This morning, over
coffee, one of my good friends spilled her guts to me about all of her failed
attempts to find the perfect man. Although her story is about her unique
personal experiences, I couldn’t help but feel like I had heard the same story
told by others in completely different circumstances a hundred times before.
It’s a heartbreaking
tale about the endless quest for perfection that so many of us are on…
The Perfect Woman
Once upon a time, an
intelligent, attractive, self-sufficient woman in her mid-thirties decided she
wanted to settle down and find a husband. So she journeyed out into the
world to search for the perfect man.
She met him in New
York City at a bar in a fancy hotel lobby. He was handsome and
well-spoken. In fact, she had a hard time keeping her eyes off of
him. He intrigued her. It was the curves of his cheek bones,
the confidence in his voice, and the comfort of his warm, steady hands.
But after only a short time, she broke things off. “We just didn’t share
the same religious views,” she said. So she continued on her journey.
She met him again in
Austin a few months later. This time, he was an entrepreneur who owned a
small, successful record label that assisted local musicians with booking gigs
and promoting their music. And she learned, during an unforgettable
night, that not only did they share the same religious views, but he could also
make her laugh for hours on end. “But I just wasn’t that physically
attracted to him,” she said. So she continued on her journey.
She met him again in
Miami at a beachside café. He was a sports medicine doctor for the Miami
Dolphins, but he easily could have been an underwear model for Calvin
Klein. For a little while, she was certain he was the one! And all
of her friends loved him too. “He’s the perfect catch,” they told
her. “But we didn’t hang in the same social circles, and his high-profile
job consumed way too much of his time and attention,” she said. So she
cut things off and continued on her journey.
Finally, at a
corporate business conference in San Diego, she met the perfect man. He
possessed every quality she had been searching for. Intelligent,
handsome, spiritual, similar social circles, and a strong emotional and
physical connection—absolutely perfect! She was ready to spend the rest
of her life with him. “But unfortunately, he was looking for the
‘perfect’ woman,” she said.
Everything We’ve Ever Hoped For
As human beings, we
often chase hypothetical, static states of perfection. We do so when we
are searching for the perfect house, job, friend, or lover.
The problem, of
course, is that perfection doesn’t exist in a static state. Because life
is a continual journey, constantly evolving and changing. What is here
today is not exactly the same tomorrow.
That perfect house,
job, friend, or lover will eventually fade to a state of imperfection.
Thus, the closest we can get to perfection is the experience itself—the snapshot of a single moment or vision held forever in
our minds—never evolving, never growing. And that’s not really
what we want. We want something real! And when it’s real, it won’t
ever be perfect. But if we’re willing to work at it and open up, it could
be everything we’ve ever hoped for.
That Imperfect Man (or Woman)
The truth is, when it
comes to finding the “perfect man” or “perfect woman” or “perfect relationship,”
the journey starts with letting the fantasy of “perfect” GO! In the real
world, you don’t love and appreciate someone because they’re perfect, you love
and appreciate them in spite of the fact that they are not. Likewise,
your goal shouldn’t be to create a perfect life, but to live an imperfect life
in radical amazement.
And when an intimate
relationship gets difficult, it’s not an immediate sign that you’re doing it
wrong. Intimate relationships are intricate, and are often toughest when
you’re doing them right—when you’re dedicating time, having the hard
conversations, compromising, and making daily sacrifices. Resisting the
tough moments—the real moments—and seeing them as immediate evidence that
something is wrong, or that you’re with the wrong person, only exacerbates the
difficulties. By contrast, viewing difficulties in a relationship as
normal and necessary will give you and your partner the best chance to thrive
together in the long run.
Again, there is no
“perfect.” To say that one waits a lifetime for their perfect soulmate to
come around is an absolute paradox. People eventually get tired of
waiting, so they take a chance on someone, and by the powers of love,
compromise and commitment they become soulmates, which takes nearly a lifetime
This concept truly
relates to almost everything in life too. With a little patience and an
open mind, over time, I bet that imperfect house evolves into a comfortable
home. That imperfect job evolves into a rewarding career. That
imperfect friend evolves into a steady shoulder to lean on. And… that
imperfect man or woman evolves into a “perfect” lifelong companion.
Now, it’s your turn…
Please leave a comment
and let me know what you think of this short essay.
Any other thoughts on perfectionism’s harmful role in relationships?
HOW TO RECONNECT WITH YOUR PARTNER AFTER HAVING KIDS
First things first: This is not another article that simply tells you to “go on a date night.”
Nothing against date nights. The best ones can remind you why you fell in love with your spouse or partner in the first place.
Or they can involve staring at each other in a sleep-deprived haze over an expensive meal while intermittently glancing at your phone for updates from the babysitter.
If date nights aren’t working for you, or if you’ve been struggling to maintain intimacy for months — or even years — after having children, here are some different ways to stay close to your spouse or partner, despite the stresses and frustrations of parenthood.
Try not to become complacent.
Just as there was never a perfect time to have children, there will rarely be a perfect time to rekindle a connection with your partner.
It’s easy to push your romantic relationship to the side: “Let’s get through sleep training first.” Or: “As soon as I get back into shape.” Or: “Maybe when I’m less tired.”
Then winter arrives. “Everyone’s sick again? Let’s wait until we get better.”
But if you keep waiting, experts say, regaining intimacy can become increasingly difficult.
“It seems to have been the norm for so many couples to say to themselves, ‘Now that the kids are here, we’ll focus on the kids. Our day will come,’” said Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage and family therapist whose TEDx talk about sex-starved marriages has been viewed more than 5 million times. “But here’s the bad news from someone who’s been on the front lines with couples for decades. Unless you treat your relationship, your marriage, like it’s a living thing — which requires nurturing on a regular basis — you won’t have a marriage after the kids leave home.”
Couples may start to lead parallel but separate lives — and discover they have nothing in common.
“They’re looking at a stranger, and they ask themselves, ‘Is this the way I want to spend the last few years of my life?’” Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “And for too many couples the answer is no.”
But all of that is preventable, she added.
“It’s absolutely essential not to be complacent about what I call a ho-hum sex life. Touching is a very primal way of connecting and bonding,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “If those needs to connect physically are ignored over a period of time, or are downgraded so that it’s not satisfying, I can assure people there will be problems in the relationship moving forward.”
Slow down and start over.
If you had a vaginal birth, you and your partner may expect to begin having sex as early as six weeks after the baby is born, if you have been physically cleared to do so.
For some couples, that signals “the clock is now ticking,” said Emily Nagoski, author of “Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life.”
But a lot of women simply won’t be ready that early. And that’s O.K.
“After the postpartum checkup, I didn’t feel like myself, I didn’t feel physically ready to have sex,” said Emily Stroia, 33, who lives in Los Angeles. “In terms of libido, I didn’t really have one.”
Ms. Stroia, the mother of a 10-month-old, eventually starting having sex with her partner once a month — but before she became pregnant, they had sex nearly every week, she said.
“I still kind of forget that I’m in a relationship,” said Ms. Stroia, who is struggling with sleep deprivation. “I have to remind myself that I have a partner.”
After any potential medical problems are ruled out, Dr. Nagoski advises couples to “start over” with one another by establishing a sexual connection in much in the same way they might have done when they were first getting to know each other: making out, holding each other and gradually moving in the direction of bare skin.
That’s especially important if there’s a birth parent involved, she added.
“That person’s body is brand-new,” Dr. Nagoski said. “The whole meaning of their body has transformed.”
It also helps to remember that “intimacy isn’t just hot sex,” said Rick Miller, a psychotherapist in Massachusetts.
“It’s steadfast loyalty, a commitment to getting through stressful times together and, most importantly, enjoying the warm, cozy moments of home together,” Mr. Miller said.
Put on your life preserver first.
Taking the time to nurture your individual physical and emotional needs will give you the bandwidth to nurture your relationship, too, so that it doesn’t feel like another task on the to-do list.
“When you experience your partner’s desire for intimacy as an intrusion, ask yourself, ‘How deprived am I in my own self-care? What do I need to do to take care of myself in order to feel connected to my own sexuality?’” said Dr. Alexandra Sacks, a reproductive psychiatrist and host of the “Motherhood Sessions” podcast.
That might mean going to the gym or talking to your partner about decreasing the invisible mental load that is often carried by one parent.
Enlisting the support of your family (or your chosen family) to take some time for yourself or discuss some of the struggles that accompany parenting can help you recharge.
“Relying on others is an indirect way of working on intimacy,” Mr. Miller said.
This is especially important for gay couples, he added, who may not typically share vulnerabilities “because the world hasn’t been a safe place.”
Practicing self-care as a couple is equally important.
Dr. Sacks recommends making a list of everything you used to do together as a couple that helped you feel close, and thinking about how those rituals have changed.
Is your toddler sleeping in your bed, spread out like a sea star between you and your partner? Have you stopped doing the things together you used to really enjoy like working out or going to the movies? Dr. Sacks recommends thinking about how you’re going to make an adjustment in order to create physical and emotional intimacy with your partner.
For example, if you always used to talk about your day together and now that time is completely absorbed by caregiving, the absence of that connection will be profound.
“You can’t just eliminate it and expect to feel as close,” she said.
Think about what turns you on.
According to Dr. Nagoski, one way to nurture intimacy is to remind yourselves of the context in which you had a great sexual connection together.
What characteristics did your partner have? What characteristics did your relationship have?
Then, she said, think about the setting.
“Were we at home with the door locked? Were we on vacation? Was it over text? Was it at a party in a closet at a stranger’s house against a wall of other people’s coats? What context really works for us?” Dr. Nagoski said.
When doing this exercise, and when thinking about your current libido (or lack thereof) it’s also helpful to remember that not everyone experiences spontaneous desire — the kind of sexual desire that pops out of nowhere. For example, you’re walking down the street and suddenly can’t stop thinking about sex.
Millions of other people experience something different called responsive desire, which stems from erotic stimulation. In other words, arousal comes first and then desire.
Both types of desire are normal.
Create a magic circle in your bedroom.
Dr. Nagoski suggested cordoning off an imaginative protected space in your mind where you can “bring forward the aspects of your identity that are relevant to your erotic connection and you close the door on the parts of yourself that are not important for an erotic connection.”
With enough focus, this strategy can work even if the physical space you’re using contains reminders of your role as a caregiver.
It can also help to think of your bedroom as a sanctuary, advised Ms. Weiner-Davis.
For couples who have spent years co-sleeping with their children, that can be somewhat difficult.
“I do believe there comes a point where it’s important to have those boundaries again,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said.
Don’t bank on spontaneity.
It’s easy to forget how much time and effort we put into our relationships in the early days: planning for dates, caring for our bodies and (gasp) having long conversations with one another.
“People feel sort of sad when they get that news that yes, it does require effort to build a connection across a lifetime,” Dr. Nagoski said. “You don’t just dive in — you don’t just put your body in the bed and put your genitals against each other and expect for it to be ecstatic.”
Karen Jeffries (a pen name she uses as a writer and performer to protect her privacy) said her sex life with her husband is better than ever after having had two children. They’ve always had a strong physical connection, she said. But they also plan ahead and prioritize.
“There are times where I’ll text him and I’ll be like, ‘We’re having sex tonight,’ and he’ll be like ‘O.K.’ or vice versa,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll send him a picture of a taco and he’ll send me a picture of an eggplant.”
Ms. Jeffries, 37, a fourth-grade dual-language teacher in Westchester County, N.Y., is the author of “Hilariously Infertile,” an account of the fertility treatments she endured to conceive her two daughters. Her children, now aged 6 and 4, are on a strict sleep schedule with a 7:30 p.m. bedtime, allowing for couple time in the evening.
Think of building good sexual habits just like you would develop good eating or exercising habits, she advised.
“Sex begets more sex. Kind of like when you go to the gym,” she said. “It takes you a while to build that habit.”
Then, she added, “You’ll notice little by little that it becomes more and more as opposed to less and less.”
A small 2018 study found that attending group therapy helped couples with low sexual desire as well as those who had discrepancies in their levels of sexual desire.
Individual or couples therapy can also be a good place to start.
For many parents, however, and especially those with young children, finding the time and money to go to a therapist can be challenging.
Esther Perel, a psychotherapist whose TED talks on sexuality and relationships have been viewed by millions, offers an online course, currently $199, that includes a section called “Sex After Kids.”
Ms. Perel also hosts the popular “Where Should We Begin?” podcast, in which couples share the intimate details of their troubles during recorded therapy sessions.
Regardless of what steps you take to rebuild a connection with your spouse, experts say it’s important to take action as soon as possible.
“The child is not going to take up less space over time,” Dr. Sacks said. “So the question is: How do you carve out space for your relationships around the child, as the child continues to develop with different but continually demanding needs.”
“Her children arise and call her blessed; her
husband also, and he praises her.” Proverbs
She was the Vice President of Household Affairs for her entire
adult life. She had a husband, four daughters, and one son whom she managed.
Her calling was not to the workplace; it was to the home. It was a calling that
she fulfilled well. She often went beyond her job description to fulfill menial
tasks like sewing clothes for her twin girls, playing dolls, and even playing
catch with the only boy in the clan.
Things were going along well until midway in life a telephone call
came that changed everything. The caller informed her that the love of her life
had been killed in an airplane crash. She was in her early 40’s, still
beautiful, with five kids to raise on her own in spite of the fact that she
hadn’t worked in the business place for nearly 20 years.
The death of her husband removed their steady upper middle-class
income, and she was now faced with the greatest test of her life. At her lowest
moment, wondering how she was going to make it, she cried out to God. God
answered, “Trust Me, Lillian.” Those audible words became the
strength that she needed to care for her family for the next 40 years.
From that moment on, she came to know her Savior personally and
shared Him with her family. Her children came to know Him as well.
Grandchildren became the recipients of her prayers, and they came to know Him
too. She was building an inheritance in Heaven, one prayer at a time, one soul
at a time. She never remarried; Christ became her Husband.
Whatever wisdom and encouragement has come to you through these
devotionals, it is only as a result of one who answered the call to the
greatest and most important workplace there is: the home.
You can thank my mom, Lillian Hillman, for whatever grace you have
gained from these messages throughout the year, because she remained faithful
to the call to invest in those she was called to love and serve. “Her
children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises
Don’t just rant online for a better world. Love your family. Be a good neighbor. Practice kindness. Build bridges. Embody what you preach. Today. And always.
About a decade ago, at one o’clock in the morning, my grandpa who was suffering from Alzheimer’s got up, got into my car and drove off. Angel and I contacted the police, but before they could find him, two college kids pulled into our driveway with my grandpa. One was driving him in my car and the other was following in their car. They said they overheard him crying about being lost at an empty gas station 10 miles away. My grandpa couldn’t remember our address, but gave the kids his first and last name. They looked him up online, found our address, and drove him home.
I was randomly
reflecting on that incident today while sitting near the edge of a beautiful
ocean-side cliff in San Diego. As I stared off into the distance, the sudden
awareness of footsteps behind me startled me. I turned around to see a young
lady who was almost in tears slowly walking to where I was sitting. I jumped
up, walked up to her and asked, “What’s wrong?” She told me she was
deathly afraid of heights, but was worried about my safety and wanted to
get over her fear because she needed to make sure I was okay.
“You were sitting so
close to the edge, and with a such despondent expression,” she said. “My heart
told me I needed to check on you—to make sure you were in a healthy state of
mind.” Her name is Kate, and her braveness and kindness truly warmed my heart.
I’ve spent the rest of
the day thinking about what an extraordinary person Kate is, and about those
amazing college kids who helped my grandpa, and about what it means to be a
kind and giving person. As Kate and those kids found out, being kind isn’t always
easy. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile, or face your biggest fears, or
stand up against your own negative tendencies to make a positive difference in
someone else’s life. Let this be your wake-up call today. It’s time to start
doing the hard things—the right things—for others…
1. Start being a source
of sincere support.
The closest thing to
being cared for is to care for others. We are all in this together and we
should treat each other as such. The very demons that torment each of us,
torment others all over the world. It is our challenges and troubles that
connect us at the deepest level.
If you think about the
people who have had the greatest positive effect on your life—the ones who
truly made a difference—you will likely realize that they aren’t the ones that
tried to give you all the answers or solve all your problems. They’re the ones
who sat silently with you when you needed a moment to think, who lent you a
shoulder when you needed to cry, and who tolerated not having all the answers,
but stood beside you anyway. Be this person for those around you every chance
2. Start giving people
your undivided attention.
There is greatness and
beauty in making time, especially when it’s inconvenient, for the sake of
You don’t have to tell
people that you care, just show them. In your relationships and interactions
with others, nothing you can give is more appreciated than your sincere,
focused attention. Being with someone, listening without a clock and without
anticipation of results is the ultimate compliment. It is indeed the most
valued gesture you can make to another human being.
When we pay attention
to each other we breathe new life into each other. With frequent attention and
affection our relationships flourish, and we as individuals grow wiser and
stronger. We help heal each other’s wounds and support each other’s growth. So
give someone the gift of YOU—your time, undivided attention and kindness.
That’s better than any other gift, it won’t break or get lost, and will always
3. Start respecting and
supporting people who are different than you.
privilege is to become who you truly are. You have to dare to be yourself, one
hundred percent, however anxious or odd that self may prove to be. The people
who support you in doing so are extraordinary. Appreciate these people and
their kindness, and pay it forward when you’re able.
Never bully someone
into silence. Never victimize others for being different. Accept no one’s
close-minded definition of another person. Let people define themselves. You
have the ability to show
people how awesome they are, just the way they are. So act on this
ability without hesitation; and don’t forget to show yourself the same
4. Start being willing
to be wrong.
The mind is like a
parachute; it doesn’t work when it’s closed.
It’s okay to disagree
with the thoughts or opinions expressed by others. But that doesn’t give you
the right to immediately reject any sense they might make. Nor does it give you
a right to accuse someone of poorly expressing their beliefs just because you
don’t like what they are thinking and saying. Learn to recognize the beauty of
different ideas and perspectives, even if it means overcoming your pride and
opening your mind beyond what is comfortable.
and human interactions are not a power struggle. Be willing to be wrong, while
simultaneously exploring your truth.
5. Start giving
recognition and praise for the little things.
A brave, extraordinary
soul recognizes the strength of others. Give genuine praise whenever possible.
Doing so is a mighty act of service. Start noticing what you like about others
and speak up. Having an appreciation for how amazing the people around you are
is extremely rewarding. It’s an investment in them that doesn’t cost you a
thing, and the returns can be astounding. Not only will they feel empowered,
but also what
goes around comes around, and sooner or later the people you’re
cheering for will start cheering for you too.
Also, be sure to
follow this rule: “Praise in public, penalize in private.” Never publicly
ridicule someone when you have the option not to. If you don’t understand
someone, ask questions. If you don’t agree with them, tell them. But don’t
judge them behind their back to everyone else.
6. Start giving people
the space to save face.
What others say and do
is often based entirely on their own self-reflection. When someone who is angry
and upset speaks to you, and you nevertheless remain very present and continue
to treat them with kindness and respect, you place yourself in a position of
great power. You become a means for the situation to be graciously diffused and
A spiritual teacher
once told me, “When somebody backs themselves into a corner, look the other way
until they get themselves out; and then act as though it never happened.”
Allowing people to save face in this way, and not reminding them of what they
already know is not their most intelligent behavior, is an act of great kindness.
This is possible when we realize that people behave in such ways because they
are in a place of great suffering. People react to their own thoughts and
feelings and their behavior often has nothing directly to do with you.
7. Start being a bit
Be gentle and
compassionate with those around you. Mother Nature opens millions of flowers
every day without forcing the buds. Let this be a reminder not to be forceful
with those around you, but to simply give them enough light and love, and an
opportunity to grow naturally.
Ultimately, how far
you go in life depends on your willingness to be helpful to the young,
respectful to the aged, tender with the hurt, supportive of the striving, and
tolerant of those who are weaker or stronger than the majority. Because we wear
many hats throughout the course of our lives, and at some point in your life
you will realize you have been all of these people.
Now, it’s your turn…
The bottom line is
that it’s time to be less impressed by your own money, titles, degrees, and
looks. And it’s time to be more impressed by your own generosity, integrity,
humility, and kindness towards others.
Don’t you agree?
Please leave us a comment and share your thoughts.
What part of this post
resonated with you the most?
said, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” – Revelation 3:19, NIV
Nine-year-old Al had disobeyed his father who, as a strict disciplinarian, sent
him with a note to a police station in London. When Al came in late after
curfew, his father met him at the door and handed him a note and said,
“Take it to the jailhouse.”
Al was terrified.
“The officer, a friend of his father, opens the note, reads it, and nods,.
‘Follow me.’ He leads the wide-eyed youngster to a jail cell, opens the door,
and tells him to enter. The officer clangs the door shut. ‘This is what we do
to naughty boys,’ he explains and walks away…. The jail sentence lasts only
five minutes. But those five minutes felt like five months. Al never forgot
that day. The sound of the clanging door, he often told people, stayed with him
the rest of his life.
“The fear of losing a father’s love exacts a high toll. Al spent the rest
of his life hearing the clanging door. That early taste of terror contributed
to his lifelong devotion to creating the same in others. For Al—Alfred
Hitchcock—made a career out of scaring people.” (From UpWords from
Max Lucado, www.maxlucado.com)
True, discipline is important, but it always needs to fit the crime. Some
children are impaired for life because of severe punishment as a child. Others
are left terrified if they were beaten severely or abused. It is imperative
that parents never discipline out of anger because that is punishment, not
discipline. Discipline always needs to be in love.
Those whom God loves, he disciplines in love—not punishes in anger. We need to
do the same with our children.
God, thank You that when You discipline me it is always out of Your love for me
and for my good. Help me to do the same when disciplining my children. May it
always be in love and never out of anger. Thank You for hearing and answering
my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus’ name, amen.”
I had a miscarriage in between my two girls. I went in for an
ultrasound at around seven weeks, and there was no heartbeat. My period is so
irregular that I had to wait two additional weeks to confirm that the pregnancy
was not progressing properly. My obstetrician couldn’t definitively date the
pregnancy because he couldn’t definitively date the ovulation, so I trudged to
multiple radiologists for multiple disappointing ultrasounds over 14 days.
I expected to feel sad during this painful two-week wait, and
after — and I absolutely did. A guttural sadness that would take months to
What I didn’t anticipate was that I would feel a lot of other
things, and that the emotional ground would continue to shift under my feet. I
felt relief when I was able to take a new job right around when I would have
been due to give birth; I knew I wouldn’t have been able to take it had I
carried that pregnancy to term. Then I felt guilty about feeling relieved. I
felt anger — spiky and random, popping up unexpectedly and without apparent
trigger. And most appalling to me was the envy I felt toward women who were
pregnant, successfully. An acquaintance of mine was due around when I would
have been, and I could not stand to be around her during her pregnancy. When
she tried to make plans, I made excuses.
a myriad of responses to loss, said Julia Bueno, a psychotherapist and the
author of “The Brink of Being: Talking About Miscarriage.” “There may
well not be any grief,” Bueno said, and the grief some women feel is
“exquisitely nuanced, powerful and profound.” If the miscarriage is in the
first trimester, it may also be hidden, Bueno said, because you don’t always
look pregnant to the outside world, and it’s not customary to reveal a
pregnancy until you’re past 12 weeks.
of pregnant women may also feel a range of emotions. As technology allows us to
know we’re pregnant just after a missed period, it allows partners to become
bonded to babies far earlier than they might have been in previous generations.
There’s a case study in Bueno’s book about a woman who miscarried twice, whose
husband was grieving deeply. “He bought the pregnancy test. He saw that test
emerge — he was drawn into it,” Bueno said. He was already forging a
relationship with the baby that he had to mourn, too.
five years after my loss, I don’t think about the miscarriage much anymore. I
was lucky to have a second child, which is what I desperately wanted, and that
helped me. But lots of families still feel complicated grief even after having
additional children. Bueno lost twin girls, Florence and Matilda, at 22 weeks,
and she had three miscarriages as well. She went on to have two boys, and for
her, “the nourishment and joy runs alongside the grief.” Bueno told me about an
oral history she had read from a woman with nine children. That woman had a
miscarriage, too, and though she was in her 80s at the time of the oral
history, she still felt the loss acutely despite her sizable brood.
you know someone who has experienced a loss, Bueno said, “err on the side of
compassionate curiosity.” This could mean saying you’re sorry for a loss, and
then asking something open-ended, like, “Tell me what it meant to you,” as it
allows for the many kinds of emotion someone might feel. Be prepared for any
response — a woman may not want to talk about it at all, or she may want to
talk about the gory viscera. I recall making extremely dark jokes about what
came out of me in the aftermath. Those physical side effects, “that stuff needs
to be talked about,” Bueno said. Otherwise we run the risk of women feeling
“icky and shameful and abnormal” about what they’ve experienced.
need to make cultural space for every single kind of reaction to loss — there
will always be a gamut of responses. And sharing these stories is a good place
As the traditional concept
of family continues to evolve, single gay men having children through surrogacy
are beginning to emerge.
Julius Ybañez Towers was taking a walk around the Harlem Meer in Central Park with his twin 10-month-old sons and two dogs. A woman stopped to compliment him for giving his wife a break.
“There’s no wife,” he told the woman. “I’m a single gay dad from surrogacy.” He smiled at the confused look on her face.
Mr. Towers, 40, is still rare, but he is part of a growing movement. Surrogacy agencies across the country report a surge of interest from single gay men in the last few years.
Shelly Marsh, a spokeswoman for Men Having Babies, a nonprofit that helps gay men navigate the surrogacy process, said that the increase in interest from single men is part of a broader surge in gay families.
“Our volume has increased substantially over the last few years,” Ms. Marsh said. “But more so, single men are learning that they do not need to wait to find someone to fulfill the dream of having a biological child.”
Most single gay men pursue what is known as gestational surrogacy: the surrogate is implanted with a fertilized embryo taken from a separate egg donor. The surrogate is not genetically related to the child. She also has no maternal rights, so intended parents are legally protected from her keeping the baby.
For that legal protection however, the birth must happen in a state where it’s legal to pay a surrogate and that recognizes the contract. New Jersey recently approved compensation for surrogates; Washington State’s announced it would do so in January. New York, along with Michigan and Louisiana, are the only states where it remains illegal to pay a woman to be a surrogate mother.
Where it is legal, the total cost of the procedure — from paying the agencies, the donor, the doctors, the surrogate and the birth — can be anywhere from $80,000 to $200,000. None of this is covered by insurance.
But for Mr. Towers, having biological children was a long-held dream that he was willing to work toward.
He grew up in what he called a humble home in Palm Bay, Fla., where he said he was bullied at school. “Growing up gay in a homophobic town, and in tough financial times, it was hard to see how I’d have my own kids,” he said.
His parents strung together several low-wage jobs, and he’s the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. He put himself through law school at University of Pennsylvania. He was a corporate attorney in Manhattan for 15 years and is now pursuing a master’s in public health at Columbia University.
Gradually, after the death of his mother, a failed relationship and two dog adoptions, he realized that he was ready to take on fatherhood, even by himself.
“I wanted to have children more than I wanted a partner,” Mr. Towers said. He viewed being single as a positive because he alone would control the decisions about surrogacy and parenting. Yet control was still an illusion.
Because it is illegal to pay a surrogate in New York, Mr. Towers’s quest to become a father began all the way across the country. Through an agency in Portland, Ore., Northwest Surrogacy Center, he found a woman there who was willing to carry a fertilized embryo. The embryo itself was made with the eggs of an anonymous donor from an agency based in California. These eggs (which, according to the agency, came from an astrophysicist) were fertilized at Oregon Reproductive Medicine, a clinic in Portland.
After a failed transfer of a single embryo, Mr. Towers and his surrogate decided to transfer two embryos in hopes that at least one would take. They knew it could mean twins.
“I realized I couldn’t control everything,” Towers said. “I left it to fate at that point.”
Nine months later, he traveled to Portland for the surrogate’s scheduled C-section and held his sons, Asher and Galen, for the first time. Asher had a short stay in the intensive care unit, so Mr. Towers stayed in Oregon for three more weeks, until the twins were ready for the long flight home to New York.
As unpredictable as the medical prospect of surrogacy may be, some gay men prefer that to the possibility of facing discrimination in adoption.
Dennis Williams had his son, Elan, via surrogacy four years ago. Mr. Williams, who is 46 and black, said he chose surrogacy because the prospect of persuading a woman to allow him to adopt was daunting. “As a single, gay black man,” he said, “I figured I’d be at the bottom of the list for most women.”
Mr. Williams and his former partner had a failed egg donation from a woman they met through a friend. After he and his partner broke up, Mr. Williams still wanted to be a father. The donor, a black lesbian who didn’t plan on having children, agreed to try again for Mr. Williams.
Once he became a father, Mr. Williams said, he felt as if he finally fit in with his big family in Kansas, where he grew up. “I was no longer an anomaly to them,” he said. “Once I had a son, it drew me closer to the tribe.”
For Mr. Towers, the race of his twin sons was more difficult to control. Both his parents are mixed race: his mother half-Filipina, and his father part Native American. He hoped to find a multiracial egg donor, but most of the donors, he found, were white.
“Some accused me of whitewashing my kids’ skin,” Mr. Towers said. “In the end, I don’t care about skin color. I’ll just have to work harder to make them understand their multiracial roots.”
One son, Asher, has the blond hair and blue eyes of the donor, while the other, Galen, has the dark brown hair and complexion of his father.
During the surrogate’s pregnancy, Mr. Towers enrolled in a twins class, did a daddy boot camp and took a baby-dog home-integration class. Even though he has a nanny seven days a week, he is on his own nights and mornings. Like any new parent of twins, he’s overwhelmed at times.
“I don’t like the feeling that I can’t do it all on my own, but sometimes I need help, even with a nanny,” he said. “Because I signed up to be a single father of twins, some people tell me I can’t complain. It contributes to the feeling I’m alone in the wilderness.”
The little moments keep him going.
After the walk around the Harlem Meer, Mr. Towers, with the help of the nanny, returned home and put the boys in their cribs.
He leaned in to kiss each of his sons on the forehead. “Daddy loves you,” he whispered.
As the boys drifted to sleep, he exhaled and stood watching them. He mentioned that he just renewed another year of storage for his remaining frozen embryos. Through a genetic screening test, he knows one embryo is female.
“Who knows?” he said. “One day, when the boys are out of diapers, maybe I’ll have a little girl.”
4 STEPS TO OVERCOME GRIDLOCK THAT HARMS RELATIONSHIPS
All couples are bound to have arguments. When they struggle to manage these ongoing disagreements with constructive conflict conversations, the result is what Dr. John Gottman calls “gridlock.”
Gridlock is like a Chinese Finger Trap. Each partner pulls for his or her position, making compromise impossible.
My Dreams Are Becoming My Worst Nightmare
Our dreams are full of aspirations and wishes that are core to our identity and give our life purpose and meaning. Gridlock is a sign that each partner has dreams that the other hasn’t accepted, doesn’t respect, or isn’t aware of.
Some dreams are practical, like obtaining a certain amount of savings, while others are profound, like owning a beach house in Hawaii. The profound dreams often remain hidden beneath the practical ones.
For example, Kurt wants to make a seven-figure income, but why is that so important to him? Underneath his dream is a deep need for financial security.
When couples are in gridlock, it is only by uncovering the hidden dreams and symbolic meanings that they can get out of the Chinese Finger Trap.
The way out is to first identify the dream within conflict. When partners are gridlocked, they see each other as the source of difficulty. They tend to ignore their part in creating the conflict because it’s hidden from view.
If you find yourself saying, “the only problem is his lack of intelligence,” that’s probably not the whole story.
Uncovering a hidden dream is a challenge and it won’t emerge until you feel the relationship is a safe place to talk about it. If you don’t feel comfortable enough to open up, focus on the first three principles in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
My Dreams Are Silly
Personal dreams often go unmentioned because people worry they will burden their partner or negatively impact the relationship. It’s common for partners not to feel entitled to their dreams, but when you bury a dream, it can lead to resentment and ultimately gridlock.
When you share your dreams with your partner, you give your marriage the opportunity to have a profound purpose and sense of shared meaning. As Dr. Gottman explains in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, “couples who are demanding of their marriage are more likely to have deeply satisfying unions than those who lower their expectations.”
4 Steps to Overcome Gridlock
When you begin to uncover the dreams beneath your gridlock, the problems in your marriage will not immediately go away. It may actually seem to worsen rather than improve. Be patient. The very nature of gridlock is that dreams are in opposition.
Step 1: Explore Each Other’s Dreams
Pick an issue that you both feel causes gridlock in your marriage. Take time to reflect on the hidden dreams that may underlie your position. Talk about it with your partner by using Dr. Gottman’s Conflict Blueprint for a truly effective conflict conversation. Focus on understanding your partner’s position.
What not to say: Kris: I’ve always dreamed of buying a beach house in Hawaii. Kurt: First of all, we can’t afford something like that. I can’t think of anything more stressful than trying to upkeep a property in the middle of the ocean. Think of all the wear and tear we will need to replace. Kris: Forget it…
What to say instead: Kris: I’ve always dreamed of buying a beach house in Hawaii. Kurt: Tell me more about what it means to own a beach house in Hawaii. What would it do for you? Kris: It would be heaven on earth. My family and I used to go every year and my parents always said they wanted to buy a beach house. I’d feel such a sense of accomplishment and we’d be able to invite my parents over! They’d be so proud.
Acknowledging and respecting each other’s deepest most personal hopes and dreams is key to saving and enriching your marriage.
Step 2: Soothe Yourself and Each Other Discussing deeply held dreams that are in opposition can be stressful. Pay attention to your stress levels. If flooding occurs, stop the conversation, take a break, and use repairs.
Step 3: Reach a Temporary Compromise Now it’s time to make peace with this issue (for now) by accepting your differences and establishing some kind of initial compromise. Understand that this problem may never go away. The goal is to remove the hurt so the problem stops being a source of pain. To do this, refer to the Conflict Blueprint to separate the issue into two categories:
Non-negotiable areas: Aspects of the issue that you are unwilling to give up on because it will violate your basic needs or core values. Try to make this section as small as possible.
Areas of flexibility: Parts of the issue where you can be flexible. Try to make this section as large as possible.
Share your list with your partner and work together to come up with a temporary compromise. This compromise should last about three months. Afterwards, you can review where both of you stand. Don’t expect to solve the problem yet. Your goal here is only to live with it more peacefully. After all, 69% of all problems in a relationship are unsolvable.
Here’s what Kris and Kurt did:
They defined minimal core areas they are unwilling to change. Kris says she must have a house in Hawaii. Kurt says he must save $40,000 in order to feel financially secure.
They defined areas of flexibility. Kris says she can settle for a condo, rather than a beachfront house. Even though she wants to buy now, she is willing to wait 3 years as long as they can work together to make it happen. Kurt says he can be flexible about how quickly they save, as long as he knows both of them are working towards this goal. They decide that 5% of their income goes into this savings account.
They found a temporary compromise that honors both of their needs. They will buy a condo, but not for another three years. Meanwhile, they will devote half of their savings to a down payment and half into a mutual fund. In three months, they will review this plan and decide if it’s working or not.
Both Kris and Kurt realize that the underlying perpetual problem will never go away. Kris will always be the visionary, imagining a life on a beach, and Kurt is going to worry about their financial security. By learning to work with each other, both partners are able to cope with their differences, avoid gridlock, and work support each other in achieving their dreams.
Step 4: Give Thanks Overcoming financial gridlock requires more than just one discussion about the issues that have deeply troubled your marriage. The goal with this step is to cultivate a culture of appreciation in which you express your gratitude for all you have. This will feel difficult after talking about such an emotionally charged issue, but that’s all the more reason to make effort to end the conflict conversation on a positive note.
The best way to cope with financial gridlock is to avoid it in the first place. Don’t wait until resentment has set in to ask your partner about their dreams – Dr. Gottman suggests becoming a “dream detective.”
Have you ever felt like your partner was the enemy? In 1969, George Bach felt that way when he published The Intimate Enemy. Bach believed that relationships failed because partners didn’t air their resentments, so he encouraged couples to “let it all out.”
He gave couples foam rubber bats and encouraged partners to take turns saying what they resented about the other person. One partner might say, “I resent you for spending our money on a stupid boat we never use,” followed by a whack with the bat. Then the other partner might say, “I resent you for never having sex with me,” accompanied with a whack.
It turns out this method only made couples feel more resentful toward one another. “Letting it all out” is not the solution.
Before you even have a conflict conversation in your relationship, I recommend reading Are Love Laws Throwing You in Relationship Jail? Below are five guidelines for making a conflict conversation work: 1. Be on the Same Team People often perceive their partner as dissimilar to them, especially during conflict. They believe they have all the positive qualities and their partner only has a few or lots of negative traits.
When you give your partner a negative quality in your thoughts, try to see that same quality in yourself. And when you identify a positive quality in yourself, try to see that same quality in your partner. The assumption of similarity is what keeps The Story of Us focused on we-ness, not me-ness.
2. Stop if You’re Flooded Couples can only have a constructive conflict conversation if they can manage their own physiological flooding. At its peak, flooding can cause couples to verbally attack each other. Any conversation you have while being flooded will be useless, if not damaging. Regrettable words will be said and partners will put up walls as they defend themselves against one another.
Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown that a simple 20 to 30 minute break can really help you calm yourself down. During that time, do things that help you relax like taking a walk or listening to your favorite music.
3. Postpone Persuasion Trying to persuade your partner to compromise before both of you have stated your position will lead to resentment and an unfair solution. If your partner feels unheard, they will unlikely to be motivated to open up and hear your side of the story. It is only when both partners feel understood by each other that you can begin to work together to find a compromise.
If your partner does not feel understood and accepts your persuasion, over time they may resent you or undermine the solution you set.
Slow down, understand each other, and the solution will last.
4. Express Your Needs As a speaker, it’s your responsibility to express your needs in a way that your partner can do something about that will be successful for you. The trap most people fall into is only expressing how they want to feel: “I want to feel more loved.”
The problem is that it gives your partner no clue how to help you feel that way. A better way to ask for more love is, “I need a romantic date night once a week and an overnight to a bed and breakfast every two months.” Be as specific as you can.
5. Believe Both Points of View are Valid When partners believe there is only one truth, they argue tooth and nail for their own position. That belief is a dead end.
There is only one essential assumption that will make the conversation about hurt feelings or the aftermath of a fight workout constructively: that in every disagreement or miscommunication, there are always two points of view, and they are both valid.
Once you accept that idea, it’s no longer necessary to argue for your own position. Now you can focus on understanding and validating your partner’s position.
Note: Validation and understanding are not the same as compliance or agreement. This process will only work if both partners agree that there are two valid viewpoints, and if BOTH partners are not focused on “facts” but on understanding the other’s side of the event.
These five rules will guide you to stop fighting and start connecting in your relationship. If you find you and your partner’s core needs are at war with each other, don’t fret. Check out the 4 Steps to Overcome Relationship Gridlock here.
Additionally, Dr. John Gottman’s 40 years of research with thousands of couples has revealed an effective conflict blueprint that provides both the speaker and listener with responsibilities for making the conversation constructive.
Do your children feel led or pushed? Or asked another way, are you as a
parent dominated by love or frustration? The two questions are inexorably tied
together. Leading is born out of love and pushing is born out of frustration.
Too often as parents we tell our children that we demand obedience and speak
sharply because we love them and only want the best for them. Most likely our
children are not buying this explanation. It feels to them as if they are being
pushed into doing what mum and dad want.
In contrast, notice the sequence of thought and actions in Deuteronomy
6:5-7: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be
upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit
at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get
First, you are to love God with every fiber of your being, with all that
you have to offer as a human living and being sustained by the grace of God.
Second, the commands of God are to dominate your inner being because of
your profound love for God.
Third, these commands are to be deeply implanted into the lives of your
children during every event and opportunity that God brings to you each day.
So, you as a parent are to deeply love God with all that you are as a
person. This love is expressed by drinking deeply of his commands so that your
heart is permeated with them. Then, this love for God and his commands is to
overflow from your heart into the everyday situations of life that you and your
It is this combination of loving God and living out His commands that
will allow you to impress the love you have for God into the lives of your
children. In this sense no pushing is required. This is what it means to lead.
Even as you embrace this deep love for God that Deuteronomy requires you to
have, your children will be still the same sinful creatures that desperately
need the grace of God. The difference will be that you will not be pushing them
to grasp what remains elusive to you. Rather you will be leading them to the
same place that you long to go – to the cross.