Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

How to be happy for 40 years

August 25, 2014

Annie and David, August 25, 1974

Annie and David, August 25, 1974

August 25, 1974  – David and I got married on Long Island, under a tree. We wrote our own vows, put real flowers on top of the cake, and instructed the official to lose the “obey” and just go with “honor.” Sounds like a hippie wedding, but it was real. At least, I think so. Being the 70’s, reality was up for grabs.

Anyway, it’s 40 years today and if someone asked me “Why did you marry David, a guy that you’d only recently met on vacation?” I would say, because David saw wonderful things in me that I didn’t know were there. I saw what he saw in the video tape he made of our first days together and it blew me away. I figured “If he sees that in me, then I’ve gotta stay with this man so I can become those things.” So I did. And I did.

If someone asked David, “Why’d you marry Annie?” He’d say… Wait a minute. I don’t actually know what he’d say. Let me go ask. (Short commute to David’s office next door….. )

Here’s what he said: “I married you because you are those wonderful things…. and because it was so natural being with you. When people saw us in those first few days they were amazed we’d just met. They thought we’d been together for years. We had been together for years… in other lifetimes. You are my soulmate.”

How can you not love a guy who is so awesome that he still says stuff like that after forty years?

So you want to know the secret of being happy for the long-haul? Here you go:

• Be nice. You’re not going to feel like it all the time, but when things are just fine, think of ways to show that you really are your partner’s best friend.

• Do fun stuff. You don’t need to be inseparable, but you’ve gotta find a least one thing (outside of sex) that you both enjoy doing together and do it, often.

• Laugh. Together. A lot. Life is funny. Even when it’s frustrating and crazy. So you’ve gotta laugh. As my dad used to say, “What else ya’ gonna do?” Good point.

• Share the chores. At best, housework is boring, but it really sucks when it’s marinated in resentment. Share the recycling, vacuuming, laundry, shopping, etc. Your home will stay cleaner and you’ll have more time for the fun stuff.

• Eat.  Food is life. If you really get into it, you can extract endless joy from cooking and baking. And then there’s growing what you eat. But even if none of that is your thing, make the time to sit down for meals together. Savor the food. Savor the company. Enjoy.

• Show appreciation. Everyone likes having their efforts noticed. Whether it’s filling up the car, appearing at your desk with a snack, or massaging your feet…. “Thank you!” says “I love you and appreciate this kindness.”

• Talk it out. Stress, anger, resentment, worry gets in the way of feeling close. Some is directed at your partner, some isn’t. Whenever you feel your Monkey Mind careening into dark corners, put on the brakes, toss that chimp aside and talk to your partner. The goal isn’t to dump your load, the goal is to share it and lighten it.

• Listen to each other. Our emotions and life experiences make us all so fragile. In your partnership, make it safe to talk by being the kind of partner who knows how to listen with an open heart, an open mind, and open arms. This is truly the secret of a healthy marriage.

• Unplug. If it feels like you and/or your partner spend too much time looking at a screen, you probably do. Talk about that and how you can get back in balance so the relationship gets more of the attention it deserves.

• Have adventures. We love to hike and we don’t always know where we are or if we’re headed in the right direction.  Adventures require a willingness to wander and that’s sure to bring you to unheard of places. Some will be scary. Some, just freakin’ weird. But the juice of a great partnership is trusting that the two of you can figure anything out together.

Okay, it’s 9:28. Time for this anniversary party to get started. Enjoy your day. David and I wish you and your sweetie lots of love and laughter.

Here's looking at you

Here’s looking at you

 

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 10:01 am
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50 Lessons of Love for Valentine’s Day and Beyond

February 14, 2013

Love is all around. Take what you need. Give what you can.

David and I have celebrated a lot of Valentine’s Days together… so much chocolate! I appreciate how our partnership contributes to my health and well being. It makes so much of what I do possible. I also especially appreciate how our relationship continues to get better. How can that be? We work at it. A lot. We’re not aiming for perfect, only progress in the direction of more kindness, compassion and fun.

And so, on this Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about love after 38 years of marriage. Take what makes sense to you. Leave the rest. I hope it helps in whatever ways you need.

  1. It’s not about who you love, it’s about how.
  2. If it’s getting in the way of being together, as friends and lovers, talk about it.
  3. Be totally trustworthy and require the same from your partner.
  4. Look for opportunities to ease your partner’s mind and tight shoulder muscles.
  5. Turn off the Opinionator and listen with an open heart and mind.
  6. From time to time, just clean up someone else’s mess without expecting an Academy Award.
  7. Don’t cheat… ever.
  8. If you or your partner has created a break in trust, do what makes sense to learn from it and move on… if you can.
  9. Be a safe person for your partner to show his/her vulnerability and strength.
  10. Show that you know and understand who s/he really is.
  11. “Let’s go for a walk” is a lovely thing to say.
  12. Do the dishes, even if it’s not your turn.
  13. Nurture the romance and the friendship because the kids will grow up and leave.
  14. Make food together and enjoy what you’ve dished up.
  15. Don’t look for perfection only progress… in yourself and your partner.
  16. Find at least one thing, outside of the house, that you enjoy doing together and do it… regularly.
  17. Put down the damn phone iPad, Kindle, laptop and hold each other close.
  18. Bring home an occasional surprise treat as a “just because” gift of love.
  19. Anger comes in two varieties… the clean kind (I’m upset & here’s why) and the dirty kind (You ALWAYS do this!) Keep it clean.
  20. Use your love for your partner to give your best self. It’ll become ingrained and then you can give it to everyone.
  21. Be nice. Save the contempt for… actually, don’t save if for anyone.
  22. Share that last chocolate chip cookie.
  23. When your lover wants to talk about something that’s important to him/her (but not to you), stop and LISTEN with genuine interest.
  24. When a hug is given, hug back, no matter how crappy a mood you’re in. It’ll make you feel better.
  25. Show appreciation. Even after years of being together, “Please” and “Thank you” are signs of caring.
  26. Unplug when you’re with your sweetie and be where you are. It shows “You matter to me more than checking FB.”
  27. Fill up the gas tank because you know your partner needs the car tomorrow.
  28. Making your honey a snack is an act of love.
  29. Make eye contact and a smile when s/he walks into the room.
  30. Dark chocolate. Lots of it to share.
  31. When your lover is out in public playing a sport, performing, presenting, be front & center, cheering him/her on!
  32. Let there be togetherness in your chores. Cleaning up, doing laundry, shopping is sweeter when you’re doing it together.
  33. When your lover looks great, tell him/her. When s/he has had better days, do NOT say a word!
  34. If your lover is under the weather (or on a work deadline) do more than your share around the house with a smile.
  35. If you notice your honey has spinach bits between teeth or (horrors!) a booger… speak up (discreetly, of course!)
  36. Foot rubs are such a gift!(if you like having your feet touched) Otherwise… ask what else would feel better.
  37. Be helpful, without being asked.
  38. Listening with an open heart and an open mind leads to understanding. Understanding increases love.
  39. Say the words “I love you” like you really mean it. Yes, from time to time, we all need to hear the words.
  40. A gift is most appreciated when it reflects how well you know and understand your sweetie.
  41. Flirting with anyone other than your sweetie is disrespectful to your lover and your relationship. Just don’t. If you find your affections wandering, take it as an opportunity to make the relationship stronger. Say, “Honey, I need more _____ from you.”
  42. Dark chocolate… wrapped or unwrapped. Lots of it. Frequently. Share.
  43. Forgiveness is a gift to you, your partner, and the relationship. Let go of resentment or it will poison everything.
  44. Be the kind of partner you’d like your partner to be.
  45. Show how much you appreciate having him/her in your life. Not just on Valentine’s, but every day
  46. Your kids learn about love and loving by the way you treat them and by the way you and your partner treat each other.
  47. When your partner is worried don’t say, “That’s ridiculous!” (even if it is.) Just be there with support and encouragement.
  48. Look for opportunities to be helpful. Don’t wait to be asked.
  49. Smile at your sweetie. It sends a great message and you always cuter when you’re happy.
  50. Do something special together today to celebrate your love. We all need that from time to time.  This would be a good time. Enjoy.

Happy Valentine’s Day from our hearts to yours!

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Asking for love in the right places

November 20, 2012

The following is an excerpt from my new parenting book,  Teaching Kids to Be Good People. It’s from the chapter on Emotional Intelligence.

If you try you might get what you need

Right before Thanksgiving a few years back, my dear friend Bettina, who was having some health issues, emailed me: “I know this is incredibly presumptuous and Miss Manners would be scandalized, but I’m wrangling for an invitation.”

I was blown away. Not by her directness (God no!), but by her feeling that she had no right to say, “I’m not feeling well and I don’t want to be alone. Can I come over?” Immediately I called and thanked her for trusting me to understand her vulnerability. I also gave her top marks for the way she had honored herself by asking for what she needed. She was relieved to hear that she’d done the right thing by speaking up.

Most of us are much quicker to stand up for others than for ourselves. On some level we must believe we don’t deserve to get our emotional needs met. But where does that foolishness come from? Here’s my theory . . .

Babies are irresistibly cute so adults fall hard and take good care of them. Once they’ve gotten their sweet baby hooks into our hearts, they are experts at expressing their physical and emotional needs, nonverbally. As our children grow, our conversations with them center mostly on the physical aspects of life: Sweetheart, are you hungry? Do you want something to drink? Is it nap time? Why don’t you put on a sweater? As a result, asking for tangible stuff is very easy for kids: Dad, I need a ride. Mom, I need you to sign this. I need a new phone. I need money.

Because most parents don’t teach kids about expressing emotional needs, teens rarely say: I need a hug. I need to share this exciting news! I need you to listen. I need you to tell me the truth. I need help.

I asked a bunch of sixth–eighth graders to rate themselves on these two statements: “It’s easy for me to ask for help” and “I pretend things are OK when they aren’t.” The results? Twenty-five percent of the kids said it was “never or almost never” easy to ask for help. Another 25 percent reported that “sometimes” they had trouble asking for help. And here’s another sad finding: A whopping 83 percent admitted that “sometimes, always, or almost always” they pretend things are OK when they aren’t.

An unwillingness to ask for help, coupled with a habit of pretending things are fine when they’re not, is unhealthy. When we deny our human need to connect heart-to-heart, we end up short-changing ourselves and the people we’re closest to.

A parent’s role is to raise an emotionally healthy young adult. That includes helping a child recognize what s/he’s feeling and learning to ask for support when needed. Of course self-reliance is essential and being able to calm yourself at times of stress is a life skill, but there’s no denying that we all feel vulnerable at times. It’s also true that we’re all interdependent. When we let people know how we feel and allow them to love us and help us, we honor our humanity. We do the same when we love and help others.

On that Thanksgiving, my family and I were heading out of town, so our home was going to be cold and dark. I couldn’t offer Bettina a warm place at our table. But with my encouragement, she was confident enough to express her needs to another friend who gladly opened his heart and home. What would surely have been a sad and lonely day for her, turned into a wonderful occasion. Less than two years later, Bettina died. Thinking about her, then and now, I’m comforted knowing that she wasn’t alone on one of her last Thanksgiving holidays. She was brave enough to reach out and ask for what she needed. Bettina taught me a powerful lesson, especially important when we’re vulnerable: When it comes to friends and family, hold nothing back. Allow yourself to love and be loved fully, without limits.

Happy Holidays, from our family to yours.

 

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Love is all we need, so why not ask for it?

December 21, 2009

Sometimes we choose to walk alone. Sometimes we've got no choice.

Sometimes we choose to walk alone. Sometimes we've got no choice.

Right before Thanksgiving a few years back, a dear friend emailed me: “I know this is incredibly presumptuous, and Miss Manners would be scandalized, but I’m wrangling for an invitation.”

I was blown away. Not by her directness (God no!) but by the fact that she felt she had no right to say, “I need a place to be on Thanksgiving. Can you help me?”

We were heading out of town for the holiday, but I immediately called my friend and thanked her for trusting me with the truth and for honoring herself. She was relieved she’d done the right thing by speaking up. Most of us are much quicker to stand up for others than for ourselves. Especially women. On some level we must believe that we don’t deserve to get our emotional needs met. But where does that foolishness come from?

Babies are irresistibly cute so adults fall hard and take care of them. Once they’ve gotten their sweet baby hooks into our hearts, they’re great at expressing their physical and emotional needs. But as our kids grow, our conversations with them center mostly on the physical aspects of life: Sweetheart, are you hungry? Do you want something to drink? Is it nap time? Why don’t you put on a sweater?

As a result, asking for that tangible stuff is very easy for kids: Dad, I need a ride. Mom, I need you to sign this. I want a new computer. I need some money. Because most parents don’t focus on helping kids express emotional needs, tweens and teens rarely say: I need a hug. I need to share this exciting news! I need a shoulder to cry on. I need a kind word. I need a friend. I need you to tell me the truth. I need help.

I asked a bunch of 6th-8th graders to rate themselves on these two statements: “It’s easy for me to ask for help.” and “I pretend things are OK when they aren’t.” The results? 25% of the kids said, “It’s never or almost never easy for me to ask for help.” Another 25% reported that “sometimes” they had trouble asking for help. And here’s another sad finding: A whopping 83% admitted that “sometimes, always or almost always” they pretend things are OK when they really aren’t.

An unwillingness to ask for help coupled with a habit of pretending things are fine when they’re not is no way to live. In fact, when we deny our human need to connect heart-to-heart, we end up short-changing ourselves and the people we’re closest to.

A parent’s role is to raise an emotionally healthy young adult. That includes helping a child recognize what he/she is feeling and learning to ask for support when needed. Of course self-reliance is essential and being able to calm yourself at times of stress is a life-skill, but we’re all interdependent. When we let people love us and help us, we honor the most human part of ourselves.

Turns out my friend was brave enough to express her needs to someone else who gladly opened his heart and home. Consequently she had a wonderful holiday.

This season, hold nothing back. Allow yourself to love and be loved fully, without reservation.

Peace.

Filed under: Holidays,Parenting,Pop Culture — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 4:03 pm
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