Keeping Up With…

A few weeks ago, we ran a post from longtime APW contributor, Manya, called “How To Be In Love.” It was a beautiful narrative about the small gestures that make her relationship meaningful, and it cataloged the ways that she and her partner are growing their love together. It was moving and illustrative and it became one of the most shared posts we’ve ever featured on the site (thanks Facebook).

You know what else it did? It turned me a little crazy.

When everyone else was sharing and commenting on the post, I was slinking off to a corner to push away doubts and worries that my relationship wasn’t at all like the one I was reading about. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “If this is what goodness looks like, and my relationship doesn’t look anything like theirs, what am I doing wrong?” It was during this reflective-moment-bordering-on-shame-spiral that I saw this comment on the APW Facebook page come through:

Sappy, but good advice. I envision most men trying their best to finish this article, with their partner’s urging. Most will finish paragraph two, and then say, “So can we do it yet.” I’ve been married fourteen years, just for the record.

And without warning, something inside me snapped a little. Part of me was upset at the comment for not giving men more credit. But part of me was also upset because the commenter had struck a familiar nerve. She was talking about my husband. And it made me sad. It made me sad because all of these people were connecting to this lovely story and I just…couldn’t. I wanted to. So badly. And I couldn’t. (I was jealous. Don’t make me say it out loud.) I was frustrated at the idea that I didn’t connect to something that so many people recognized as truth. I was frustrated that my Saturdays in bed are spent bickering over who’s going to make the coffee, not spent bringing it to each other. In the simplest of ways, I read the title “How To Be In Love” and thought to myself, “Well, then, obviously we aren’t.”

But shame has a funny way of presenting itself. Rather than acknowledging my insecurities and analyzing where they were coming from, I decided that the commenter was just wrong and it was my job to show the internet what was what. While simultaneously throwing a very quiet snit fit that involved a lot of shouting things from within the recesses of my brain like, “YOU DON’T KNOW ME,” I also did something else. I emailed Michael the article.

I thought, “I’m going to show you, commenter. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Husbands aren’t like that at all. Ever.” So I emailed Michael the post, setting a delicate trap that included a little note that said, “I really liked this. It’s a little sappy, but whatever.” (Subtext: I don’t actually think this is sappy. I think it’s BEAUTIFUL. But I recognize that this might not be your cup of tea, so join me in ignoring this knowledge and help me prove a point to the internet, will you?) Within half an hour he replied, “Good f*cking lord… I could only get through half of it…”

Manipulation fail. Internet—2; Maddie—0.

When Michael came home, I picked a fight about the article, the email, life. You name it. I cried in front of our roommate. I made Michael have an hour-long conversation with me about being nicer to each other while simultaneously implying that maybe he didn’t have feelings. Patient, sweet, kind Michael listened to my concerns, while lying facedown on our bed, possibly thinking about what I was saying, possibly trying to suffocate himself. When it was over, I felt better (as one does when they take their feelings out on an entire household).

Later that night, when I came to bed, Michael was still awake. As I crawled under the covers, he looked at me seriously and said, “Come here, would you like to nestle into the crook of my arm? I’ll be the big spoon. We can whisper sweet nothings to each other as we fall asleep.” He was mocking me. Bless his heart. It’s like he doesn’t know when to quit.

And you know what? It was the best thing he could have done. As I fell into a fit of giggles, I realized what I know is true: what we have is good. It’s just…it’s our good.

But that doesn’t stop scenarios like the one above from playing out again every few months. Because the truth is, my meltdown was never about Manya’s story. It’s never about whoever’s story has set me on edge this time. It is always about me worrying that I don’t measure up. I mean, here I am writing for this website, in front of thousands of you, talking about marriage like I know anything, all the while bickering with Michael about whose job it is to choose what’s for dinner.

The good news is, I think I’m starting to wrap my head around what’s going on. I remember reading something online not too long ago that stirred the same twinge of jealousy in me. I remember thinking to myself, “Damn, their relationship sounds so romantic. I wish Michael and I did nice things like that for each other.” Turns out? That couple is getting a divorce.

I’ve never been the kind of person who keeps up with the Joneses. I understand that when I walk into someone’s house, I can’t just have the things they have by wanting them. The things have to make sense with my life. I need to be able to afford them. Michael and I should probably both agree that the things are indeed good things that we want. But the internet, with its delicate balance of being both real life and fantasy, has a way of making me covet the emotional property of those around me in a way that I don’t in the physical world. Maybe it’s that it seems that much more normal when its online, that much more attainable, more possible.

The problem, also, is that the internet exists without context. If I’m keeping up with the Joneses in real life, chances are I at least know how much the Joneses make. I’ve probably seen them yell at their kids from the front lawn (well, if growing up we were the Joneses, that would’ve been the case). By the nature of proximity and occasionally witnessing them air their dirty laundry, I am that much more capable of understanding what’s reality in my perception of the Joneses and where I’m filling in the blanks on their lives. But the internet is an entirely different beast. Because the internet has no inherent boundaries, we’re all just constructing them as we go, deciding what’s appropriate to share and what’s not. So while maybe not fully intentional, our lives are more curated online. And as a viewer, it’s difficult for me to know if certain aspects of life are being omitted because they didn’t happen, or because it wasn’t appropriate for sharing.

Even now as I tell you this story it probably seems like I’m letting you in on some raw truth of my relationship with Michael. But this story is still safe. It has a happy ending. It’s within my boundaries. I’m not telling you about the fights we have that don’t get resolved, about the real anxieties I have about marriage and long-term commitment. And I probably won’t ever. I regard my online identity like I regard my house when I have guests over. I’m not going to wax the floors or anything, but I’m probably going to close the door to my bedroom, which is littered with dirty clothing. Similarly, I’m not going to suggest that Michael and I don’t fight, like, all the time. (Actually, I’m the only one who fights. Michael likes to win arguments by refusing to rise to the occasion. No fun.) But I’m also not going to fight in front of you. Because that would be inappropriate, online or off. Perhaps it’s because of the perception that everyone overshares online, but the internet seems to be the place where we are more likely to supplement this lack of information with assuming that there is a lack of bad stuff. Which I understand. Because clearly I do it all the time. (Sorry again, Manya.)

Yesterday Meg talked about the lure of Pinterest and building up a digital file of all the things we want in our lives without actually taking action on any of them. I think it’s only fair to assume that if we’re doing that with physical things, like hammocks and chevron-painted walls, we’re probably also doing it with experiential and emotional things, like Saturday morning coffee and snuggles and sweet nothings. In some cases, we can do as Meg suggested and take our inspiration to the streets. We can initiate a Saturday morning routine with our partners or spend a few minutes longer spooning on the weekends. But the rest of the time, I think it’s our job to see the internet for what it is: the reality TV of our time. Just as I can’t expect myself to keep up with the Kardashians, I should also learn that I can’t be expected to keep up with Joanna Goddard either. Because she has a real life that is more complex than what exists online, and I have a real life that is more complex than what exists online (well, my social media feeds are disproportionately filled with photos of my dog and my hair, so maybe that’s not true). And my suspicion is that if we looked very closely, our two lives are, in fact, much more alike than the internet might suggest. But the point is—that shouldn’t make a difference anyway. Because what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours, and our relationships are far too nuanced and magical to be comparing notes composed in 140 characters or less.

Editor’s Note: When I told Manya about the subject of this article, she sent me the “dude version” of her original post. I thought it was too good not to include here. Michael told me it was readable, which is like getting a three star Michelin rating from him.

How To Be In Love, Dude Version

  1. Cuddle (sometimes)
  2. Coffee (always)
  3. Don’t let her see you taking a shit (ever.)
  4. Call her by a special name
  5. Travel
  6. Sex. Also, sex.
  7. Keep doing interesting stuff alone and together
  8. Accept she’s not perfect… You’re no prize yourself
  9. Buy her impractical gifts, lavish ones when you can
  10. Sex.

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  • Thank you, Maddie. This was awesome. I needed it. Manya’s article made me rather jealous. I don’t know why it’s so tough to be content with a husband who isn’t “traditionally” romantic… but it is.

    • I actually mean, it can be at times. To clarify, I am very content with my marriage; I love my husband to bits and I do things myself like forget it’s his birthday (oops) but sometimes the descriptions of the romance others experience can get to me a bit.

      I LOVE Manya’s response below. Remembering the best things is so important.

      • meg

        My mom has always joked (except she’s not actually joking) that she can count the number of times my dad has brought her flowers on one hand. And, not to blow his cover in the age of Pinterest or anything, but most of those flowers came from the grocery store. And they’ve been happily married 40 years next year (!)

        Anyway, my mom’s point is always that you get what you get. My dad’s wonderful in a ton of ways, but we can all agree that romance isn’t his bag. Oh well. She buys herself flowers now and then. And not grocery store flowers either.

        • Buying myself flowers has improved the quality of my life so much. I don’t need my husband to buy them for me; I can buy them my damn self. Seriously an amazing realization, and I’m much happier for it (she types, as she looks at the flowers on her desk that she picked up this weekend).

          • Maddie

            Buying myself flowers is the best thing ever.

          • meg

            It’s peony season at Trader Joe’s ladies! I’m not sure my husband gets the import of that, but who cares?

          • marbella

            Yep, yep, yep! I have realised it’s not going to happen that much so now when I hit TJ’s I grab the prettiest inexpensive bunch I like. Right now, looking a beautiful bunch of purple and lime gladioli!

          • Or, buy them for your partner. It’s worth it just to see that reaction and then you also get to enjoy flowers.

        • Class of 1980

          My ex husband bought me gorgeous flowers from the florist all the time. He even made sure they were the flowers I preferred. And that was nice.

          But we’re divorced, people.

          You can’t build a marriage on a few romantic gestures if everything else under the sun is missing.

          • aly

            ladies, save yourself some money and plant some perennials! fresh flowers from your yard or porch or whatever for half the year!

          • meg

            I don’t even know which comment I like more here, 1980’s or Aly’s.

            Great ladies, great advice.

  • Hannah

    Honestly, I couldn’t finish the article either. I must have some “man” genes in me. Even though my relationship is pretty traditionally romantic, and I suppose we do a lot of those things mentioned in that article, it was too sweet and made up for me. Maybe I’m the one who’s emotionally reserved then? Hmm…

    • OMG ME TOO. I was like, “I would die if I felt I had to do this.”

      Because honestly, I’m tired. I wake up at 3:30 every morning to get us off to work, and then some days I have class after work, and really, I’m much too busy to worry about those extra special little ways to show him that I love him. I think I told him I love him about six times as I packed his lunch and made his breakfast before I went to work this morning. I will tell him I love him three or four times while I am at work, when he takes his breaks and lunches. Tonight, I will tell him I love him multiple times while I cook his dinner, after he loads the dishwasher, as we cuddle during a movie, and before we go to sleep.

      We are not too romantic, so that is enough for us.

    • Laura C

      The thing is, the actions and conversations detailed in Manya’s post weren’t that over the top. Spooning a bit in the morning, bringing each other coffee, having nicknames that evolve over time … no, everyone doesn’t do exactly those things, but I’m sure we all have in our relationships things we could match up to them more or less. It’s the way Manya wrote about it that makes it seem especially intense and romanticky. Which I took as the point — that there’s a frame of mind about appreciating your relationship and picking out those moments in the day, turning a basic thing like a cup of coffee into something special and lovely, and that we should be looking for that way of seeing things, at least occasionally.

      You know, if A and I make stir-fry tonight, I could focus on that we get in each other’s way in our little apartment kitchen and that probably I could make it on my own just as quickly and let’s face it, stir-fry is not exactly a gourmet moment in life. Or I could focus on the way we’ve developed a routine where for whatever reason he preps the celery and I do the cauliflower, and then while I’m getting everything into the pan he makes the sauce and brings a spoonful of it for me to taste and asks, almost invariably, “a little more mirin?” and I could frame that all as being about partnership and love.

      • Maddie

        YES. Exactly. Manya is being extremely kind in letting me use her post as an example here, because it did actually make me go a little bananas (thanks PMS). But I don’t think that anything she wrote rings false at all. It’s just that I need to check myself when I start reading it as gospel. Manya had a great quote when she and I were talking about this post that the internet only shows you .0005% of what’s there, and the rest is iceberg.

        Interestingly, I just realized that the dude version is actually exactly what I have in my relationship. So clearly I was just hung up on the particulars.

      • meg

        Exactly, exactly, exactly.

        Manya was chronicling the good (as a wonderful prompt considering contributor), and I totally identified with some of it (Inside jokes and your own language, check! Husband making you breakfast if you don’t drink coffee, check!) But of course I equally identify with Maddie’s piece. Husband trying to smother himself while you scream ALL YOUR FEELINGS at him, check-check!

        It’s all about how we frame it. And honestly, the fact that Michael and David are willing to try to quietly smother themselves while we SHARE OUR TEARFUL FEELINGS is as-if-not-more-romantic than the fact that David makes me breakfast. I’m sure the husbands would be the first to tell you which of those tasks is harder for them.

        • marbella

          BAHAHAHAHA Maddie I emailed Manya’s piece to my husband after I got all ‘Notebook-y’ over it, and thought ‘ahhh this is so beautiful’. He came home and I said ‘did you read it, did you read it?!’ and he was like ‘Urrrrrrrhhh I tried but it was soooo long, I just couldn’t get past the first bit’. He thought it was way too sappy and kind of gross, while I felt like it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever read and totally associated with it, and assumed he would feel the same. How funny that after 10+ yrs I can still not really understand how he thinks eh?
          I laughed hard that he didn’t like it, it stung a bit at first but then I realised that what Laura C above said is true – it’s the way it was described that made it sound so special, but really a great writer like Manya could take any loving relationship and describe some parts of it like this and it would be beautiful.
          And that’s why this valentines day I pissed myself laughing when T-Rex gave me a card with a cartoon couple on the front with coordinating t-shirts. Hers said ‘Artsy’ and his said ‘Fartsy’. Yup, that’s us. Wouldn’t have it any other way!

      • Samantha

        Exactly. I think her message is be more present and grateful for the small bits of life that really are acts of love – not the big over the top gestures.

        • Manya

          Yes, this was it. Learning to pay attention to all of the small things (whatever they look like in your relationship) and giving them weight in your heart.

    • Moe

      I missed Manya’s post and went back to read it after reading this one. I too felt myself having the same reaction as Maddie’s husband. It was too much sappiness for me, but I do get what she was expressing. The life we build together in marriage is comprised of all those little details. Celebrate and cherish them because life is fleeting.

      My husband loves me like no one else ever has and he does it in his own unique way.

      He doesn’t buy me lavish gifts like my friend’s hubby does and I always Let It Make Me Feel inferior (see what I did there? I allow it) However, my husband does all sorts of other things that make my friends swoon when I brag about him. If there’s a song I’ve been talking about he downloads it to my iPod. Hello Robert Palmer!

      What a great reminder that “comparison is the thief of joy”.

    • Novem

      I totally hear you. I couldn’t make it through the Notebook, and I laugh/snort at inappropriate moments during romantic movies so I have to admit that I didn’t finish the article either. (Sorry!)

      I totally dig the dude version and completely agree with the underlying message of the article that small gestures matter though. I’m sure that every couple has their own unique list of things that work for them. In our case, because I don’t drink coffee, item #2 would be “Orange juice and tater tots”. We’re just classy like that. :D

  • Maddie, I loved Manya’s post, but I also loved yours. I would say Manya’s post probably reflects the best of a relationship, while her partner’s ‘dude’ version is probably more accurate on a day to day/realistic basis. I mean, Manya’s post made me choke up. And yeah, there are times when my partner is so insanely sweet, thoughtful and selfless (like right now as I am a stressball in the week before our wedding) it’s enough to send me into fresh fits of tears. But equally, we clash over chores, finances, and sex. Like you say, the internet exists without context.

  • kgoesgallivanting

    “The problem, also, is that the internet exists without context.”
    “Perhaps it’s because of the perception that everyone overshares online, but the internet seems to be the place where we are more likely to supplement this lack of information with assuming that there is a lack of bad stuff.”

    It’s hard to remember sometimes that online, we are only seeing a small snapshot of someone’s life.

    • Context! That’s such an important part! I’ve been a nagging, critical, mess lately and have been wondering why my husband and I can’t drive 10 feet in the same car together without bickering about turn signals and four-way stops. Everyone else is perfect right?

      Every relationship has these moments but it’s always the internet’s inclination to share the good stuff while I “shut the bedroom door”, as it were, and quietly over-analyze the less perfect stuff in my relationship.

      I loved Manya’s article but really appreciate this one. Thanks Maddie!

    • meg

      Oh, for SURE. It’s interesting, and Maddie and I discussed this as she was writing. I don’t think of what I personally do as curation, because I’m not choosing to share only the good/ easy/ pretty. But I do firmly have a public self and a private self, and I know that work is work. I have very clear boundaries about what is off the table for public consumption (and rightly so). However, I also have a STRICT rule that anything I share is 100% emotionally truthful (personal details might be changed to protect the innocent, but emotional truths never are). IE, I won’t share everything by a long shot, but everything I do share must be honest. But if you meet me in real (non-professional) life (which readers do regularly, at parties or whatever), you’ll discover a whole other side of me. The bitingly funny side. The unapologetically opinionated side. The parent side.

      (Side note: I have a theory that all sane performers do some version of that. Dolly Parton and Bruce Springsteen know their job is to give you a good show, and their best work. They bust their ASS to do that. But they also know there is a line between personal and professional, in a way that self destructing artists never are able to work out.)

      And I wonder if it isn’t just that the internet is a new medium, where we’re still working out the rules. For example: I don’t think I know the real Lena Dunham because I watch Girls and see her interviewed. I think I have a solid glimpse of her professional self. I don’t think I know all of Anne Lamott because I read all of her books. I think I know the part of herself she shares in essays. But we’re still working all that out online.

      Interesting, interesting stuff.

  • littleone

    HAHA, the dude version. YES.

  • Lauren

    Just last night I was telling my fella how happy I am that he is he and I am me and we are us. I had a friend get engaged recently and, boy, was it a production! Scores of roses, huge blingy rings, a photographer, a videographer, an immediate after-party – you name it, her dude thought of it.

    Contrast with our simple proposal at a park where he burst from a bush about a minute before I finished reading a note he left in the branches of “our” tree and made him stand there sheepishly while I read down to the bottom, and from where we left to get quietly blitzed at a Greek restaurant in celebration.

    Seeing my friend’s overwhelming happiness during a series of events that would have made me Very Uncomfortable gave me an epiphany about relationships that I’d never had before and might seem obvious to others. They’re different! Each is unique and different! Fancy that!

    Reading Manya’s post, I was overcome with a faded longing for something that Would Never Be (although silly pet names are a favorite). But if I were to write a post, or my friend with the intense proposal were to write a post, we wouldn’t be able to speak to each other on a specific level either. But rather, we can all operate on the general level of Love Is Awesome, Okay?, which is essentially what APW is all about.

    • Incredibly well said, Lauren! And I completely agree. What constitutes “romantic” for each of us is so different, so fluid, and I try to bear that in mind when I get the urge to compare. (And I totally do. Don’t we all?)

    • Laura

      Wait wait. Bursting from a bush?? With a whole long love note? And tzatziki??? Sounds pretty dramatic and fantastic to me.

      • Lauren

        I will say that the bursting from a bush part was absolutely hysterical in every sense of the word, and tzatziki makes everything more wonderful!

  • Alice

    And, I just breathed a huge sigh of relief – I couldn’t make it through the previous article, either, because it made me panic that this wasn’t what we had – and my wonderful partner does bring me tea in bed, and cuddles, and does all manner of kind, thoughtful, romantic things. But to count those things without counting all the other things we do – like tackle Atlantic moves, and huge career changes, and student debts, and learning to communicate, and getting up at 5am when the other one has to be at work by 6am – doesn’t do justice to the real substance of our relationship. So yes, everything has more depth than any snapshots can give credit for.

  • I had no time to be online much last week and when I was online I was obsessively watching McFly music videos. I don’t know if that contributed to me feeling so much more content in my life and what it actually looks like or not but I think it did (maybe the McFly videos did too?). I just looked at my husband and thought “I love you”. I looked at our home and thought “This is not perfect but it is ours and I love it”. I looked at myself and thought “I’m doing pretty good. I’ll be fine” and that was it. It felt AMAZING just to be quietly okay with everything and not constantly comparing.

    I’m now trying to dip my toe back in the waters of the internet and all the pretty and still feel content. I reckon I can do it (I’m also trying to wean myself off McFly, that is proving more difficult)

    • Lauren

      Every time I read this comment (and I’ve refreshed this thread a zillion times today) I get more and more excited that there is another McFly fan still hanging around!

      • Siobhan

        Darn hit report not reply. I do love McFly – Galaxy Defender until the end!

  • Ak

    Amazing. Thank you Maddie!

  • Alicia

    Sigh. I had a similar reaction to Manya’s article. And it hit at a bit of a low point for us so I felt that gap from my relationship to what seems a very synergistic one.

    We are 10 years into marriage with 2 kids – 4.5 and 1.5. Trying to balance 2 mortgages and a house move earlier this year. Oh, and I’m trying to get my freelance historian work of the ground as I emerge from a long period of scattered work/study etc.

    Writing that just reminds me to be kinder to ourselves amidst it all.

  • Claire

    So true. And brave of you to be able to say it out loud. I’m glad to know I’m not alone in feeling those twinges of life envy when something comes across FB or Twitter or APW or a friend gushes about whatever romantic, (fill in the blank) experience she had. And it looks perfect on Instagram, and damn it I want that too. And I’m awww-ing all over it, and now I’m grumping to myself or to my partner about why can’t we have nice (emotional) things. And he says, “It’s always sunny in Instagram land. It’s their my-life-is-perfect filter.” Then he gets up to go take care of the dog we hear puking in the kitchen and clean it up. I’m guessing a photo of sun-drenched puke wouldn’t go over well on the inter webs, but that’s what a romantic gesture looks like around here.

    • Corrie

      “It’s always sunny in Instagram land. It’s their my-life-is-perfect filter.”

      YES. Perfect analogy.

    • EBASS

      Oi, I literally was worried/thinking about the same thing earlier today. I read posts from friends all the time gushing about how much they love their significant other and how s/he is the best ever and on and on. My fiance and I rarely post things about each other publicly and that little voice in the back of my head goes, “everyone else is so much more in love than you” when in reality, we’re just more private people. And I’ll admit on the flipside that sometimes I think to myself that these people are annoyingly over compensating.

      So reading this post was so encouraging just after this morning – and given that I had the same reaction as many of the people commenting about the aforementioned romantic post.

    • meg

      What I’m HEARING you say is that you’d like me to instagram the next time the baby hurls all over me? Which will be in about… 2… minutes… since he just woke up.

      Gotta go!

    • Kater

      Can’t wait to work “sun drenched puke” into ALL conversations going forward. Love it!!

    • I *do* love the times when I’m not the one to clean up the puke. And, no, the sad/gross things rarely make Instagram, etc. No one would “like” them, and then I would be sadder, right?

      Sidenote: so other people’s dogs puke regularly, too? oh, thank goodness

  • Thank you Manya, for giving me the opportunity to think over my own relationship and all the little things that make being in love wonderful.

    And thank you Maddie, for embracing your humanness and admitting to not being perfect. It only makes you more beautiful, as a person and as a writer.

  • I don’t normally like the whole “Mars and Venus” paradigm but in the case of this piece, I fear it may be relevant. I did the “Dude Translation” for my favorite uncle who read the piece and was all: WOAHHHH! (translation: Seriously? WTF?).

    I think the piece made the poor guy feel like he was tumbling down a vagina-shaped rabbit hole (in a bad way).

    And Maddie is SO RIGHT–in any piece we only get a .00005% snapshot of what the author wants to show us. This piece was particularly so as it was written to respond to a very specific prompt called: “The Good” which I rounded up to be “My own personal absolute favorites” and would be properly subtitled “Manya: This is the stuff that you need to remember when you are PMS-ing and catastrophizing that your relationship isn’t growing, and it’s up or out, baby, UP OR OUT! (Yeah, PMS is the Honey Badger). In fact, I really worried about sending it in, because I really didn’t want to invalidate other people’s experiences. Wonderful relationships are deep and particular (and peculiar) and completely unique. And thank God for that, because… so are people.

    And speaking of the internet’s wily ways of distorting our perception, somehow it has convinced me that buying $200+ shoes is a reasonable thing to do because, after all, Princess Kate does it. Ahem.

    So much love to all of you, and the ways that every relationship is perfectly, wonderfully, itself.

    • Claire


    • kc

      I actually *totally* recognized that this was the “Good Parts Version”, because seriously, living anywhere that is not where you are from, there’s the Good/Photogenic/Gorgeous Parts and then there are the “Wait, that thing crawling towards me is poisonous???” or “But I *want* my [insert favorite comfort food that is not actually at all available in other country]” or “I am tired and lost and overwhelmed and too cold/hot and hungry and where is a toilet and home already?” times.

      (I had the “but I don’t have that” trouble with the open thread on “the Good”, though, because there were occasional things on it that I loved having with roommates that I don’t have with my husband [awesome slumber party conversations!][but maritally, if we talk late, conversations tend to get grumpy] and that I kind of miss. But we have a fantastic relationship full of Good Things, so it’s okay that it doesn’t have All Possible Good Things.)

    • <3

      Also: the dude version made me giggle. It's perfect.

    • Maddie

      Manya, I just wanted to say thank you for allowing me to use your post as my example here. Partly because it allowed me access to the phrase vagina-shaped rabbit hole. But also because everything you say above is spot on, and honestly you could substitute anything with your post and hormone-fueled me would have been up in arms about it. :)

      • Manya

        Mads–PMS is the Honey Badger, and apparently so am I under it’s evil influence.

        I was a bit cray last week myself (For example: I had a bad dream about my husband having an orgy with a group of KLM flight attendants (Damn those adorable blue uniforms!), then woke up MAD and punished him by picking fights–awesome, eh?).

        • Rachelle

          Wait, I’m not the only one who has crazy cheating dreams about my partner and then gets mad at him after waking up? NO WAY!

          The last time was while he was out of town at a bachelor party. In Vegas. With strippers. Needless to say, I was not nice when he got home.

    • Moe

      bonus points awarded for “vagina-shaped rabbit hole”

      Made me giggle.

      • I have a feeling “vagina-shaped rabbit hole” is going to go down in history like wily ducks.

    • PMS is the HONEY BADGER

      • Class of 1980

        PMS is a joke.

        If there is reincarnation, I’m not coming back here. I’m holding out for a planet with a better reproductive biology scheme.

        • Manya

          This is awesome: “I’m holding out for a planet with a better reproductive biology scheme.” THIS is one for the books.

  • Claire

    Also, love the dude version!!

  • Even when you’re living the everyday romantic gestures they don’t always feel that way at the time. Coffee in bed delivery is the sweetest thing ever, but when the accompanying conversation is grunts and other assorted noises rather than immediate thank yous? It seems more romantic in hindsight.

    This reminds me of Rachel’s post from the start of the month about being willing to just own the good, without qualifying it. Life’s a mixed bag, and when something comes along that focuses so clearly on just one aspect (in this case, the romantic bits of a relationship) it’s easy to forget that there’s also a larger picture, and we’re just looking at a small part.

    • meg

      Yes. It reminds me of Rachel’s post a lot too. Also, Rachel made the point that if you tell me your good, I’m going to assume you have bad just like everyone else, and let you celebrate that good.

      It sure is a process though.

  • Claire

    And “tumbling down a vagina-shaped rabbit hole (in a bad way)” is my new favorite quote. I’m going to try to slip that into conversation today.

  • Really well-written and a concept that has not been articulated enough. (Internet is the reality TV of our time and the like.) I think it’s human nature (for better or worse) to compare, but calling it out can help mitigate that.

  • Hlockhart

    Fantastic post, Maddie. I think jealousy gets tougher to deal with, in a way, after we’ve made choices. My partner is (like me) mostly unromantic (though there are moments). I was never much interested romance like Manya describes, but now that I’ve made my choice to live without it, I can still worry that I’m “doing it wrong.” As always, it’s good to know others feel the same way!

    By the way, I especially liked your comment about bickering over making coffee. I’m the one who brings the coffee back to bed, since I almost always wake up first. But my partner makes great cocktails.

  • I’m on set all week and have been/will be out of the APW loop, but I speed read this post and want to say how awesome it is! I have definitely had those kind of emotional tornado meltdowns over a need to make our “good” match up to other people’s “good,” whatever the f*ck that even means.

  • Thank you SO much for talking about this. When I read Manya’s post I was plagued with jealousy, too, as I find myself often when I read posts like that on any blog where someone talks about how amazing and romantic and utterly beautiful their relationship is. I mean even the dude version of Manya’s post makes me jealous, because half of those things just aren’t how my husband acts with me. Does that lessen the beautiful, awesome relationship my husband and I have? Absolutely not. But in the irrational moment when I first read it, I’m plagued with that jealous, “well, I must not be doing it right.” feeling.

    Thank you for making me feel so much less alone in this!

    • meg

      I think this is why Maddie’s post is the perfect way to end The Good month. Because this month has really pointed out how hard it can be to let other people celebrate their good without jealousy, or wanting to tear them down. Those dark parts of ourselves are so very human, and also part of our worst nature. Dragging them into the light, shame and all, is how we clean the wound.

  • this is great. you are great. (as is manya.) thank you both!

  • never.the.same

    I think it is telling that at the end of a month with the theme of “the good” there are two back-to-back posts on how burned out and self-conscious the internet can make us feel. Because focusing on just the good requires a heavy editorial hand, and inevitably that kind of heavy editing is going to ring false.

    • I’d counter that focusing on any one part of a story/relationship requires heavy editing, whether good or bad. I think the internet burn-out comes into play because it’s distracting from the good things in real life. One of the best quotes I’ve read is from Steven Furtick about comparing our behind-the-scenes footage with everybody else’s highlight reel.

      Stepping away from the internet reminds us A. everyone else has behind-the-scenes action, too, and B. we have a great highlight reel, ourselves, just with different scenes. So yes, the editing is heavy for those “highlights,” but I don’t think the editing is unique just to those. You’d have to edit heavily to pull together the blooper reel, too.

      • Sarah, I really like the way you put this. Narrow focus on any editorial theme and focus on any story necessarily leads to editing out (for risk of boring the audience, if nothing else!)

        As for the good posts ringing false, they don’t necessarily ring false to me. They just ring specific. I do want to say that I didn’t make anything up (though I did leave out that I am a dancer and the last time my husband danced with me was our wedding–and it very may be the last time he ever dances with me). Also, if you read closely, there is some pretty salty sh*t in there to offset the saccharine (for example, making yourself throw up is not romantic; bulimia is profoundly sad and unsexy. Panic attacks aren’t my favorite either to confess. A struggle with depression would not be “The Good”, nor a need to go to meetings regularly to keep demons at bay–though we have found good in learning how to love each other through those things.

        Also, I’m also not above asking for specific stuff when I need it in kind of a “Hey, I would really love it if you would plan a spontaneous date sometime in the next two weeks” kind of way, (and I am not above rounding it up to :”I’m so glad that you thought of this!”).

        • Yes, and if you strung together bulimia-panic attacks-depression-counseling-whatever new trouble there is today, your life would look AWFUL. Which it’s not, it’s just life, full of struggle and hope and everything else. But just like movies never quite capture everything in a novel, any written piece, even a journal I’d dare say, can’t capture the complexities of life. It would take a full day to read about a full day.

          I just read this article, and I think that’s what we’re doing here. Not tell the whole story, but using an angle of the story, a small slice to try and reflect on a larger truth. Just like any other metaphor, the object (or experience) itself if very specific, and may not be meaningful to the reader in particular, but it should help highlight the universal. Heavy editing is necessary to find that small slice to delve into, good or bad.

      • Maddie

        Well-said, Sarah. I think the internet likes to believe that the bad is more true than the good, which is partly why we needed this month. But we’re always using a heavy editorial hand. No matter what we’re writing. Unless maybe it’s LiveJournal.

    • meg

      That is a super interesting takeaway, in that I think it’s not true at all, as the editor that actually edited this month and wrote yesterday’s post. Editing the good has taken a **much much** lighter editorial hand than editing anything else. I think the good is way truer than we allow ourselves to acknowledge, because acknowledging other people’s good can bring out our worst selves. What I’ve found interesting about this month is how important it really is to give breathing space to the good, because it’s so easy to focus on the bad. The bad is complex! It’s interesting! It’s addictive! It’s scary.

      Worth noting, our inbox was FLOODED with submissions about the good. Many of them we didn’t run because, in fact, they were so simply good that they lacked the tension that you need when you edit for a large website. But if my inbox is any guide, most of us have more good in our lives than we go bad, it’s just the thing we don’t talk about much, because it seems boring or braggy.

      Also interestingly, my point yesterday was actually not that the internet makes me feel burned out and self conscious. My point was that the internet is where I often find my best self. It’s where I find my best people, and my best ideas. It’s been the thing that over the past 10 years has pushed me to work harder than I thought possible, and reminded me that goodness was possible no matter what your background or baggage. My point yesterday is that, particularly given the science of our brains, it can be hard to turn off the internet and go DO. And that piece of the puzzle is a necessary one. My backyard Pinterest board actually looks exactly like my backyard. The point is, once the internet helped me build the real backyard, I needed to be out in it.

      • never.the.same

        Sarah, agreed. Ann Lamott calls it “comparing your insides to other people’s outsides.”

        I wasn’t saying that editing, heavily or lightly, is wrong. It’s necessary in all kinds of writing. I was just pointing out that there are consequences (in the sense that there are reactions, not assuming they are always negative consequences), and those consequences can often be the opposite of the intentions behind the writing. So… it’s telling that we see those consequences at the end of a month focusing on the good. That is, even when concentrating on good things we have negative reactions.

        And all due respect, Meg, but your post was about BOTH the good the internet has given you and the way the internet gets in the way of you enjoying that good. Maybe “burned out” aren’t the words you’d choose, but I think it was a tone and a theme that got picked up in the comments and was present in your post (if not the main focus). You did mention a moment that made you “snap” and how hard it was to unplug.

        • meg

          Ah, I disagree with you on every point here (except the Ann Lamott bit, which was of course directly what we were going for here). And I’m disagreeing with you as the person who does the editing, selects the work, and moderates the comments… so I’ve got a pretty comprehensive knowledge of how this month played out on APW.

          I think the conversations being had in this thread are important ones, but they’re not about the good ringing false. They’re about the fact that if other people’s genuine good rings false to us, its our job to tackle the ugly part inside of us that’s thriving on jealousy. That, actually, is something Ann Lamott writes about better than anyone in the world.

          And it’s interesting that is what you took away from my piece, but that’s something you’re reading into it (and possibly a post that would be super interesting for you to write). I was writing about the physical toll technology takes on our bodies, and the actual mental addictive problem with technology. I’m not, in fact, burned out with the online media I choose to consume, nor does it make me feel self conscious. That’s a very real phenomenon, and one I think it would be great to write about. However, as Rachel so eloquently discussed at the beginning of the month, I don’t hate read. The stuff I read online makes me feel better, or I cut it. The things I am addicted to are things like: waiting around to see if I get a funny email back from a staff member (I almost always do, but I shouldn’t be waiting for it), or mindlessly clicking links online without even looking for anything, or really reading much, because it’s giving me a dopamine rush.

          So, my point stands. If reading about the good makes you feel like what you’re reading is heavily edited (when it’s not, we were running a far smaller selection of posts we got on the good than the percentage of posts we get on the good), or these posts ring false to you, than I think there is a very interesting personal essay there. A personal essay probably not unlike the one Maddie wrote, where she realized the problem wasn’t Manya’s post, it was what was going on with her.

          • marbella

            I am actually really surprised at a lot of the comments that have come up here, and things that I have seen over the past month or so about instagram/facebook and people’s highlight reels.
            I love instagram especially, specifically because it is full of highlights and beauty (and hilarity, often). That doesn’t mean I look at my friend’s pictures of them drinking cocktails in NYC or their latest work trip to Paris/Barcelona and think ‘So unfair, they are living this amazing life and mine is shit in comparison’. Maybe it’s because I am pretty happy with my life, but I even felt that way in the depths of a recent mental health crisis. For me, it’s very easy to keep in mind that this is their highlight reel, because it’s mine too. When I see these pics I love it and am happy for them, it doesn’t cross my mind to be bitter about it.
            It was brought home to me a couple of weeks ago when my best friend (in the UK, so is not around me here in the US) asked how T’s job was going. I told her he was having a rough time and had been working 12+ hrs days. She seemed surprised and said ‘he’s always in the pool/spa/sunbathing in your pics or you guys are out to lunch/dinner’…. I said ‘yeah, I’m not going to go to work in the middle of his day and take a picture of him am I? When he’s able to, we are trying hard to relax…’ I was really surprised that someone who knows us so well was caught up thinking that way too.

  • Katelyn

    “bickering about whose job it is to choose what’s for dinner…”

    Good gravy, this is US!!!!!!

  • KINA

    Just perfect, Maddie – thank you for your honesty! You did such a beautiful job of addressing something I think all of us struggle with without invalidating Manya’s lovely piece. You’re awesome!

  • A

    The original article made me feel warm and fuzzy, but there were a few lines in there that tickled the jealousy trigger. Mostly I thought it was beautifully written. The Dude Version made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

    Maddie, have you seen the Ze Frank video about “The Sweetness”? It’s a little abstract, but it resonated so hugely with me when I first saw it, and when I read this post it sprang to mind immediately. I think it’s an short but amazing funny/bittersweet look at emotional insecurity, jealousy, and living and loving your own version of life:

    I hope you love it.

  • Denzi

    Oh, Maddie, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I didn’t have that reaction to Manya’s post, but I did to your mom’s post, complete with angry, crying, should-we-really-be-together meltdown. *sheepish face* Like, “HOW THE FUCK DO I KNOW IF THIS PERSON IS MY ONE GREAT LOVE? DOES THE FACT THAT I NEVER DATED ANYONE ELSE MEAN THAT I’M GOING TO DISCOVER TOM ISN’T RIGHT FOR ME? AND WHO THE FUCK IS SHE TO TALK ABOUT YOUR ONE GREAT LOVE ANYWAY? I DON’T BELIEVE IN THAT SHIT!”

    Does the fact that sometimes we’re *not* good for each other mean we should get divorced? I mean, Tom is never going to be my brainstorming cheerleader for my life. Once I get going with something, he will support the fuck out of me, and if I fall down, he will drag me towards my dreams until I can get back up again, but he is super-cautious and his first thoughts about my idle dreaming will be “there are so many ways I can think of that this balloon will get punctured, let me try ALL of them to see if the balloon is sturdy enough.” (He would totally not put it that way, but it’s true.) 95% sure we are always going to have trouble with our different senses of time. We are not a romantic-y couple, we are a banter and argue over travel and worry about money and watch sci-fi shows together couple. And, in extreme circumstances, Tom will be there for me physically and emotionally, but sometimes “emotionally” looks like “I don’t think I can give you what you need right now, how about talking to X friend instead? Someone who is less tired and has a different perspective?”

    So we had a big fight, and I cried a lot, and we decided again that we’re good enough. We’re not perfect, but we’re really happy with each other as the “good enough love of my life.” (Which, honestly, a pessimist married to a depressive with an anxiety disorder? We were never going to think in terms of “one great love.”)

    I think the one thing that Jennifer’s post did for me was highlight that I am just freaking insecure. I will scour all the divorce articles to turn into a women’s magazine quiz about whether or not my relationship is good enough. I will look for all the signs of things going wrong, instead of things going right. And this isn’t actually a problem with my relationship (except that my negativity turns into a problem in our relationship), it’s my problem in my brain. So, time to adjust my attitude, maybe (probably) go back to therapy, and step away from the Reclaiming Wife articles about divorce for a year or two.

    • Right? I love that your partner knows himself enough to say, I’m to tired, X’s perspective might be better right now.

      I waited awhile to read Maddie’s mom’s post once I read about crying together because that’s not really us, but as I read I realized how he would support me would be what I needed, because he’d be doing everything he knew, or struggling his ways. (I think because how would ever know until you were there) (Not that her decision wasn’t the right one for her.)

      Really happy sounds really GOOD.

    • Rachel

      Oh my goodness, are you me? This is the source of so much of my stress. I’ve never had another real relationship, much less one as serious as the one I have with my fiancee. And I find myself pathetically eager to get confirmation that this is Good Enough, because I don’t have anything to compare it to.

      The thing I try to remind myself, in my saner moments, is that romantic relationships are not some entirely alien thing. I have had years of experience with relationships with friends and family – I know how some people make me happy and some don’t. She’s made me happy (not perfectly, but in a real-life way with ups and downs) for five years now, so as our friend said, we’ve performed well in early trials.

      Therapy is fantastic.

      • Rachel

        Er. This is a different Rachel. I didn’t notice there was already one of us here, sorry.

      • Denzi

        RACHEL I THINK YOU ARE ME! Complete with geeky friends who would say we’ve performed well in early trials!

        I think we should be friends! (You are totally allowed to disagree, of course. :-P ) If you want to chat via email, mine is cadenza AT gmail. (I may be slow to respond for the next two weeks, we’ve been living in France for four months, and we’re about to be gallivanting around Europe before returning to the States.)

  • This one rings pretty true for me. We had the most difficult time about a year in to our relationship when I looked at romantic comedies (I know, I know… young and naive, k?) and at our relationship and actually sat him down for a “discussion.” It turns out that I thought that flowers, or going dancing, or public declarations of love (Nothing tacky, mind you. I think my specific example was when Heath Ledger dances in 10 Things I Hate About You… yeah, it wasn’t well thought through) were how people expressed their love. He thought that bringing me coffee, texting me every other day, and watching movies I liked were how people expressed their love. We ended up compromising, but actually stating what actions we use to express love made a difference. Now, when he brings me coffee, I realize he’s saying he loves me, and every once in a while, we get to go dancing :)

  • Oh man, I hear you on the whole “the grass is greener on someone else’s blog/essay/piece” situation. Blogging and the Internet let us present whatever picture of our lives we want to, and we can literally photoshop and edit them to our liking to present the face/life we want to. That’s not to say that people do it maliciously. It’s just a fact of most print media — we’re getting one side of a story, we’re getting one angle of a picture, and things are edited out. Heck, my blog probably makes my life look adorably twee, and it so totally isn’t. Sure I bike to work in my hipster glasses and have a Corgi, but mostly the Corgi is kind of an asshole…I’m such a worrier about everything that I drive my husband nuts especially when I start repeating myself and working myself up into a frenzied panic about money and IVF and it is *so* not pretty. The face I present on my blog is like one angled shot out of a whole possible roll of metaphorical film. And yet, even knowing this, I still read other people’s blogs and mentally just think how shitty my angle is in comparison and why can’t my angle look more like theirs? In truth, both angles are valid. They’re both real slices of our lives. My angle is valid, their angle is valid. It’s like, ~why can’t we all just seeeeeeee, maaaaaaan?~

    Highly recommended reading from the always-awesome BITCH Magazine: their story called “Better Homes & Bloggers” which has the tagline “Are lifestyle blogs a new way for women to compare themselves and come up short?” READ ITTTTT:

    (I’m sure this could easily be a comment over at Meg’s post too, but the whole comparison-thing really brought to mind the blogging/BITCH story.)

    Love is such an odd thing. There are so many roads to take when it comes to showing affection and falling in love, and some people take those main highways and that works just fine, but there are little rabbit trails and deer-paths that one can take too, and those are just as valid. I try to just focus on us, rather than widening the picture to include other parties too much, because then the picture just seems crowded.

    (I hope this doesn’t come across like a dog-pile on Manya’s post, because it’s totally valid. And lovely. As is mostly everyone’s version of love, you know?)

  • While Manya’s post was lovely, when I read it I definitely felt little twinges of almost jealousy and can relate to today’s post a lot. My husband and I have our ups and downs for sure, but we are definitely in love and I’m okay if our version is more of the “Dude” version. It works. I know my husband has his moments despite not being a romantic, affectionate guy all the time. Now I watch romantic comedies and kind of laugh at how unrealistic they are whereas a few years ago I might have swooned. I just opened my own eyes and realized that we have works for us and my husband isn’t a mind reader so I know that I have to communicate my own more affectionate/romantic needs. If I need a cuddle, I demand it! (He usually complies willingly). ;)

  • carrie

    Even though I very much identified with the original post, this is what I have learned about marriage/living together/our serious relationship:

    Try not to smell too many farts. Also, laugh about the farts.

    Nothing romantic about that!

    • An aside: WHY IS IT THAT WE ALWAYS WANT TO SMELL THE FARTS? Like, why is it not enough to say: Yo… nasty fart on a leash there… take cover… to help us to not smell the fart. We always have to smell the fart for ourselves before taking cover? WHY WHY WHY? (I always have to smell the fart for myself–after laughing about it uproariously…)

      • carrie


        Oh my goodness…yep. So much exactly.

    • I fart more than him. More freely than I should. real talk

    • meg

      Man. Deep dark secret no one tells you: have a baby and suddenly your life will REVOLVE around farts. They’re cute, but they’re little fart factories. (And for the first few months he would SOB every time he had to fart, poor kid. Now he grins, which is much better.)

      • Manya

        Truth. And I found that my own ability to control farts was somewhat compromised as well. All told, a cacophonous time…

        • meg


  • Faith

    I mean…

    SO right on. You nailed it. Everything you said in the end was what I repeat in my head after I read something like that. Good for you for being able to put that part of yourself out there for us to see!

  • I loved Manya’s post because it reminds me of what romance CAN feel like. And I loved Maddie’s because it reminds me that romance, like everything, takes effort (and some people’s idea of romance isn’t everyone’s idea of romance).

    Manperson and I snuggle every morning before we get out of bed. It’s incredibly adorable and romantic. You know how that happened? Because he told me that Physical Touch is one of his main love languages and he feels better starting the day with snuggling. I like to get right out of bed and get ready in the morning. So, I set my alarm ten minutes earlier and we snuggle. Because he asked me to and I love him.

    That is romance in our house.

    • Omg, ADORABLE. I die.

    • Lauren

      Stealing. I am always stumped for how to give the fella Physical Touch when I want to Get The Hell Out Of Dodge And Just Stand Up Already To Do Something Productive, and this seems like a brilliantly simple solution.

  • I think everybody’s already talked at length about the way our relationships look different, but I wanted to put this in:

    Super-short version of “How to be in Love:”

    Do the little things that make your partner feel cared-for and let them reciprocate.

    For me, it’s bringing my husband flowers on Friday afternoons, and letting him handle all the bills, and always having something on the needles for him (that was in my wedding vows, actually) and waking up to love notes sometimes. I handle the gross stuff and he handles the overwhelming stuff and we do all the little things that say “I love YOU, not a romantic ideal. Because in my marriage, neither of us drinks coffee and the best evening ever is likely to involve his computer and my knitting needles and Netflix.

  • Class of 1980

    Oh HELL. After my divorce, I had a boyfriend who cooked me dinner and brought me tea in bed every single day … sometimes even breakfast in bed.

    I can’t begin to tell you about everything else that was missing in that relationship.

    You live in the whole of a relationship, not just parts.

    • meg

      “You live in the whole of a relationship, not just parts.”


      • Class of 1980

        If life consisted of nothing but mornings in bed, that relationship would have been perfect! It was the rest of the 24 hours that got me down. ;)

  • Paranoid Libra

    For the record I got my husband to read the whole thing and yes he ended up with tears. After he finished reading it though he actually said it was a really nice piece of obviously HER experiences. He straight up saw how personal the piece was, not overall rules for EVERYone. He also read it after we just had a rough night so it was nice to just end the reconciling with a beautifully written piece.

    And he is very much a manly guy, likes beer, porn and tinkering with cars and will still let out the occasional dddaaaammmnn when a girl with a huge rack walks by and I immediately want to see just how big because if he reacts out loud I know those things have to be huge and then we just look at each other and go that’s gotta be too much.

    • meg

      For the counter record, my husband likes Liza, for gods sake, and I didn’t even send him the article because he wouldn’t have been as nice as Michael was ;)

  • Oh my, Maddie, this post was AMAZING. I don’t really have anything articulate to add except that I was giving this post a standing ovation in my head and then the ending (the “guy” follow-up) just killed me. Love. It. All.

    Also, I really, really love the image and graphic you put with this article!

  • Mercedes

    Thank you so much for writing this!
    I felt really horrible after reading that article and I’m glad I wasn’t the only one in the corner of shame and worry.

    Anyway, Happy Tuesday!

  • This. So much of this. We are not overtly romantic people. I get warm fuzzies the rare times I get an “I love you” post on FAcebook, while friends feeds are full of them from their significant other halves. I learned early on in our relationship that love is what you make it. I show love through gifts, but he will never leave early in the morning without waking me for a hug and a kiss goodbye. I think we all have our own ways of being in love in our relationships – if we didn’t, they wouldn’t be OUR relationships, they would be someone else’s narrative.

  • Um. Just chiming in to say that I couldn’t make it through the original article either, not because it was upsetting to me because that sort of relationship isn’t what my Spousal Candidate and I have, but because it was so sappy and it wasn’t anything like I would ever *want* in a relationship and the sentimentality of it all just made me queasy (at least, the two paragraphs I got through before my eyes rolled out of my head).

    I’m glad that that is love for some people, just like I am glad that I have found the kind of love that works for me because the scenes described in Manya’s article would not do it for me at all, but it is upsetting to me to to see that so many people were shaken by her article. I think it was maybe the choice of title? Because the phrase: “HOW TO BE IN LOVE” makes it sound like “THIS IS THE END ALL AND BE ALL AND IF YOU AREN’T DOING IT THIS WAY YOU ARE WRONG.” So maybe if a different title had been chosen people would have been less upset about it?

    Regardless, all love is different, the grass is always greener on the other side, and Maddie said a lot of wise things in this post!

  • Becca

    I’ll admit I had a non-reaction to the romantic article in question. I thought, “meh, husband and I do some of those things some of the time, but not all the time!” I don’t think he’s brought me coffee since our first night together! Real life is real life, with jobs and anxieties and not enough time, but as long as he reminds me, and I remind him, that we love each other once a day, it’s enough for me.

    • Maddie

      You know, I should really acknowledge that so much of what I write comes from within the context that I am a FEELINGS person. I would pay money to be able to logic Manya’s post the way that you did. But usually I have to wade through a ton of the feels before I can get there. Which I acknowledge is totally not the case for everyone.

  • Jashshea

    Booya! My husband and I are a both a little prickly and not big on smooshy love stuff. Sometimes I wish I were – I certainly got teary while reading Manya’s post. But her post was more about being authentically who you each are when you’re together, right? And taking time to appreciate moments as they happen.

    The man bought me a lime green calculator watch as a pre-honeymoon present. How could I not be head over heels, ADED?

    • Class of 1980

      What? There are calculator watches on this planet?

      • Jashshea

        Ugh, tried to do this in HTML and failed. Google search for timex calculator watch. It’s the green one. It’s amazing.

        • Class of 1980

          I’ve been living under a rock.

          • Jashshea

            It’s been a longtime joke that I wanted one, but I didn’t think they were real. I mean, they existed in the 80s in TV shows, but real life? We don’t deserve such goodies.

    • “being authentically who you each are when you’re together…appreciate moments as they happen.”

    • Manya

      Thank you Jashea, that was what I was trying to get at… not some specific set of things but stuff that’s specific to YOU. That watch falls right square into my lavish gift category! It’s utterly specific, and it took real effort to find and it made you feel profoundly seen and understood. FTW!

  • Kara E

    I thought her post was lovely, yes, but so not us. We’re not the nicknaming types – real names are hard enough, but the attentiveness is the lovely romantic part. The loveliest and most romantic things my husband has done for me lately are all in the doing: scraping the mounds of April snow off my car (so I didn’t have to), getting out of bed in the middle of the night to pry up the window because I was burning up, and taking over breakfast prep (both weekend days!) to give me another 10 minutes in bed. So lovely.

    • Class of 1980

      Yes, it’s really all about attentiveness, in whatever form it takes.

      It’s noticing what someone needs.

  • OMG, I NEEDED this post. I felt so nauseated after reading it and how my relationship was not like that at all. My guy does not wake me up in the morning with coffee on weekends. It’s a race to the PS3 to play Madden before I wake up and insist on him turning it off so we can watch something together. It’s really hard to remind myself that the good parts of one person’s relationship are not the good in mine, and what’s mine is not theirs. Also, I blame myself for rejecting his romantic gestures early in our relationship b/c it made me want to barf…now I regret that! But yes…jealousy abounds when I see people with more traditionally romantic relationships, when my other couple friends travel abroad 2-3 times a year to cool places and we just end up having a long weekend somewhere because that is all that we could afford, of friends who just built a big fancy house with my dream kitchen (even though our house has a lot of bathrooms which I love). It is so easy to covet and get jealous and forget that you really have wonderful things in your life. Thanks Maddie for echoing so many of our thoughts!

  • Kate

    While my guy and I are prone to snuggling and whispering sweet nothings, very few cuddle fests are without a raspberry being planted on my exposed skin. Or me tickling the motherloving shit out of him.

  • Hannah Smith

    I wish I could ‘Exactly’ this whole post. I felt twinges of insecurity when reading the “how to be in love” post as well. Because my relationship doesn’t look exactly like a traditional romantic comedy falling in love either. Is my fiance amazing? Yes! Are we completely head over heels in love, oh most definitely. But there are times that I often feel like were not doing it right, and by it I mean being in love. His romantic gestures are rarely traditional, but he is constantly caring, kind and an amazing partner. This is a great companion piece to The Tyranny of the Romantic Gesture:

    Also, comparing yourself to other people on the internet? Maddie, you hit the nail on the head with that one. I heard the phrase once, “you’re comparing your life to everyone else’s highlight reel.” It’s so true!

  • Is anyone else feeling prickly about all these terms being used to describe Manya’s piece, such as “sappy” and “nauseating” and “eye rolling” etc. It’s not your deal, I get it. But some of this stuff sounds a little condescending and derisive which is a shame because some of my love life is “sappy” or “cheesy” or “cute” and frankly I think that makes it an awesome life, not one to be sniggered at. It doesn’t have to be your life or what makes you happy, as Maddie points out. I don’t know, maybe its just little ole too sensitive me.

    • meg

      Indeed. I’ve been holding my fire moderating thus far, since most people seem to be well intentioned.

      That said, Manya’s post was one of our most shared ever, so clearly she wins the lottery here.

    • Lena

      It did make me bristle hearing those being thrown around. I started feeling defensive because my life is filled with many of the little things she mentioned, and my life is not nauseating, it is filled with just my kind of love. But then I wonder if the defensiveness I feel is what caused people to use those words, so now time for me to go ponder how I can accept the defensiveness of others without turning it into a cycle of who can be more upset.

      • Kristen

        ha ha ha – so true! Anything beyond pointing out it was happening felt like a slippery slope to continuing the cycle! I figure I understand where everyone’s coming from so no need to preach beyond, “let’s pay attention to our words, sometimes they can get a little ouchy.”

        • Lena

          I think you said it perfectly! My defensive response was much more mean in my head and I had to step back and go whoa not helpful.

        • Manya

          Thank you guys. I’m actually ok, but this is probably the reason that we are hesitant to share our “goods” with an open heart. It’s scarier somehow than sharing the “toughs.” Somehow the good feels ironically more fragile and less socially sanctioned than our expressions of insecurity.

          Does anyone get the feeling that when we are self-critical and self-deprecating the internet is kinder than when we share our joys? This is not the case with the APW community, in general, which I have found to be an overwhelmingly supportive community of women. But I know how exceptional it is in the land of commentary–and how hard Maddie and Meg work to keep it like this–it’s a constant battle, I’m sure.

          I wonder why that is? And I wonder why it is harder for us to embrace the veracity of our (particular and very personal) joys than it is to tumble down the (wait for it!) vagina-shaped rabbit hole of our fear and doubt? Any thoughts?

          • Kristen

            I’d say – or better yet – I sincerely hope it’s not a super tough job for Meg and Maddie because the folks here just seem to overall take each others feelings and thoughts into account even when disagreeing. Which is like the opposite of what I said above, I realize but it’s also true. And why comments like today’s rubbed me wrong. I’m used to us all celebrating each others happy. I think it was Rachel a few weeks ago who had that great piece here about how women treat each other on the Internet. It’s the reason I’ve stopped reading blogs I like because although I enjoy a large percentage of the posts and comments, too much is just down right mean and nasty and I’m too old and have worked too hard for my happy, I don’t intend to be influenced by the negativity.

            I spent a lot of my life unhappy and using my sarcasm and intelligence to shred too many feelings. I don’t want to be that person anymore and like a reformed convict, I want to try and use my strength and my “Go eff yourself” attitude to loudly talk about the good things in life, not just mine but everybody’s and to try and protect myself from the negative responses. In part because I can empathize with those who express mean because they themselves hurt inside and for those who might be like me and hearing some positivity makes their day better.

            This is my movement y’all! I call it the Happy movement and it entails everybody who wants to be happy, being kind and caring for their fellow man. Spread the word. Happy is as happy does.

          • Manya

            Though, after thinking about this more, I guess Facebook is mostly filled with moments that skew positive and instagram is all about beauty (by definition really).

          • Manya

            Huge hug to you and a cheer for your movement (and sincere thanks for looking out for me and Maddie). For the record, I LOVE this post and could totally relate to parts of it!

            And I completely agree, APW is an amazingly safe and respectful space in the blogosphere. And by safe I don’t mean that it all has to be unicorns and agreeing. The community regulates itself and the editors have created–and cultivate–a culture of authentic and respectful discourse. And that’s why I keep coming back every day!

          • I don’t find this on the internet as much as I do in real life, actually. I have a really hard time sharing Good things with my family, because I don’t want them to take that happiness away. Not that they react negatively, but they just always have something to *say* about it, if you know what I mean (vague description ftw).

            I’m more open with my friends, but still- sharing what truly brings me joy, whether its farmers markets or boy bands or dogs- it always more difficult for me in real life, because those things are truly in my heart and truly part of my most authentic self. So it’s freaking HARD to let other people see it.

          • meg

            It’s definitely not the easiest job, working to create and keep this online culture. Days like today are a good example. We held our fire with moderating, but I’m not totally pleased with our imperfect decision… it just seemed better than the other imperfect options.

            Everyone was well intentioned, but that doesn’t mean comments were always kind or thoughtful. It’s something the staff is going to need to think about, though it illustrates the importance of actually talking about the good online.

            Rest assured however, that the staff was checking in with Manya throughout the day. If she hadn’t been ok at any point, comments would have been pulled in a flash. Safe space is safe space.

      • meg

        THIS right here, is one of the best and most interesting things to emerge from the content this month, for me. Seeing how vulnerable it makes people to share the good things in their lives, and WHY. And the why is… we get jealous and lash out. It’s human nature, and what Maddie is pointing out here is that it’s not the best part of us.

        So don’t feel defensive. The whole point of this post (and this month) is that we SHOULD be celebrating the good in our lives, whatever that looks like, and however it makes other people feel. And also, that when other people’s good makes us feel terrible, we need to ask ourselves why. And that question usually sucks.

        • Not only do we lash out, but if we’ve been holding in a sliver of frustration or self-doubt and then the Internet validates it for us, I think it’s easier to jump in with a “ME TOO!” — we are socialized to bond over mirroring and similar feelings, so it makes sense. But yeah, this post’s replies have surprised me.

          • meg

            This is one of my favorite comments of this whole thread.

  • NB

    I loved Manya’s post, and I loved yours, Maddie. They are beautiful snapshots of “Here’s us, right now”…but that’s all that a blog post can really be, right? There are not enough words in the world to capture every delicious, heartwarming, challenging, silly, nuance to a relationship, which is why being in one is such an intimate adventure. You can sketch a pretty good picture, but you’ll never be able to fully explain to an outside listener: “This is It. This is what our love is.” And that’s kind of cool!

    To me, it’s like this: You could take a million snapshots of the Grand Canyon and never *really* capture it. Different people will find different things that stop them in their tracks about each image. Some of those pictures are going to look totally alien. Some of those pictures are going to look like adventures that are awesome-only-in-theory, or awesome-for-your-neighbor-but-kind-of-meh-to-you. And some of those pictures are going to reach in and grab your heart. But none of those pictures (and really, not even the sum totally of all of those pictures) are going to capture the full wonder of the Grand Canyon. There will always be new and beautiful slices that you haven’t seen yet. There will also always be a little bit of mule poop on the trail. A picture of love can be beautiful when it is strange and new or old and familar, it can be beautiful when it is not the picture that makes your heart sing, and it can even be beautiful when you both just think poop jokes are kind of funny (hi.) That’s part of the wonder, right?

    …As an aside, I would like to register my jealousy that both Manya and Maddie are kick-ass, evocative writers who frequently make me cry. Kudos to you guys.

    • kgoesgallivanting

      “There are not enough words in the world to capture every delicious, heartwarming, challenging, silly, nuance to a relationship, which is why being in one is such an intimate adventure.”

      This is such a good point! I feel like this whenever anyone asks us about how we got engaged. There are not enough words to tell the story the way it really happened or how it affected me. I’d rather just smile and say it was beautiful and perfect for us.

    • Sam A

      “There will always be new and beautiful slices that you haven’t seen yet. There will also always be a little bit of mule poop on the trail.”

      AWESOME sentiment!

    • “Some of those pictures are going to look totally alien. Some of those pictures are going to look like adventures that are awesome-only-in-theory, or awesome-for-your-neighbor-but-kind-of-meh-to-you. And some of those pictures are going to reach in and grab your heart. But none of those pictures (and really, not even the sum totally of all of those pictures) are going to capture the full wonder of the Grand Canyon. There will always be new and beautiful slices that you haven’t seen yet. There will also always be a little bit of mule poop on the trail.”

      Yep! Great analogy!

  • Angie B.

    I can definitely relate to how Maddie experienced Manya’s post. I certainly went through the feelings before I could “logic” it. My reaction went something like this:

    SWOON. Aw, G. and I are just like this. Well, not exactly – but we’re still really romantic. Wait, not really. Is this a problem? Panic. Cue me attempting to awkwardly force romance when I got home, just to prove something to myself (definition of romance, no?). Fail. PANIC.

    But eventually logic prevailed and I finally realized, hey, I already knew our life is not a rom-com, and I’m good with that. And our good may not seem as swoon-worthy as others’ good, but gosh darn it is still GOOD and I wouldn’t trade our kind of good for the world.

  • Okay, so I’ve said this like a gah-zillion times (half of which have probably been in the APW comments). But I gotta say it again:

    “Don’t compare your insides to anyone else’s outsides.”

    Not your marriage. Not your family. Not your body image. Not your wedding. And certainly, not your A.M. routine!

    Our insides always come out lacking when we do this. Because other people’s outsides are polished versions of themselves–as would your outside story be if you chose to tell it. While outside stories are undoubtedly truthful (I have no doubt that Manya’s relationship is sincerely as she portrayed it to be), the “outside stories” of others are–consciously or unconsciously–spiffed up, for-public viewing versions. It’s neither manipulative or deceitful. But we all get to keep private those elements that we don’t care to reveal to the world. (If only we could keep those same areas private from ourselves from time to time, then we could all avoid fits like Maddie’s. Yeah–when someone comes up with a way to do that., be sure to email me.)

    It’s self-preservation–until we view someone else’s outside and despair because our insides don’t measure up. Then it’s self destructive. Or to put it another way–Maddie, EVERYONE closes the door to our messy bedrooms to a greater or lesser extent! And oh yeah, we showcase the good stuff, too! Otherwise, Pinterest wouldn’t exist and what would we aspire to?

    The difference between comparing one’s insides to someone else’s outsides is the difference between reading Manya’s post and saying, “OMG, we’re doing it wrong; maybe we’re not meant to be,” verses, “Wow–I can’t believe how different two loving relationships can be. Her story is touching, but snuggling right off the bat upon waking is my idea of hell. (I’m more of a nighttime cuddler and I hate coffee.). My idea of marital bliss is a having a husband who wakes before I do and quietly slips out of bed so that I can have an hour of solitude before I have to interact with the world.”

    And I have that! And so do we all in our own way.

    Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides!

    • meg

      Well right. That’s what Maddie’s post is about.

    • Yes–I guess my comments were my way of saying, “I agree with her ultimate conclusion.” (Which would have been a whole lot shorter, come to think of it!)

  • I love both Manya’s post and Maddie’s post, because they both had so much truth in them.

    This is what I get from Manya: when you look at your own life and relationship, set your filter so that your focus is on those good any beautiful things, even the tiny things, so that the annoying, frustrating, petty things aren’t what fill your head.

    This is what I get from Maddie: when you look at other people’s lives, remember that what they are presenting to the world also probably comes through a filter, and your shouldn’t take the perceived lack of squabbles and farts in their life to mean that it really is that way and therefore something is wrong with yours.

    I also know that for me, tea (we don’t really drink much coffee) in bed is likely to lead to tea being spilled tea, wet comforter, and lots of swearing. :)

  • Brian

    Hi APW ladies,

    This is Brian, Manya’s (second) husband. It might help your nausea to know that I am a slow learner – I was an ass for the entire 17 years of my first marriage. My first wife was well rid of me. Manya’s post is the second chapter of a long story. Chapter 1 was not so awesome for anyone.

    Being in love with Manya is my second chance at love. Doing the next right thing, whether that’s large or small, just seems easy with her.

    My testosterone levels are dropping dangerously low, so I must sign off, now, but encourage you to read on….Chapter 2 is only 10 – 15 years away!

    • Class of 1980

      Funny. ;)

  • I loved Manya’s post, I shared it several different places and yet as much a I loved and wanted to share the good of it with others I’d read it with one eye shut. Because I know that intensity of romance is not us. I was jealous We’re the spending time together, near each other doing different things (usually each of us on our computers and watching tv) and that’s good for us. I think I see that being good for the long haul – similar but separate interests, cheerleading each other through things.

    As I said I was jealous reading Manya’s beautiful post and many of the comments that followed until I reached Mimi’s and I realized, oh of course, “”

    I’ve really loved this post and so many of the comments. We all reach/find the good in different ways.

    Perfect way to end the month.

  • Elaine

    I have had a difficult time over the five years that my husband and I have been together with this issue. He’s just not a romantic gestures type of guy. The first birthday I had when we were together, he got me toothpaste…y’know, because he knew I needed toothpaste, and he genuinely though I’d get a laugh out of it. (Palm to forehead!)

    The things is, it’s not that I don’t feel confident about how awesome our relationship is; I feel like it’s really hard to convey to others how awesome our relationship is. I’ve come to understand over the years that my husband is a creature of habit; going out to dinner every anniversary at “our” Thai restaurant where we went on our first real date is more special to him than planning a special getaway with flowers and surprises. And, in general, I’m totally cool with that, but some of my friends are so judgmental about it. I have a long-time friend who has been very vocal in telling me he thinks I settled for my husband, and yeah, that really bothers me. I wish others would pay as much credence to my husband fixing stuff around the house that bothers me, but that he could care less about, as they do to other friends’ partners surprising them with roses at work.

  • aly

    thanks for this. I had a similar sinking feeling reading the love post but told myself that the writer must be in the first years of her relationship– that no one really feels that way five or more years in– to make myself feel better about my non- romantic life with my partner of 8 years. I don’t have a bad marriage but I often wonder if it’s good enough, especially after reading about what it should be like or what other people supposedly have online. I do think that the more people share perspectives like this one, the better off we all are.

  • 39bride

    I must be totally not normal, because I didn’t have any more jealousy in reaction to Manya’s post than, “Wow, she gets to live in some exotic place” and “Damn, I wish I could write like that!”

    I saw it as her personal map of the intimacies of loving each other and sharing lives, but it told the bigger picture of the developing closeness that comes with being in love. It resonated bigtime with me, even though my beloved and I have never been out of the country, never brought each other coffee in bed, never sat and talked while we drank coffee, never created tons of inside jokes/names, etc., etc.

    The reason it resonated is all in that last paragraph: “It [being in love] is not an event, it is a slow unfurling. Growing love day after day, year after year, is not toiling. It is, rather, tilling. No one ever said it would be easy, loving someone so much…they said it would be worth it.”

    And for everyone, that loving will look different. It’s not about what someone else’s love looks like in comparison to yours; it’s whether the love you are living is what you want and need.

  • Chelsea

    Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides – but don’t lie to your own insides about what you really want and need. I was apparently married to the man Manya’s husband was in his first marriage. Or someone exactly like him. Even though I did love him, I eventually realized that being a selfish jerk is different than having opposing “Love Languages” and I am now divorced, and happily with someone else who takes the time to show me that he loves, in our secret and special ways. Settling for less than what you want does, in fact, exist and many women do it. So while it’s good to recognize that we all are different, please don’t mistake that for getting less love or respect than you want or deserve.

    • Kristen

      Exactly x bajillion

  • LondonSarah

    Ha! Brilliant, just brilliant. I quite liked Manya’s article, and identified with some but not all of her points, as I identify with some but not all of your points, which I think is your main point here.

    In general, I’m loving the extremely broad, thoughtful and tolerant nature of APW and wishing that all comments sections could be so polite and supportive to everyone else. Am smiling a very wide smile and hoping that Meg and the team feel very proud of what they have built here.

  • Tea

    The post is called “How to be in love,” but Manya’s intro makes it pretty clear that this is a reminder to HERSELF on how to love in her very specific relationship and with her very specific partner. I found it to be brave and beautiful, and a necessary reminder that sometimes all of the sewage we’re wading in (while still sucking) is also teaching us how to love in our context. However, I felt some of that nagging too (gosh, we spoon every night, but does my foot cuddle his foot like that? why doesn’t he every say “you feel so good- I love your body.”)

    Maybe some of the problem here is that, while media (and you know fairy tales and childhood and the dominant cultural narrative) is shouting BE ROMANTIC at all of us all of the time, there isn’t quite enough sharing about the million individual (and totally worthwhile) ways that romantic can look and feel besides roses filled with chocolates that explode into fireworks and Tiffany’s jewelry and engagements. Then, when we SHOULD be celebrating Manya for figuring this stuff out for herself-we have a collective “Oh shit! That’s what contemporary cool smart lady romance looks like??? I’m not doing that!”

    Maybe we need to flood the internets with our own reminders of how to be in love, of the crazy and simple and beautiful and quiet ways that being in love can (but doesn’t have to) look like. Here are a few of mine. These aren’t my whole relationship, but they’re some ways that cool smart lady feminist romance can look for me.

    1) Bring cheap ready-to-drink frozen cocktails into the desert after a hard day. Kick rocks and look for lizards and get a little soused . Remember how much you love his terrible jokes and pick the inevitable thorns out from his arm
    2) When you’ve over-reacted (potentially by slamming doors) to something (admittedly very stupid) that he has said, appreciate that he always always always apologizes first (even though you were probably way meaner). Apologize back and make yourself mean it.
    3) Say “He bought me that exercise gear because he wants me to live a long time with him. He bought me that exercise gear because he wants me to live a long time with him” a million times until you believe (the obvious truth) that he is not trying to change your body. Try to go for a run, even though you hate running, because you do want to live a long time with him.

    • Manya

      I love this comment so much.

      • Tea

        This comment likes you too, Manya. :)
        Thank you for this piece of your story and for being so open to other people’s reflections on it. That’s pretty brave and awesome.

    • Next open thread? (Just throwing it out there)

    • meg

      Love. Love, love love. Open thread material for SURE. And a good way to remind ourselves that the jealousy monster is just that: a monster. It’s roaring it’s bullshit so loudly that we can’t hear the quiet good in our own lives.

  • k

    I laughed when I read one of the comments about conversation consisting of grunts; it reminded me of the following anecdote from John Gottman’s “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” (recommended) about his “love lab,” a studio apt where couples will stay for 24 hours and be filmed for 12 of those hours:

    “None of the footage taped in our Love Lab would win anybody an Oscar. Our archives are filled with scenes in which the husband looks out the picture window and says, “Wow, look at that boat,” and the wife peers over her magazine and says, “Yeah, it looks like that big schooner we saw last summer, remember?” and the husband grunts.

    You might think I’d find viewing hours after hour of such scenes unbearably boring. On the contrary: When couples engage in lots of chitchat like this, I can be pretty sure that they will stay happily married. What’s really happening in that the husband and wife are connecting – they are turning toward each other.”

    So you see, grunting really *is* intimacy!

  • Itsy Bitsy

    YES. YES YES YES. While I definitely identified with part of Manya’s (lovely) post, I was also left feeling a little “OHNO WHATDOESITMEEEEEEAN?!”

    Thank you Manya and Maddie and everyone else here for the reminder that the good is not the perfect, and that the good for me is different than for everyone else. Also that not everyone’s partners will read APW posts that are emailed to them and it doesn’t “meeeeeeean” anything.

    • Rebekah

      Holy crap this. To infinity and beyond.

    • meg

      HA. For the record, David won’t read probably 75% of APW posts, and *I run the site.* So talk about not meaning anything ;)

  • April

    I loved Manya’s original post so much I shared it with all of my girlfriends, sent it to my own husband and as for myself, read it at least 5x over – tearing up, smiling and enjoying every word. Then again, I’m a HUGE romantic. Husband is too (thank heavens for that)! But I also love the “Dude Version.” HA!!! There is a lot of truth in both!

  • Louise

    Oh I know this monster well… I work hard not to compare myself or my relationship, but I often fail. My cousin (1.5 years younger than me) graduated college the same year as me. In that same year, she got a high-paying job in her field, bought a house, got married to the MOST romantic man I have ever met, and had a baby. Now, they have 3 kids, a beautiful, big house and a shit load of money in savings and she is a stay at home mom. These are all things I WANT someday. I have to remind myself often that just because our lives are on wildly different tracks, it doesn’t mean that mine isn’t GOOD (even GREAT!). My husband and I are on a different track… we were together for 8 years before we got married. We aren’t planning to/can’t afford to have kids for a few years. I am a teacher and he is an IT guy at a tiny (read: not yet lucrative) company. But we are happy. AND, it turns out, HER good is my good too. I LOVE her kiddos to pieces. Her husband literally made my wedding what it was (he is in construction management, but he could seriously be a wedding planner).

    AND, remembering that my life and relationship doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s is the ONLY thing that allowed me to even consider my upcoming adventure (we’re moving to India so I can teach at a new progressive international school–what?!?). We don’t have kids, we don’t own a house, and we aren’t going to have those things for a while. Instead of being bummed about that and hanging out waiting until we are “ready,” we are making the most of it!

    • Sounds like you have an awesome adventure to look forward to!

      I wanted to chime in on the cousin envy- I, too, have a cousin about 3 years younger than me, who looks more like me than anyone else in my family, so much so that my uncle calls me “(Cousin) in Three Years” instead of Sarah sometimes.

      I got glasses- she got cuter glasses. I cut my hair- she cut her hair (and so much more fuss over it!). I started playing lacrosse- she took up lacrosse, excelled, and was the star player on her team, while also running track well enough to get a scholarship. I was an excellent student- she was an excellent student AND went to an Ivy League school. I took up community development- she took up a similar major, then got an internship in DC.

      We aren’t as close as you and your cousin seem to be, and I live much farther from our extended family than she does, so I’m not always on my family’s radar to dote on, but she is. And is has taken me a long while (and I still have to remind myself) that we are different people with our own ups and downs, no matter what interests we share or what our accomplishments look like on paper.

      So congrats on your upcoming job, and I hope to find the grace you did with your cousinly relationship!

  • I’m with Michael. I could barely get through half of Maya’s post – it was beautiful, but I couldn’t get past the sap. Your post, however, I poured over every word because it illustrates a real-life relationship that I can actually relate to, not one reminiscent of Shakespearean poetry and modern day rom-coms. I could easily see that bedroom scene where he mocks you by asking him to nuzzle in the crevice of his shoulder with you subsequently cracking up playing out in my life. Thank you, as always, for sharing.

  • Laura

    Winning, ladies! APW is totally winning with a) Manya’s beautifully written, intimate original post, b) this awesome, honest, insightful post by Maddie, and c) this carefully, painstakingly moderated comment thread.

    I have read every single thing here and I can relate to both Manya and Maddie. This discussion was very helpful to me and I only wanted to add that this is a very good day for APW and you should all feel proud to have contributed to it.

  • Goodness… This is one great blog post!
    I’m a woman and I couldn’t finish Manya’s post… :P

    True romance lies in accepting EVERYTHING in your relationship. I don’t want to constantly be the perfect looking woman, nor would I want my man to always be perfect. It’s boring and it would make me feel bad. I agree that you shouldn’t let go of yourself and that it’s good to do things for each other. And yes, we do tell each other daily that we love each other, but that doesn’t mean we have to be perfect all the time.

    Stories like the one from Manya are not real. No offense. If you’re too ashamed to let your husband see you as you are, something is wrong. He should be the one who sees you at your worst and at your best and loves all of it.

    • Manya

      If you had read to the end of the original post (and no problem that you didn’t–not all writing is for all people, and that’s totally cool), I think you would have seen that I agree with you entirely–I don’t believe we need to be perfect ANY of the time!

      But I do find it interesting that you interpreted from the part that you did read my feelings as somehow inauthentic or promoting being “ashamed to show your husband who you truly are.” I can assure you that was the exact OPPOSITE of the post’s message, and the diametric opposite of the essence of my marriage, which is a pretty radically honest relationship.

      For me, the absolute best part of a loving marriage is bearing witness to the full spectrum of who we truly are–at our best and worst; and when we are at our worst helping each other get back to a place where we are again our best.

      But I do find it truly interesting how sharing (even small) nice things can be perceived as pretending. I do, honest to goodness, find marriage, and my husband, to be overwhelmingly wonderful. What would be dishonest, disrespectful to my husband, and shameful, would be to pretend that it’s worse than it is for the sake of other people’s perceptions.

  • S

    Thank you, thank you so much for this. I am in no position to be reading or commenting on wedding blogs, considering my complicated but very happy singlehood, but I’ve been thinking so much about relationships of all kinds lately, and how we communicate love, and how sometimes we can love people in untraditional ways, and sometimes that’s the most beautiful kind of love for your life in your moment.

  • Thank you, I’ve recently been looking for information about this subject for ages and yours is the best I have found out so far. But, what concerning the bottom line? Are you positive concerning the source?

  • Winny the Elephant

    “Actually, I’m the only one who fights. Michael likes to win arguments by refusing to rise to the occasion. No fun.)”

    This is my life. I don’t know what to do with myself. Or him. Is it healthy?

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