This year I’ve set boundaries with how much work I will do at home. I work my butt off all day, stay late if necessary, and barely touch it when I go home. My students are sweet, smart, and amazing, and they make it rewarding. I have a great team this year in the English department too. We really enjoy each other, and the wide-range of personalities has made lunch and meetings a lot of fun. My administration is the best I’ve ever had. They respect us and are reasonable, and they’re just good, real people.

Moonlighting at the college, teaching writing has been really fun. I enjoy the diverse interaction, the freedom, and the academic atmosphere. The extra money is good too. Of course, writing is my passion, and I am thankful for this blog, where I am free to express myself. Writing my blog is so fulfilling and freeing. Writing makes me understand myself and the world better. This year I’ve written tons of poetry and am working on a new suspense thriller as well. I have also enjoyed creating the cover for my new book. Signs of Life jpegThis is the first time I have ever taken a design from concept to completion all by myself. It was challenging and fun. I can’t wait to do it again.

7. Dog. I am grateful that I come home each day to a sweet little guy named Chacho.IMG_1456 He fits in with us so well. He’s laid-back and gentle. His personality is quite human. Chacho is sensitive and gets his feelings hurt easily if he is slighted in some way, but he forgives easily as well. He is independent and doesn’t need a lot, but he does need love, some cuddling, yummy food, walks around the neighborhood, and trips to the dog park. Chacho deserves all this and more. He is so easy to take care of—he never chews up our things, he doesn’t have accidents in the house, he makes us laugh and smile, and he loves us.

8. Colorado. GogI am so thankful that I get to live in one of the most beautiful and pristine places in the world. Colorado has so much of what I love—great weather, snow, snow, snow, but it’s hardly ever bitterly cold. We get wonderful fluffy snowstorms, and then the snow melts, and we have mild temperatures again. It never gets too hot in the summer. Colorado has gorgeous mountains and clear, clean air. Colorado Springs is in the foothills of Pikes Peak, and we are surrounded by forests, jutting red rocks, crystal clear lakes, and snow-covered mountains. Garden of the godsThere’s a reason why so many Christmas movies are set in Colorado. We have bike trails, dog parks, river-rafting, skiing, and the cozy little tourist towns everyone loves—the kind that seem like they came right out of a Hallmark movie. We have hippies, hipsters, and cowboys, and we usually get along together. I love my Colorado.

9. Community groups. I am grateful for community groups like the Pikes Peak Atheists and Freethinkers of Colorado Springs. These groups organize charity work, fundraisers, toy and clothing drives, and generally are there to help people who need it in our community without any ulterior motives. They are humanists who desire to create a better world, to increase the well-being of humans (and often animals). They are also a fun and intellectual group. We have lots of get-togethers and social activities as well. They are a wonderful support group for non-believers who live in a very religious city.PPA I am really thankful I found them and that they’ve been so kind to me.

10. Progress. I am thankful that even though the world seems like a crazy and dangerous place oftentimes, we are making progress in so many ways. As a people, we are becoming more open-minded, critically thinking, and accepting of diversity and human rights than ever before. We have made wonderful advances scientifically, morally, and intellectually. Perhaps, this contrast between progressive ideals and religious dogma is one reason why some of these tensions are escalating. Some people don’t want to see progress, but progress will win, and for that, I am thankful.

Human-Rights
accessinfo.org

So, as I suspected, reflecting on the things for which I am grateful has made me realize that things are not so bad. Sure, life is difficult, and bad things happen. Sometimes just getting through the day is hard. The world is filled with tragedy and unexpected hardships. Surviving it takes a lot of energy, but there is a reason we keep at it. There are always things that make it all worthwhile. Things that make it more than bearable. Things that are downright beautiful.—Christina Knowles

“On a Cold November Day” by Christina Knowles

cozy autumn fireplace

 

On a cold November day, the family’s all at home

The young, the old, the in-between

Gathered ‘round the table where the love we feel is known

 

Elbow to elbow, at the table we’ve outgrown

We pass the traditional cuisine

On a cold November day with the family all at home

 

The clattering of the dishes, the warm chaotic tone

It’s always the same beautiful routine

Gathered ‘round the table where the love we feel is shown

 

The smell of sage and cinnamon, satiety we bemoan

Still we pass the dishes, endless fare it seems

On a cold November day when the family’s all at home

 

Napping on the sofa, Grandpa snores and groans

While a Christmas movie plays on the TV screen

We’ve gathered ‘round the fire where the love we feel is known

 

The bantering and the laughing, the joyful overtone

Grouping for a photo, capturing the scene

On a cold November day with the family all at home

Gathered ‘round the fire where the love is always known—Christina Knowles (2014)

Photo snagged from hdwallpapers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomb by Christina Knowles

Blackened MausoleumDo you mean to kill me slowly?

Breath by breath

Smothering me with every withheld word

Every silent occasion

Your absence screams

What you won’t say

Do you want to break me,

Utterly destroy me?

Do you even realize

Your words unspoken

Choked down and swallowed

Suck the air from the world?

Suffocating, desperate for relief

Sliding, grasping at anything

To assuage the pain that unexpectedly leaps

Into my consciousness

Pain that lies dull and dormant

Until the stillness arrives

Do you want to empty me?

Hollow me

Till I blow away in the wind?

Or turn me to vacant stone?

My slow transformation

Unexplained

In the darkness, I will the coldness to take over

Till I’m the tomb and not the body

—Christina Knowles (2015)

Honesty by Christina Knowles

Honesty“Honesty”

Like through crystal clear glass

I see you beyond

The unconscious impasse

Your words and your actions correspond

Not even a mist fogs this air

Things we share impossibly

Risking all that we care

For honesty

Because without it, we’re just strangers

Alone in the world of the mind

Lonely traitors

Intimacy left behind

Without truth

We can’t find each other

Play the game of sleuth

Why bother?

The real me misconstrued

The real you

Subdued

Living lives we never knew

So, with you, only honesty

I won’t conceal me

No pretense; an improbability

But there’s no lying harmlessly

No caravan of tales

I don’t want to live alone

Because honestly, pretending pales

In the light of being known

—Christina Knowles

“Trust” by Christina Knowles

black-and-white-forest-desktopIf you were to lie to me, I’d be forever lost

Wandering through the darkness of the trees

Among the cold and lonely frost

Clinging to the confidence no matter what the cost

There’s a scent of hope in the breeze

But if you were to lie to me, I’d be forever lost

In the icy wind tossed

Deserted, no one to hear my pleas

Among the cold and lonely frost

Ignoring the voice inside, fear glossed

Believing by degrees

But if you were to lie to me, I’d be forever lost

Between barricades I’d never attempt to cross

Trapped in a prison of dying leaves

Swirling among the cold and lonely frost

But seeing into you, trust embossed

My nervous heart is eased

But if you were to lie to me, I’d be forever lost

Among the cold and lingering frost

—Christina Knowles (2015)

Photo snagged from wallpaperswa.com

On Turning 50 by Christina Knowles

IMG_2412Turning 50 is supposed to be some kind of milestone, right? I should be feeling down about crossing over the threshold of another decade. But I’m not—at all. On the contrary, I have never felt better about myself. And it has nothing to do with how physically fit I am (LOL). It has everything to do with being comfortable with who I am and where I am in my life.

I have heard many women say that getting older is very freeing, and I find it to be so true. I have never cared less about what other people think about me. I mean this in the best possible way. It’s like I just don’t have time for bullshit anymore. I am who I am, and I am more and more unwilling to act like I’m anything else. I say my opinion, and if you agree, fine. If you don’t, I respectfully don’t care.BabyChristina

I am getting some gray hair, my wrinkles are taking up more and more space on my face, and I have put on a few pounds since last year. I, personally, think I look great. I am healthy and happy. I like me.

I recently started teaching college; I have left my comfort zone to teach things I have never taught before this year, and I am ROCKING it. My professional life is progressing in wonderful directions. I am planning the publication of my second book this year, a book of poetry, I’m working on a short story collection, and I have an absolutely fabulous novel in progress. I have many more plans in the works professionally as well. There’s a certain respect, which I enjoy, now that I have years of experience under my belt as well.

I am completely in love with my husband and couldn’t be happier in that realm. I look forward to growing old with someone with whom I can be completely myself. My relationship with my daughter has blossomed into the adult friendship of love and mutual respect I always hoped it would. I have numerous interests and enjoy so much about my life.

I have the most amazing friends and enjoy many adventures and fun times with them. Getting older really allows for much more satisfying friendships because I don’t have time for bullshit in that realm either. My friends and I share our lives on an honest, bullshit-free level with no drama. This is the way friendship should be.

I know who I am, what’s important to me, and the way I want to live my life. My philosophy, beliefs, and my political opinions are well-established. I’m done worrying over such things or caring about what other people think about my views.Scan 54_2

And the weird thing about getting older, which is also very cool, is that with the exception of this straightforward feeling of freedom about who I am, I still feel like who I have always been. Scan 54I still feel like the excited little girl opening her birthday presents, the little girl who can’t sleep late on Christmas morning because she is too excited to open presents, and the little girl who loves to walk barefoot in the damp grass, picking daisies to put in her starting-to-gray hair. That will always be me, and I’m glad.—Christina Knowles 🙂

Peaceful Harbor by Christina Knowles

Lighthouse

To Randy–You are my peaceful harbor.

“Peaceful Harbor”

Through the briny deep, a charter

Struggles in the swell

Until it finds a peaceful harbor

The unbounded crest beats harder

In the distance rings a knell

Through the briny deep, a charter

A cargo of hopes to martyr

In the distance, a chance to quell

For it will find a peaceful harbor

Drifting farther

To a tranquil berth to dwell

Through the briny deep, a charter

With the Fates, will hope to barter

A ponderous destiny to compel

It to that sweet and peaceful harbor

Forecasts presume gales much larger

But Fortune’s will is to propel

It through the briny deep, a charter

Until it finds its peaceful harbor

—Christina Knowles (2015)

Photo courtesy of thedailymail.com UK

How To Be Happy by Christina Knowles

Snagged from fastcompany.com
Snagged from fast company.com

As we start a new year, most of are thinking of new beginnings, fresh starts, or making changes of some kind. Why? Most of us just want to be happy. That got me to thinking about the times I have been really happy, and what makes the difference between those times and times of discontent. I noticed some things, many of which you may already do, and others you may want to try. As for me, I’m going to remind myself of these often.

  1. Don’t get upset at insignificant things; save your anger for righteous causes: Most things don’t really merit the damaging side-effects of anger. Learn to blow things off, unless they truly deserve anger. Righteous anger over injustice or cruelty can make a difference in the world. If it isn’t going to make a positive difference in the world, let it go. One way to mitigate anger is to change your perspective by putting yourself into the metaphorical shoes of the people making you angry. When you understand where someone is coming from and what motivates him, it’s a lot easier to let go of anger.
  2. Do something nice for someone when it is completely not your responsibility: A generous act of kindness means the most to others and to you when you know that doing it is in no way your responsibility. Cooking dinner when it’s your turn—you’re supposed to do that. Cook dinner when it’s someone else’s turn, and it means something. It also creates a pleasant feeling. But make sure you do not expect or even want something in return. That kind of destroys the whole concept.
  3. Be grateful for what you have. The old saying goes: “It’s not getting what you want; it’s wanting what you get.” It’s so easy to be discontent when you think of all that you need or would like to have—even non-material things like a relationship or more time. Try to stop yourself when you think of these things and focus on what you now have that you didn’t have before. Notice how far you’ve come and realize you will probably have those things someday anyway.
  4. See yourself as a member of a community: Everyone needs to feel like she belongs to something bigger than herself. For some this is a church family; for others it is a local charitable organization. Still others join book clubs or Cosplay groups. When you connect to people with similar interests, you develop meaningful friendships that can alleviate loneliness, add meaning to your life, and give you a break from stress as well as something to look forward to.
  5. Spend time each day doing something you enjoy: Don’t wait for the weekend to have some fun. Take a little time, even in the busiest day, to treat yourself to something you love. It may be taking the time to get in a workout, reading a chapter of a good book, watching a favorite TV show or movie, or taking a quick nap. Never get so busy that you neglect taking a moment to relish your life.
  6. Do meaningful work or make your work meaningful: Face it. You probably spend most of your time at work. With this in mind, you need to make your work matter. You will enjoy it so much more if you believe the work you do is important—and not just for paying the bills or important for improving the company’s bottom line. If your work is meaningless, either find a way to make your work improve the lives of others or find work that does.
  7. Don’t think you are more deserving than someone else: The quickest way to unhappiness is to become bitter and jealous, thinking you deserve what someone else has. Don’t compare yourself to others or elevate yourself over anyone. Be humble. Humility leads to gratitude and gratitude to contentment.
  8. Realize that everything changes and look forward to it: You can’t stop change. Embrace it and know that every change is a chance to make things even better.
  9. Find something to laugh at every day: Laughter is good for your health and state of mind. Don’t take things so seriously, and find something that makes you really belly-laugh often.
  10. Don’t just laugh: Express yourself emotionally whenever appropriate. Don’t hold in your feelings. Cry when you need to and express anger and disappointment in kind, thoughtful ways. Show love when you feel it. Feeling your emotions gives depth and beauty to life.
  11. Think about what you say and how you will say it before speaking: Few things cause such damage as careless words. You can save yourself a lot of heartache with a few carefully chosen words or deciding words are not necessary at all.
  12. Don’t lie—ever: Yes, easier said than done, but lying is not only unethical, it can cause a lot of stress. If you make a habit of not lying, you never have to worry about it coming back to haunt you or about it having unintended consequences. Also, when you are totally honest, you are allowing people to really know the real you. Being known by another person, and being accepted anyway, is necessary to happiness.
  13. Don’t gossip: Even innocent and seemingly harmless gossip can end with serious consequences. Your gossip will come back to burn you when you least expect it, and it hurts people you probably never meant to hurt.
  14. Truthfully compliment someone every day: Consciously notice good things about others, including those you may have conflicts with, but especially those you want to keep loving, and then let them know that you noticed these good things. Not only does this make those you compliment feel good, it makes you like them more. When we look for the good in others, we will find it, and we will realize their value more often. It also makes us happier to see the good in others, rather than focusing on their faults.
  15. Spend some time in nature as often as possible: Even city lovers benefit from listening to nature’s sounds, breathing in fresh air, and feeling the earth beneath their bare feet. Connecting to the earth can be a spiritual experience for some, creating inner peace, calming stress, and lowering blood pressure. Spending at least twenty minutes a day in the sunshine helps prevent cancer and lifts the mood as well.
  16. Take care of yourself: Mind and body. Eat delicious, nutritious foods, exercise your body, get plenty of sleep, and use your brain. In addition to physical exercise, exercise your mind by reading, solving puzzles, riddles, or problems. Learn something new or memorize a favorite quote or poem. Keep a vocabulary list of definitions of interesting new words and use them daily. Being healthy, mind and body, contributes to happiness.
  17. Enjoy the arts, even if you aren’t talented: Read and write poetry, watch dance or dance yourself, view and make visual art, go to a play or act in a local theater production, listen to music or make music yourself. The arts make life more beautiful, and creating anything artistic naturally leads to joy.
  18. Give to charity throughout the year: We often think of donating at the end of the year either for tax benefits or because everyone is having their end-of-the-year drives for contributions, but organizations need help all year long. Giving is much more meaningful if we research and support organizations that represent our personal convictions and passions. As an animal lover, I find it rewarding and important to give to no-kill shelters and animal rescues. I also like to give to organizations that help the poor in my own community, such as the Springs Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army, and the local Red Cross shelter. My husband and I support National Public Radio as sustaining members because its presence and content is important in our lives and that of the community. We also give to various charities that help the community and to fundraisers we find worthy. Giving throughout the year, helps others, makes you a part of a larger community, gives a sense of belonging, and reinforces the values you claim as your own. Charity gives a sense of identity that corresponds to the ideals you hold dear, makes you more of the person you aspire to someday be, and gives you a sense of joy seated in the idea that hope continues to exist in the world, despite the tragedies and pain you also endure.
  19. Love an animal: Few things imbue such a sense of satisfaction and tranquility as sharing your life with an animal that loves you in return. Giving and receiving love from an animal actually makes your heart bigger and kinder. Caring for an animal has been shown to create empathy in sociopaths, purpose in the elderly, and kindness and gentleness in bullies. Personally, I can’t imagine being truly happy without a dog or a cat to share my home.
  20. Cultivate meaningful relationships: We are social beings and not complete without relationships. Make time to develop at least one or two relationships with people you value. Even though we can have friends who remain dear without proximity, to have a life-enhancing, close relationship with a person requires time together on a regular basis. Choose just a few people who are important to you and devote some time to them at least a few times a month. The time is well-spent. True friendship brings a great deal of happiness. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you don’t have the time to cultivate at least one relationship. In your old age, these relationships will be what you fondly cherish, and you will likely wish you spent even more time on them.
  21. Enjoy your own company: One thing is certain—you will always have yourself, so it is imperative for happiness that you enjoy time alone. You need to love and like yourself If you don’t, you need to figure out why and fix it. Time alone can refresh you in important ways; it allows an opportunity for introspection, self-expression, self-improvement, and lets you know who you are, so that you can identify what you need to be happy, and when you know who you are and what you need, you can more easily share that with others, not only for your benefit, but for theirs. Truly knowing and accepting yourself gives you a strong foundation that can keep you from sinking in the shifting sands of change and even tragedy. Liking yourself and enjoying time alone can be the basis for happiness that comes from the inside out.

I’m not saying that happiness should be the most important thing we aspire to. I’m sure there are loftier ideals; however, the same things that are good for the world—other people and animals—are the same things that tend to make individuals happy, so why not? Go ahead, be happy. –Christina Knowles

UPDATE: Check out Part 2 of “How to Be Happy”

All You Need Is Love–and a Few Ground Rules by Christina Knowles

savingslifestyle.com
savingslifestyle.com

Everyday I am stunned by another friend getting a divorce. Sometimes it’s a good thing, but more often than not, it is a tragedy that could have been prevented. I’m all for leaving oppressive, abusive relationships. I can even concede that once in a while a couple has grown apart to the extent that there is no reason to put it back together again. What I don’t get is how someone can walk away from someone they once loved without really trying to make it work, especially when there is still love, when hearts will be broken, and when there are children who will be irrevocably damaged.

We all walk down that aisle with high hopes and idealistic predictions, but how do we prevent our own relationship from deteriorating into just another statistic? There are hundreds of thousands of books written on the subject, some by marriage and family counselors, some by psychologists, and others by theologians and pastors, all giving their warnings, advice, and wisdom. It would seem someone who had been married for years and years would have some good suggestions from experience. I’ve been told you have to have a regular date night; you have to keep romance alive. I’ve heard many of them say, “Love is a choice,” and “You have to commit to stay even when you don’t want to,” and my personal favorite (insert sarcasm into the narrative voice in your head), “Marriage is hard work.” Yeah, that sounds like fun.

Before I embarked on my second marriage, I read all the books, talked to old successfully married couples, and even went to pre-marital counseling. I was ready for the struggle. But it never really came. True, I have not been married for that long—a little over eight years, but isn’t there supposed to be trouble around year seven? Another little tidbit I picked up somewhere. But certainly I would hesitate to give advice this early in the marital scheme of things, and yet, we are doing something right. I mean my husband and I have endured a lot of things since we first married, but our love has only gotten stronger, and I can honestly say that being with him has been the easiest part of my life ever since we got together. It’s never been difficult. Of course, we’ve had disagreements, even a few fights, but we quickly got over it, and they were nothing that caused any damage at all. Honestly, I was really surprised how easy marriage could be.

Maybe because we’d both been divorced, we made our expectations clear, or maybe it is all the ground rules we established. Maybe it’s our work schedules or just our personalities. When we got married, we set certain rules in place to protect our marriage. One of the things we established is that neither one of us would have close friends of the opposite sex in whom we confided. Hanging out with friends of the opposite sex would be limited to group settings, preferably with our spouse present. We even have social media rules for Facebook in particular. We do not friend anyone whom we previously dated. If we are friends with single people of the opposite sex on Facebook, we encourage our spouse to friend them too. We don’t ever cathartically complain about our spouse to a friend of the opposite sex. We share our passwords, so we have access to each other’s emails, texts, and Facebook page. It’s not that we don’t trust each other. But things could change. Knowing we have no secrets from each other gives us security and keeps us from making foolish mistakes. And it isn’t just about preventing jealousy or cheating.  By limiting emotional intimacy to your partner, it keeps the emotional intimacy where it belongs, in the relationship. I have only one confidant who knows all my innermost feelings and fears. Doing this creates complete trust and deepens the level of attachment. Which brings me to honesty, the most important trait of a good marriage.

Without honesty, we’re just strangers. I want my husband to know me. I want to know him. I want to share the embarrassing, the unflattering and humiliating mistakes that I don’t want anyone to know about me. Because when he loves me despite them, I am experiencing true acceptance, and we grow even closer together. And being this transparent with another individual creates the truest form of intimacy I can imagine. It also means that we don’t store up resentments. We talk about something as soon as it bothers us. We solve it and move on.

We also try to put each other’s needs before our own. It is almost impossible to not love someone who treats you better than they treat themselves, when they care more about your happiness than their own. Which means we never stoop to name-calling or lashing out in anger. The one thing that is okay to hold back is words spoken in anger. No matter how mad you get, be careful what you say. When you are putting someone before yourself, his feelings are more important than your need to vent your anger.

One piece of advice sticks with me. I think it was Benjamin Franklin’s wise little aphorism that states, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.” When you’ve chosen your life partner, don’t look for things to drive you crazy. Purposefully ignore them. Tell yourself that in the scheme of things, they don’t even matter. I remember once hearing a story of a woman who was so disgusted by the little hairs her husband would carelessly leave in the bottom of the sink after trimming his mustache. She always nagged him about it, and they’d even had some fights over it. After he passed away unexpectedly, she would cry every time she looked down at her clean sink.

Which brings me to that piece of advice that says, “Love is a choice, not a feeling.” Well, I think it is definitely a feeling, an emotion, and it should be, but it is also a choice. I choose to love my husband. That means overlooking his flaws, looking for the best in him, recognizing his highest qualities, being careful with his heart, and being willing to share all of myself with him, and accept all of him in return. And if we keep this up, we won’t grow apart. We will change, but the change doesn’t have to distance us if we share all the minuscule changes along the way.

My husband and I have been through the death of four parents, estrangement from family members, depression, illness, job stress, and several changes in core religious beliefs on my part, but we have only grown closer together. Leaving him now would mean ripping a part of myself in two.

But we do give each other space. We both enjoy being alone and doing our own things. I write, read, paint, and do many other solitary activities. He writes music and plays guitar. We are not threatened by time alone. It makes us that much more anxious to be together. When we are together, we really enjoy it. We look forward to it—just like when we were dating, except without all that nervous excitement. Now it is a peaceful, comforting feeling, but it’s actually better than when we were dating. It’s richer, deeper. The butterflies in my stomach have been replaced with something else—a swelling in my heart that feels, at times, like it will burst with how much I love him. That’s the only difficult thing about being married to him—realizing what it would feel like to lose him. He feels the same about me, and so we protect our marriage in every way we can.

So, I’m not saying we have it all figured out, or that we are some kind of experts on marriage after eight years, but these things work for us—love and a few ground rules.—Christina Knowles

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