Why is Marriage Portrayed so Negatively on TV?

jeff dunham and walter

Image from commons.wikimedia.org

My husband was watching a Jeff Dunham special on TV the other day, and one of the show’s characters, Walter (a grumpy old man puppet), made a remark that really made me upset. He was talking about his wife said something to the effect of, “When you’re dating, all you want to do is make out in the car. When you’re married, all you want to do is run her over with the car.”

Now, I know it’s just a joke coming from a silly puppet, but I think that’s completely besides the point. It certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve heard someone on TV make a remark about how much they hate their wife. Al Bundy made some kind of comment to that effect each episode of Married With Children. More common themes include men complaining about how all their women do is whine and nag, spend all their husbands’ money, and took their freedom and fun away.

Is it becoming OK to despise your wife? To the point you joke about killing her?! What on earth does it say to still be married to this woman then? I would hope that if a marriage got to that point where you can’t stand your spouse you would no longer be together. Although I do believe divorce is becoming too much of an easy escape in times of trouble these days, but that’s a whole separate blog post.

That comment from Walter was even more painful for me, thinking of how a man, an actual man (Jeff Dunham) wrote that joke. Jeff himself was married for many years, and now is divorced. Maybe he’s just bitter and writing jokes fueled from that emotion, but that doesn’t make it right. Or funny.

I know there’s plenty of other shows on TV that do portray marriage in a better light, or at least in a more real way, but those are few and far between, and I doubt many impressionable youth are tuning in to those shows. I’d like to think that these off-color comments are not making their way into the minds of young people (and adults!), but I’m sure to some extent they are. The more you see or hear something, the more you start to believe it.

It makes me sad to see marriage, which is such a wonderful thing, joked about. Marriage is hard and each couple will have their arguments and issues, but never should it be OK to make comments about how much you hate your spouse. Marriage is sacred. You say your vows to this person to love and honor them till death do you part. (Cue another joke from Walter about the death part.) I don’t know about you, but I meant mine.

Is marriage just a big joke to Hollywood? Doing some quick Googling while writing this post, I found an article that said television can affect how we feel about marriage and our own spouse. I know it’s true to some extent for me. I love the TV show, King of Queens, and in that show, the wife Carrie is often nagging and making fun of her own husband, calling him fatty and other less than loving things. I don’t call my husband names, but I do find myself nagging more than I should, possibly because I see it so much on TV, so it becomes more “acceptable.”

But at what point did it ever become acceptable to make marriage a giant joke? Your spouse the object of ridicule and hateful remarks? I, for one, don’t like it one bit. Not that I know what to do about it, or what my point was writing this post, but I just wanted to get that off my chest. Phew.

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How I’m Digging Myself Out of Debt (with Actual Numbers)!

credit card debt how to pay offI’ve talked on this blog before about how I made some really bad financial decisions, especially related to my wedding. I had no self control. If I saw something and liked it, I threw it on plastic, never once paying attention to my balance, interest rate or fees. Then one day as I was paying bills, I realized that even though I’ve been paying the minimum payment every month on my cards, the total balance was still going up on some. That’s when I looked at the terms of my credit cards and realized how bad my situation was. It was worse than I ever thought it would be, and it was out of complete carelessness. I realized that if I was ever going to afford a house or a child, I had to make big changes quick. I decided to get my act together, tackle my debt, make a budget a financial plan to try and right my wrongs and get back on track.

I’m going to be very honest and open with my financial situation here. I know a lot of people are scared to reveal actual numbers, and I am too, but for the sake of being open and maybe possibly helping someone else, I’ll let it all out. Numbers and all. It’s incredibly embarassing to admit for me, and please don’t judge. Here we go.

The Problem

I had a total of 11 credit cards. ELEVEN. At the height of it all, one month after my wedding, I carried around approximately $8,500 in total credit card debt. (Plus some more lost money in overdraft fees from my always-low checking account.) It was a lot for me.

It started out innocently enough. My senior year of high school I signed up for my first credit card at Express as a way of building some credit in the first place. I barely used it that first year at all. Then I got one at Victoria’s Secret in college because I worked there. I did pretty good with these two cards at first. But then it got out of control fast. I saw how easy it was to manage these two so I thought surely I could get some more and it’d be no biggie. I was lured into nearly all of them by sales associates talking me into the sign-up savings. How could I NOT save an extra 15% on those new pants at Macy’s?! There was no harm, right? Wrong. I said yes way too many times to that sales pitch at the register.

It only got worse. For a work trip at my former job, my checking account balance was super low and I knew I wouldn’t be able to even afford to buy meals for the week. At that job, we got reimbursed for expenses after the trip, so I had to find a way of funding my expenses upfront. Signed up for a new credit card before the trip and used it frequently. Got home and decided I wanted a new laptop so bought one with that same card. Then around wedding time, I was again lured into saving on our wedding bands, my dress, the groosmen’s tuxes AND our honeymoon flight by getting even more new cards. Oh yeah, and the entire time I was also eating out frequently, ordering delivery, getting fast food and shopping far too much. All on my cards.

The reality is, I saved nothing. I lost a lot. I never asked the credit card terms before signing up and got hit with loads of finance charges, high interest rates and who knows what else. Knowing that all that money could have gone toward my house savings infuriated me. I hated myself for being so irresponsible. But wallowing doesn’t fix anything so I had to get serious.

The Solution

First I called my mom and confessed the trouble I got myself in. She agreed to “allow” me to dip into the savings account she had set up for me as an emergency/house fund to start chipping away at the debt. But to figure out which card needed paying off the most, I had to make a list (yay lists!). My first step was to make a spreadsheet detailing all my cards, interest rate, total balance, available credit and any yearly fees or other terms worth keeping in mind. I took $800 out of my house fund to pay off one card entirely – Zales, which had the highest interest rate of them all (28.99%! *cringe*).

Then for awhile after, I just paid a little more than the minimum due on all my cards. It was something, but it wasn’t enough. Enter Amberly. I found her Money & Marriage series and was intrigued. She introduced me to Dave Ramsey, and that very day I instituted his debt snowball. Slowly I started getting those balances down but only was able to close a couple cards that had small balances to begin with. I did feel victories with each, but I was egaer to knock the big ones out.

…and then my tax return came. Hallelujah! I got the biggest return I ever have thanks to filing as married for the first time. Together, Cal and I got $2,850, and we decided to split it in half. I applied every cent of that return to my credit cards (and his all went to his own student loan debt, which is another story in itself). With that, I was able to pay off two more cards entirely and half the balance of the card with the biggest total balance and next highest interest rate. This was the biggest win I have felt yet, and it feels so good.

I now only have four cards with balances, and with the money I’m saving from no more payments on those other cards, I can chip away at these four much more quickly. I also put a freeze on my remaining cards. I only actually carry one card with me to use in absolute emergency (which I did have to once when my car died on the side of the road and I simply didn’t have enough money in my checking at the time to cover the repairs). Otherwise, if I don’t have enough money in my checking or it’s not budgeted for, I don’t buy it. With continued hard work, I think and hope I can knock these last four out by the end of this year.

I also took some other small steps to cut back on spending itself. I started meal planning, which is saving me so much on eating out, buying groceries and wasting food. I coupon more. I took freelance jobs to have more money coming in. And in general, I try to live on less. That sometimes translates to saying no to fun things you otherwise would have said yes to. I declined concerts with friends, eating out, going for drinks and traveling to places that would require spending too much. And now when I do go out, you can bet it’s with a coupon or to catch a happy hour special. To go along with the new me, I wanted to do a good big clean up at our apartment, and I purged tons of items and donated them. Less stuff = less clutter = less stress = less spending.

I also knew it was important to get my savings account built up again, so I changed my direct deposit at work to send $20 every month straight into it, and I have vowed to not touch it again, pending disaster, emergency or when we’re ready to use it to buy a house. It’s not a big contribution, but it’s better than nothing. I should also note that I compared just about every bank in my town and picked out the one savings account at the one credit union that would yield the most interest earned and lowest (read: no) fees. Seeing that savings number very slowly go up again gives me even more confidence. Little steps lead to big changes, I’m telling you.

Not gonna lie. Getting your finances back on track is TOUGH. I’ve slipped a few times, but I try to make up for it and am far more aware of it now. Getting closer to my end goal of being debt free with a nice savings and owning a home is so worth it.

I’ve seen a lot improvement already. Freeing up paying so many cards has given me more money to work with paying off the ones that are left. In turn, my credit score is going back up and my credit utilizaton rate (or total balance versus available credit) is pretty darn good too.

I should note as well that I’m purposely keeping all my paid off cards open a little longer. I’m saying no to temptation to use them by stashing them in my nightstand and never carrying them with me. But to keep that credit utilization low, I need that total credit to be high as my balances get lower. This gives me a better overall credit score and will work in my favor when we do apply for a home loan. As soon as we’re to that point and the loan has gone though, I plan to close at least half of my cards.

What I’ve also learned is that now that I’ve changed my bad behaviors, there are benefits to keeping just a few cards. I plan to keep Victoria’s Secret and Express simply for the discounts and rewards from each store, but will always pay off all balances immediately. These two cards were never a problem for me in the first place, so it makes sense to keep them. I’m also keeping Tires Plus because the card has good terms and is peace of mind in case one of our cars needs a repair more costly than we can afford in our checking. I’ll be keeping my Wells Fargo visa as the general emergency card because it has the lowest interest rate of them all (9%! what what!). I’m on the fence about keeping my Target card though. I like that I get 5% off using it, but it’s been the card that I’ve got in the most trouble with, and the interest rate and fees are higher than I’d like. I may keep it for awhile and see if I can keep self control having it but stick to paying it off right away.

This all being said, my last point is that just because I’m on a budget and am trying hard to pay off debt, doesn’t mean I allow myself no fun. You have to make some exceptions now and then, or else you become so upset with all work and no play that you self sabotage. Like I mentioned, I still go out occasionally, but when I do, it’s with coupons or for happy hour deals, or I try to find free things to do with friends instead. I say yes to far fewer concerts than I once did, but I make exceptions for events that I absolutely love. An Alice in Wonderland ballet will be happening here in April and I splurged on tickets to see that because I know I will love it.

I also prioritized my other expenses outside of credit cards to find other places to cut back. I rate shopped for car insurance to make sure I was getting the best deal for the best coverage (and I am. Progressive FTW!). I’m going to cut out the DVD plan on our Netflix and only have streaming. We got rid of our garage at our apartment to save $30 a month on renting that. I only pay for one fecal test at the vet now (instead of two because if one has worms the other will too! durr.). One thing that’s super important to me though is TV. I pay a lot for DirecTV every month, but it’s an expense I find worth it. I LOVE my TV, and while I could live without it or with a cheaper plan, right now it’s simply not something I’m willing to give up. #Sorrynotsorry.

Tips for You: My Takeaway

-Check out Dave Ramsey’s resources. His “seven baby steps to financial peace” helped inspire me a lot and start my financial plan, including the debt snowball.

-Comparison shop for banks and make sure you’re at the instituation where you can get the highest interest and lowest fees. Also shop for new car insurance, TV or Internet service, etc., to make sure you’re getting the best deal you can.

-Make a list and evaluate all of your monthly expenses and see where you can cut back. Try using Mint.com to track everything and help you budget.

-Find ways to earn extra income and put that toward either savings or paying off your debts. Take on freelance work, find a side job, sell some clothes, offer to clean your friends’ houses, babysit or mow lawns for a small fee, or if you’re crafty, set up a shop on Etsy. I firmly believe there’s always something you can do to make some money; you just might need to get creative.

-Make other lifestyle changes for an even bigger impact, including couponing, watching sales and specials, budgeting, meal planning, savings contributions, even the envelope system if you think that’s right for you.

-Give yourself goals and challenges to make sure you stay on track and build in accountability. I also like giving yourself rewards when you do well and discipline when I mess up.

-Don’t get too rigid or strict about it. Allow yourself to still have some fun!

Do you struggle with debt too? What tips do you have?

Nieces, Anniversary and Pee, Oh My!

Well, the title of this post pretty much sums up this last weekend. My in-laws came to town on Friday night, and while the oldest niece, her friend and her mom went to the Justin Timberlake concert, Cal and I got to babysit their three youngest girls, aka my official nieces now! Since the concert was going to go really late, past the girls’ bedtime, they also slept over.

We were actually pretty excited for this. We haven’t spent much, if any, time with the girls outside of going to their house when we go back to his hometown to visit. So to have them on our turf this time was going to be fun! I was a little concerned that our smallish apartment wouldn’t be large enough for three young girls, not to mention our three pets and us, to be in, especially if they wanted to run around and play. Well turns out the girls were absolute angels on their visit, but it was our pets who were too rambunctious!

Friday night started out well enough. Cal cooked them dinner, their favorite meal, tater tot hot dish, and they made fun of him for squirting ketchup all over his portion. After dinner, we watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Laci, the youngest, didn’t want to sit alone, so she snuggled up with me on the recliner. The two other girls shared the couch with Cal…and then Brick jumped up…and then Little Girl. It would be an understatement to say that the pets loved the girls.

blog babystiting nieces over the weekend

movie time with the glowy-eyed puppy

Then when it was bedtime, we discovered that an unknown culprit had peed all over the air mattress and blankets we had set up for them. Thankfully we had a sleeping bag and extra blankets to make do for the night.

Come morning, after Cal fed the pets, Little Girl puked right next to the girls. Which is actually nothing new. She often eats way too fast then runs around and heaves up her breakfast. Cat never learns. Then after our big breakfast of bacon, eggs and pancakes, Brick started peeing on the floor right by the couch! I tried to make him stop, but how do you really do that, so I just dragged him into the kitchen so the pee would at least be easier to clean up there. He peed the whole way I dragged him over. And kept going. It didn’t stop! The girls thought it was the funniest thing. And actually it kind of was. Brick never pees in the house, so I think he must have just been so excited that he simply couldn’t hold it in. This leads us to believe he was the mattress culprit too.

Despite the massive amounts of pee from the dog we had to deal with, we really had a nice time. I really enjoyed spending time with my nieces. Oh, and Laci whispered that she loved me at one point. It was so cute. Love those girls.

Feb. 9 is our dating anniversary. I know it doesn’t matter much anymore, but I want to keep celebrating it for just a little longer. It’s been nine years since we’ve been together! Which has been long enough to feel like Feb. 9 is special now. I think at least till we hit that 10-year mark anyway. Plus it’s so close to V-day that we just kind of wrap them together. Anyway, we had plans to go out for dinner on Sunday, but we both had our presents ready for each other on Saturday, and we couldn’t wait, so we exchanged gifts a little early. I got him a Datevitation book, so he can redeem coupons I made just for him, such as a Matt Damon (his favorite actor) movie night whenever he wants.

He got me flowers in a pretty pink vase. We went years of dating and I never got flowers till finally he realized I like receiving them, so it seems extra special now when I get them. Plus, what might be the coolest thing he’s ever gotten me, I also received a necklace with a little bottle on the end just like the “drink me” bottle from Alice in Wonderland, and I totally love it.

flowers for anniversary on blog

On Sunday we went to Red Lobster for our anniversary dinner since we had $85 in gift cards there. So naturally we ordered two apps, several alcoholic beverages, big entrees and a dessert and ate it all for free. The best way to eat! We waddled back home and watched Insidious 2. Fun fact: I absolutely love horror movies. They scare the crap out of me, and I often can’t sleep after watching them, but it never stops me. I can’t get enough. It was pretty good! I told Cal to please never let himself become posessed, that would be great. Then to end the night on a non-scary note, we finished with Free Birds.

It was pretty much an awesome weekend.

10 Favorite Things About My Husband

Linking up with the lovely Brianna today for 10 Favorite Things! In honor of Valentine’s Day coming up soon, and our 9-year dating anniversary in about a week (I know the dating anniversary doesn’t matter anymore, but I want to keep celebrating it till we hit 10 years), it was a perfect topic.

10 Favorite Things About That Special Someone

1. I love my husband’s sense of humor. It’s cliche, but so true for us. He is the funniest person I know and we laugh together a lot.

2. I love that we have lots of things in common, but are very different in many ways. He rounds me out:)

3. I love that while 99% of the time he’s a big tough man, I get to see some occasional moments of weakness and deep down emotions.

4. I love that for the most part, he’s tidy. For some bizarre reason, he loves vaccuming and doing the dishes. And I’m forgetful and get distracted easily, so he often has to pick up after me.

5. I love that he very rarely complains about my shortcomings. I know I have a lot, but he never points them out, though I can be a nagging wife and point his out. Which is unfair, and I need to change that.

6. I love that every time I get groceries, he helps me carry them in without a single complaint. And he always takes the heavy bags so I can have the light ones.

7. I love that he makes voices and personalities for our pets and has conversations as them.

8. I love that he lets me deck out our apartment like a crazy cat lady. I have cat pictures, figurines and trinkets all over the place. I know if it was entirely up to him, none of that would be there, but he lets me create the surroundings that I like without complaint.

9. He is truly a really nice guy. He likes to put on a show when he’s in a crowd and tell jokes and be the center of attention, which can make him come off as loud or inconsiderate to some who don’t know him, but I’ve seen another, very caring and considerate side. When it comes to defending his friends or his family, he will do it to the death, and he cares about the people he loves so much.

10. He is going to make a great father one day. He grew up in a large family with lots of kids, so maybe that’s why it comes natural to him, but I am the total opposite. Knowing that he will be there to help me through parenthood makes me feel really good.

And now, just because, a bunch of photos of us!

Quite possibly our first photo together, circa 2005, in the college dorms

Quite possibly our first photo together, circa 2005, in the college dorms

Before we went to our first concert (and road trip!) together

Before we went to our first concert (and road trip!) together

At my best friend's wedding. Our first wedding together!

At my best friend’s wedding. Our first wedding together!

and then we got engaged!

and then we got engaged!

and then we got married!

and then we got married!

and then we honeymooned in New Orleans!

and then we honeymooned in New Orleans!

From Ms. to Mrs: The Story of Changing My Name

I was pretty certain my whole life that when I got married, I’d change my last name. Being a sociology minor though, I did have a period of doubting that. I actually met a few people who broke the societal norm – the chair of the department took his wife’s last name, and a classmate who got married made up a new last name that both she and her husband took. I thought it was super cool, and I totally got it. Why should the woman have to make the sacrifice? It’s essentially like a new identity, especially if you’re well into your career and have established yourself with your maiden name. My own mom has some regrets about changing hers for various reasons.

For me, in the end, I still wanted to take my husband’s last name. In several ways, I consider myself modern and sometimes even a feminist. But another part of me is very traditional. I liked the idea of being unified with my husband by name. It shows the world we belong together. It showed his family that I was proud to join them. If and when we have children, we’ll all share one last name. The idea of saying “the Hoflands” was really appealing to me.

At the same time, I spent 27 years of my life with one name, and parting with it made me a little sad. It became my identity. I was attached to it. My nickname in high school was my last name. Few people actually called me Amanda. Plus, I had many published stories from my time at the magazine and other endeavors in my maiden name. I didn’t have it in me to totally throw it away.

My compromise to please both the nostalgic part of me with the traditionalist was to make my maiden name a second middle name. In the eyes of the law, I’m a Hofland. That’s what I scribble on my checks now. But knowing that my maiden name is still legally a part of me, now as a middle name, is comforting. It’s just tucked in there whether I want to use it or not. For my professional writing post-marriage, I did decide to use both so my articles could be linked.

I gotta tell you though: Holy cow, I was not prepared for the process of changing it. It was for more involved than I ever could have imagined. If you’ve ever moved, you know how many places you have to change your address. But for changing your name? Double it. Or more.

To do it, I took a few name-change checklists from the Internet and combined them into what applied to me, adding and deleting till I had a complete list of every single place I could think of that had my name somewhere. Of course there’s the social security office, DMV, banks, credit card companies, TV and Internet service, etc., but so many other forgotten places like the library, magazine subscriptions, dentist, even your Amazon registration.

I printed out my massive list and carried it around with me for months. During breaks at work, I’d go through a few each day. What no one told me about this process was how many copies of my certified marriage certificate I’d need. Not just any old photocopy. A CERTIFIED copy. With some kind of “seal” from the courthouse. Which cost $10 for each copy. And most places wanted to keep that one copy that cost me $10. Awesome.

Thankfully not every entry on the list needed a certified copy, but probably at least 5 or more did. Some wanted that certified copy mailed to them with an application for a name change, some wanted a regular copy faxed to them with a hand-written cover sheet, some allowed me to just email them a scanned file of it, and a select few needed no evidence and took my word for it (God bless those ones).

Every single one required an initial phone call to find out what the procedure was, and that meant lots of time on hard-to-navigate automated systems that takes you in circles, talking to foreign people with such thick accents I couldn’t understand a thing, being transferred around multiple departments, multiple times, and playing many rounds of phone tag. I was on the phone so much over those few months changing my name that I went over on my voice usage. Which I’ve never done before.

It was a GIANT pain. That’s one of the things no one warned me about, how dang time-consuming it would be. The best part: Some still haven’t gotten it right. Many months later, Wells Fargo is still struggling to get it changed (three emails, many phone calls and two in-person branch visits later). DirecTV was the next worst. Because my old roommate was still listed on my account, they had to have her permission first, which in itself was a pain. She and I were both on the phone with them about three or more times each, each time getting a different story from each person we talked to. I wanted to scream. Actually, I did. I screamed a lot. I didn’t see why it was so hard and was taking so long.

But was it worth it? Absolutely. I love being a Hofland. One night I told my husband that I’m glad I have his name. His reply: “No, it’s our name now.” I melted.

Things I Love About My Husband’s Family

I love that the annual Hofland family gathering takes place at Pizza Ranch. I love the Ranch.

I love that his aunts fight about which is the favorite.

I love that his cousins are amazing women that I really like! On both his mom’s side AND his dad’s side.

I love that his dad is an amazing cook. Seriously, he makes the BEST fried chicken and biscuits and gravy you’ll ever eat.

I love that his dad one time sucked the mustard he spilled out of his shirt with no shame.

I love that his uncle got to be the pastor at our wedding, and in the process, got to know me AND Cal better.

I love that I got to meet his grandfather at his 100th birthday party and he was the cutest, smiliest old man who couldn’t hear a thing. Also, Cal says I cough just like Grandpa Mel.

I love that his mom is a master baker and also makes the best tater tot hot dish I’ve ever had (which hasn’t been much actually; it’s such a Minnesota thing).

I love that his sister treats me like her sister. Also that she owns the cutest and silliest pittie ever. Second only to my own.

I love that his nephew is the cutest kid ever and is obsessed with Star Wars.

I love that his sister-in-law and nieces love to read.

I love how obsessed they are with the Vikings. I didn’t come from a sports-loving family, so this is new to me. In the family Christmas photo one year, they all wore their Vikings jerseys and forced me to wear one too.

I love that they all accepted me.

The Truth About Marriage Is

The other day, my bestie who is engaged showed me an article she came across called “5 ways to secure your happyish ever after.” I found it refreshing and it slapped me in the face a bit. Here’s why. This line: “Invest in your marriage, not your wedding.”

Wow. I mean, it’s common sense, but why on earth did I not apply that thought to my own wedding?! Before we were engaged, we both had debt, but that sure didn’t stop me from overspending on my wedding. I used the logic, ‘It’s the biggest day of my life’ as an excuse to buy every little thing that struck my fancy. I also wanted to have lots of small personal touches that I thought would make my wedding stand apart. But now that that day is gone, did it really matter that I had personalized napkins? No. Even though I bought them on sale, no one would have been upset with me if I didn’t have them. Because napkins aren’t what makes a wedding awesome. It’s the people who are committing their lives to each other.

It’s hard to realize that every little expense adds up really quickly, and impulse purchases did me in. I’m now literally paying the price of my frivolous spending when it came to my wedding. And I HATE myself some days when I realize that the money I’m using to pay off my credit cards with ridiculous interest could have all been going toward a down payment on a house or a new car for my husband who badly needs a more reliable vehicle. It could have started a savings account for our future children. It could have been used wisely. Instead I’m throwing hundreds, more likely thousands, of dollars into paying off my wedding and other purchases that I really didn’t need to make. But there’s no use in dwelling in the past, and the best thing is to move forward and make better decisions from now on. Which I am trying really hard to do. Changing bad habits is really friggin’ tough. If I can curb unnecessary spending, I’m going to be setting better examples for any future children and set up a better foundation for our marriage and lives together. Not to mention cause less stress for both of us!

This article had some other really solid points, like this one: “The truth is that cleaning up socks and trying to get someone to really listen to you IS marriage. It’s less sweep you off your feet and more sweep the kitchen four times a day.”

The point is that marriage is most of the time not glamorous. It’s work. Hard work.

When I got engaged, I thought to myself often, ‘I got this. I’m going to be an awesome wife. It won’t be hard. Nothing’s going to change.’ Wrong. I thought that just because Cal and I had dated for eight years that I knew everything there was to being married because it wouldn’t be different than dating. But it is! It so is!

That’s the one thing that has surprised me the most about being married. It is very different from dating or even being engaged. Because it’s so much more serious now. It’s locked in. I gave my commitment that I am going to be with this person for the rest of my life, and we have to make it work. I mean, if we want to have a happy and healthy relationship anyway. We have to combine two totally separate lives into one. We have to make decisions together. We have to manage money and the household together. Not to mention potentially raise children together! That one is terrifying. But that’s another blog post in itself.

I think that it’s incredibly hard to be a good wife and live up to the expectations I thought I had about marriage. I often compare myself to others. I think that other couples have no issues. I think that I should be more like so-and-so. Or even worse, I put unfair standards on my husband. ‘I wish he were more like so-and-so.’ But that is toxic thinking. He is not anyone else but himself, and I am myself. I married him and I accepted everything about who he is by doing so. Sometimes when I hear stories about husbands who do X for their wife (start their car in the morning, rub their feet every night, buy them unexpected gifts and shower them with kisses 24/7, whatever it is), I get jealous. But it is so unfair to put that kind of unspoken pressure on someone. I need to focus less on what my husband doesn’t do and instead on the things he DOES do. It’s not like he does nothing for me. He does so much! And I need to be more grateful of that.

As humans, we’re naturally selfish. Seeing the big picture is hard. Especially for people like me who tend to overanalyze everything. But we all have self doubt, jealousy and strange emotions that make us human. Reminding yourself of that and taking the time to realize that, then fix bad behaviors, is important. And that’s what makes us good wives and husbands, I think. Remembering to accept each other as is and work together to deal with life, to be a team and have a happy and healthy relationship.

I also read an article that a friend shared on Facebook about how Brad Pitt even considered divorcing Angie when times got tough. But instead of throwing in the towel, he tried. Putting our own needs aside to help our spouse can be hard too, because often we get so wrapped up in our own individual lives that we forget there’s another person we need to consider. That makes me respect their marriage much more, though it’s hard to compare to a Hollywood A-list couple. But the lesson is universal: Be considerate, be there and TRY.

I’m sure that I’m going to learn so much more down the road about marriage, relationships and life, but if our foundation can stay solid, we’ll make it through whatever comes our way. To stay solid though, we have to keep making that effort. I think that’s most important.

What lessons have you learned about love? Any surprises? Advice?

TV wives and moms I admire

I know that TV and movies often don’t portray the real world…even reality TV isn’t so realistic. But maybe that’s why I like it so much. Regardless, there are some people on TV that I absolutely love for various reasons. A small handful of women on TV I really admire. Some are actual people and some are just characters, but each of them have qualities that I wish I could embody. And even though some of the shows and situations are fake, I think each woman is genuinely a good person and a good mom/wife.

-Linda Belcher, aka the mom from Bob’s Burgers. I love stupid, crude humor, and that’s why I love this show. Every single episode makes me genuinely laugh. The characters are simply fantastic. Tina is my favorite of them all, but I also really love Linda because I kinda wanna be like her. One, because of her random outbreaks of song. Two, because she loves her husband and loves her kids and would do anything to protect them, but she also has her own life and realizes that she has to let them screw up in order for them to grow.

-Claire Dunphy, aka the mom on Modern Family. Phil, Claire’s husband is my favorite character, but again, Claire is the kind of mom I hope to be. She’s kind of like the more frazzled version of Linda Belcher. She’s trying so desperately to balance parenting and being in her kids’ lives while re-entering the workforce, dealing with her accident-prone, well intentioned but kind of ditzy husband, and so many other family dynamics. Despite her overstressed and trying-too-hard exterior, she really cares about her family and admits that even she has a lot to learn about it all. And she’s deeply in love with her husband, despite his sometimes obvious flaws.

-Roseanne Conner, aka the mom from Roseanne. Again, I really feel like Roseanne is a very similar mom to Linda and Claire. She loves her family so much, but lets them screw up. I don’t want to call it a hands-off approach because it’s not, but it’s also not micromanaging. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t worry about them, because she does, but she also has to be a parent while working a job she doesn’t really love but tries to make the most of it, and with a husband who has his own issues, and they have their struggles, but they always make it work. I also like how she admits to her struggles, and they’re worked out in a more accurate way than in other TV shows. It seems far more real to me than how it is on shows like Family Matters and Full House (albeit great shows as well, but just not very representative of how real people deal with real life).

-Tia and Tamera Mowry. This will likely not be the first post in which I gush about these girls. I absolutely adore them. I liked their show Sister Sister growing up, but it’s their new reality show, Tia & Tamera, that made me fall in love with them. They are both just so genuine. They are kind and nice and friendly and down to earth and just awesome women. They don’t seem like they’ve let fame define them, and they’re still real people, and very relatable. I admire how open they are with their lives, the decisions they’ve made, their insecurities, their careers and their relationships. They have struggles too, but the deal with them the best way they can. But even when they’re down, they always maintain their sense of humor. They love to laugh, and they love to love. I think they’re great moms and great wives (though in very different ways from each other). They just make me so happy, and I want to be their friend. When I watch their show, I feel like it’s an hour I get to hang out with my girlfriends. They make me laugh and they make me cry.

What famous women (real or characters) do you admire?

My First Married Thanksgiving

Well, we made it through our first big holiday together as a married couple! It was a good day. We didn’t spend it with family since mine is so far away, and his is closer, but was still too far to make a one-day trip since I work tomorrow. We had what one of our friends called a “Friendsgiving!”

Some of Cal’s bandmates and friends came over, so I cooked for a bunch of boys. Which made me feel useful. I like hosting people and cooking for an army even if only a small handful come. We had turkey meatballs (because a real turkey was just too daunting), a ham, green bean casserole (made with my mom’s home-grown and canned green beans–you just can’t beat ’em), creamed corn, stuffing, my famous deviled eggs, rolls, and pumpkin cheesecake, which is my favorite Paula Deen recipe that I make every year, regardless where we are. And hot apple cider. Yum.

Even though it was a bunch of boys who I know don’t care about appearance, I still felt a little inadequate and insecure about our home. I just always had this vision that once I was married, I’d be in this nice house with nice stuff. And while we served the meal on our nice new plates and silverware from the wedding, we still sat at the family hand-me-down table from my grandma with chairs with nicks, broken backs and varnish coming off. The tablecloth was wrinkly, and the runner didn’t match. The small things like that sometimes make me feel like I’m not a proper wife. I know the important thing was that we spent it with good people over good food, but I long for the day when we can host a holiday in a nice big dining room with pretty chairs and matching table accessories, then sit in the family room with a fire going. That’s my dream.

I know it’s OK we don’t have that right now. We will some day. So for now, I am thankful we had friends to spend the day with, that we had a great meal, and have a roof over our heads in the first place. After we ate, the boys watched football and I dozed off in the recliner. Then realized I should be productive in the rest of my day and got up to do some writing, pack my lunch of leftovers for tomorrow, and call my mom.

What did you do for Thanksgiving?