Why We Need a Step-By-Step Guide From Proposal to Parenthood

We're Engaged, Now What?

Src: howheasked.com/ Amy and Jordan Photography

Last night, I found myself awake way past my bedtime looking at rings on the Internet instead of indulging in one my favorite pastimes, reading myself to sleep. I laughed at the amazing absurdity of it all, as I scrolled through webpage after webpage. It certainly wasn’t how I expected to be spending a late Monday night—or honestly any night in the near future. But then neither WP nor I was expecting our dinner out after he got home from work last to turn into an engagement celebration either. However, that’s exactly what it became.

The Surprising Proposal

One of the things I love most about WP is his desire to have a formal follow-up on any significant conversation we have. In the past, several men I dated avoided serious, emotional discussions like the plague. Thus, when I had something important to discuss or a confusion to clear up, I got used to zipping my lips to avoid discomfort, awkwardness and conflict. It wasn’t something of which I was proud. Not surprisingly, it did not contribute positive to relationships. With so many words and thoughts left not expressed, I was often left mentally gnawing over things until I got so frustrated that I exploded like a shaken soda can.

In this particularly case, I wasn’t sure I could trust my memory of where WP and I left things the previous night. We’d confirmed without doubt that we absolutely wanted to marry each other, but what exactly did that mean? Had that been a real proposal?

Fortunately, as soon as we sat at the table for dinner last night, WP commented on what a mind-blowing conversation we’d had the previous night. “I keep thinking, ‘Wow, did that really happen? Did we really say we are getting married?”

He expressed some disappointment over the lack of surprise involved in the mutual proposal. There was no elaborate, grand romantic gesture, no bended knee and no ring to present. We told each other everything, he said, so a proposal could never really be a complete surprise anyway.

I reassured him that there were plenty of things we could still carry on with an element of surprise, like picking out the engagement ring. I enthused how I receive grand romantic gestures from him regularly, more than anyone else I know. Just the other day, he expressed how he’s still trying grasp how amazing I am, in his eyes, and how he can be worthy of it all. He revels in my physical touch and waxes poetic during our long, stimulating conversations and in the middle of an achingly tender embrace. He openly expresses to others who are important in our lives just how precious I am to him.

All these gestures wrapped together mean more to me than being presented with a ring at the peak of Mt. Sinai.

So We’re Getting Married, Now What?

So We're Getting Engaged, Now What?“So what happens next? What do we do now?” WP asked me, as we shared our appetizers of lamb lollipops and homemade hummus with scrumptious bread.

I shrugged, laughing. “I have no idea what happens next,” I admitted. “I guess we start planning.”

We talked about the type of ceremony we might like to have, where and why. We talked about whether we wanted a ceremony with just the two of us followed by a party with everyone, or to have our closest family and friends there. We talked about the need for a ring—WP wants to pick it out a ring together. Once we have the ring, then we can officially announce the engagement to everyone. Then we can really plan a wedding. And deciding on the honeymoon will be the fun part.

Why We Need a Step-By-Step Guide From Proposal to Parenthood

While the whole process baffles us, we will take it one phase at a time. I was never a girl who planned her wedding down to the detail. I don’t have a collection of ideal bridal dresses, wedding locations or cake ideas. I don’t know who all will be in my wedding party if I have one. So last night, I decided to get on the ball and start a Pinterest board for engagement rings that speak to me.

In such unfamiliar territory, I feel like we need a step-by-step guide from proposal to parenthood. I am so grateful for the next best thing—a really close friend who loves planning weddings. After a brief counsel with her about rings, I’ve decided I will share the Pinterest link with WP and tell him to surprise me with the one he chooses. He can present it to me in a romantic fashion, and then we can publicly announce our official engagement.

And what after that? We’ll play it by ear.

What The Wedding Is Really All About

“Do you think I’ll be a good husband?” WP quietly asked me later that night in bed.

“I know you’ll be a great husband,” I said.

“I’ll do everything in my power to be the best husband I can be,” he said. He expressed his confidence in me as a great wife, and, if it comes to, mom. “I think we will be wonderful for each other.”

After last few years of loving each other, comforting one another, cherishing each other, and being there for each other—for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, I agree. I believe we will do more than just fine, until death us do part.

Honoring Your Unique Relationship When Preparing to Take The Plunge

Src: salainen.tumblr.com

Src: salainen.tumblr.com

‘Tis the season for love and marriage. Not only is it summer—the most popular time of year for weddings—but we’ve also reached that point in our lives where most of our friends have already gotten married and are having kids, or they are planning to. My ex, The Redhead, just got married after less than six months of publicly courting his now-bride on Facebook. An old friend I made traveling in my teens just posted pictures from her wedding to FB. One of my teachers from a recent yoga teacher training also got married yesterday. And sometime this week, friends on an island will enact the elaborate proposal Warrior Poet’s best friend has planned. The celebration of the commitment to love is infectious and has us considering the best way of honoring your unique relationship when preparing to take the plunge.

WP and I were settling in bed for the night and doing a last scroll through our respective FB feeds last night, when he called out, “Why are there so many engagements and weddings happening right now?”

“It’s just that time in life,” I replied, flipping over on my side.

It had been a night of deep conversations, covering political power, spirituality, technology and oneness. After a pregnant pause, I said, “You know I want to get married to you some day,” quietly into the dark, before quickly mumbling about how there was no rush or pressure. I knew he needed to get fully settled in his new job, and I needed to accomplish landmarks with my writing and health first. I took an anxious breath and allowed him to fill in the silence.

And so I bravely and more boldly opened the door to talking about the elephant in the room—or at least the one in my head. After three years of our love and bond growing stronger, deeper and even closer with each passing day, two years of blissfully living together, and the end of our 30s right around the corner, marriage is on the mind. My friends and extended family frequently ask if a wedding is on the horizon. I tell them not to hold their breath, but that we are blissfully in love and are deeply committed to each other and our sacred relationship.

Even as I say these words to the people in my life, even as WP makes tender, beautiful soliloquies about our love and bold declarations about our life together and the promising future, I still find myself curious if growing older together means marriage and kids. It’s not that I need it to happen tomorrow. It’s not that I need it to happen at all, as long as the commitment of our souls is there. Yet even we outside-the-box folks still sometimes find ourselves wishing to celebrate the sacred ties behind conventional rituals.

The conversation that followed after I uttered those last words was beautiful, romantic, enlightening and reassuring. It would take the magic out of those moments to share them fully here. However, I will say that we both truly share the desire to get old together, to lovingly parent (if we so ultimately choose), to grow and learn and enrich ourselves side-by-side.

As such, WP declared that a sacred vow requires uniquely honoring our rare and remarkable bond. Neither the proposal nor the ceremony of commitment is to be taken casually or lightly, nor should it be made saccharine with corny and cliché actions and words. We take time to honor and show gratitude for our relationship regularly, and that reverence for our love needs to be reflected in both a proposal and wedding, WP explained. It needs to be done from the heart in the singular way that only WP (and I) can do it—and that takes some time, imagination and delicate deliberation.

“I only plan to do this once in my life,” said WP. As one of the most momentous decisions and events in life, I completely respect how he wishes to honor it. So I will patiently and happily continue to live our cohabitating couple life as he meditates on exactly when and how to move into the next, big stage of our relationship.

After we sleepily ended the conversation, we held each other and cuddled for a long time before tenderly and passionately making love. That’s what you do with the love of your life after you declare your commitment to spend the rest of your days together. Peaceful sleep soon followed, swiftly and sweetly.

Reasons Why I’m Not Sorry to Celebrate The Road of Romance Not Taken

Woman Faces A Fork in the Road

Src: lawandborder.com

In the three years that the Warrior Poet and I have been together, there has only been one major pothole in the road of our romance that was disastrous enough to potentially split our bond forever. In hindsight, this heart-wrenching rift only lasted approximately a month. Yet there was tremendous risk that bullish stubbornness—after the shock and hurt of rash words and actions—would have kept us from ever finding our way back to each other. Another path, another person, had appeared on the horizon in the interim and could have been pursued further. If I had, we wouldn’t be entering this next, exciting chapter in our relationship—in my life—that we are now: A new leg of the journey that brings us to a whole new level of abundant lifestyle, focus and commitment to each other. Thus, there are so many reasons why I’m not sorry to celebrate the road of romance not taken.

I watched that other path, that other person, recently enter a riveting, new chapter in a relationship he eventually found after I called things off and chose to give WP an honest, second chance. If I were a decade younger with fewer relationships behind my belt, if there were no WP, perhaps I would have leaped into dating Path Not Taken. Maybe I would have been blind to the red flags of emotional immaturity and insecurity, instead focusing on the fun and playfulness of being two kids hanging around. However, time and experience have made me wiser.

I’d already dated the playmate, confusing an affectionate buddy for a long-term, loving companion. I’d endlessly tread the waters of dating a Peter Pan afraid of making real commitments and “growing up.” I learned the hard way that nothing I would say or do would change transform him from a boy into a man. I’d been the light and guide for the lost bull in a china shop, looking for someone to show him the way back to himself. I was left emotionally (and financially) depleted and feeling lost myself after all that giving with little in return.

Why would I deliberately choose to go through all that again with Path Not Taken when the door re-opened to the emotionally open man whose own life experiences led him along the same path I was on as well? This was the man who loved with both passion and tenderness that I returned in full-force, and who was playmate, best friend, cheerleader, dream-builder and lifelong companion all rolled up into one.

When I shared the recent news of Path Not Taken with my mother the other day, she said, “I’m so glad you made the right choice.”

A Dancing Couple

src: blog.findable.in

I too am overjoyed that I followed my heart to a path that left no room for what-ifs or regrets. I feel extremely grateful that I made the best decision for me (and WP), which in turn allowed Path Not Taken to also have the opportunity to find and fully grab hold of someone with whom he was eager to build a life.

The Path Not Taken and his lady share a passion for travel, fitness, style, cars, coffee and desserts. Like him, she is extremely playful and childlike; in photos, she constantly sticks her tongue out or crosses her eyes. She seems to be the perfectly playful partner to inspire him to take the big leaps in life. I find myself both extremely happy and excited for him and the adventures ahead as they move across the country to live in an area I know he’ll really love. Whatever lies on the path ahead for him and his lady, he too must be celebrating the road of romance he found instead.

Untangling Crossed Signals in Relationships

Miscommunication in couples

Src: twoofus.org

From the moment he walks into the house at the end of the day, an hour earlier than I expect, I can tell he’s already in a state. He looks at me with joyless eyes as he gives me a half-hearted hug. He engages in conversation politely, but the normal lively spirit isn’t there. He says he is simply tired, but I feel like my words suddenly either bore him or annoy him to no end.

When we finish with dinner, we chat about work and a new app he wants to invent. When I ask questions, he seems defensive. I stand to bring the dishes back to the kitchen, scraping some leftover off the plate. Without looking at him, I can tell he’s irritated by the sound so I quickly head to the kitchen.

I return from rinsing off dishes, and he has logged into Facebook on the computer/TV in the main room. I don’t think he was expecting me back so soon. As I begin to fold the freshly laundered clothes, including some of his own, he comments about a ridiculous post by one of his friends. He talks in a mocking tone, though he is part of that online dialogue, I point out. When I try to get at whether he’s being sarcastic or serious about his observation, he is visibly annoyed, cutting off the conversation and closing out Facebook with a “Whatever.”

After finishing laundry and putting my clothes away, I return to the living room and find the lights turned off and him nowhere in sight. I call out for him curiously, and he says he’s going to read in the room before disappearing again. Taking that as a sign he wants to be alone, I change my direction for the night. I do the dishes after all. I read for a bit. I do yoga for a bit, and then I read some more.

Somewhere during this time, we cross paths in the kitchen, and he reaches out for a hug. “Sorry for my lack of exuberance,” he says. I shrug it off, with a typical, “It’s okay,” even though I’m not quite sure what he means.

Src: Ink361.com

Src: Ink361.com

I know when he needs his space, I must respectfully give it to him, without questions, or there will be problems. Our relationship almost derailed permanently two years ago this month for taking his distance personally and for pushing too far, with attitude, about the way he disappeared. In similar situations, I’m still walking on eggshells, but so it is. I understand this occasional need for sudden space, after more than a year and half of living together, but I still wish he was able or willing to warn me ahead of time—or that I could read auras of mood immediately to ensure no feathers are needlessly ruffled.

In the middle of the dark, I grab my cell phone and send him a message on Facebook. I tell him if he needs more extended time alone to just let me know, and I’ll get away for a couple days. I think to myself, maybe it will give him a chance to miss me (and I him). Maybe not seeing each other at all for a couple days will remind him of how interesting and desirable to be around I can be.

When I am finally ready for sleep, I hesitantly go into our room and get into bed. Even though he’s fast asleep, I feel waves of discomfort. I’m still processing today’s sudden change in temperature of our interactions, plus the cough of my cold is picking up again. I head to the couch, where I run through the cycle of cough, toss and turn, sleep, and repeat.

At 5 a.m., I wake up with gooey cobwebs in my eyes. My body no longer feels comfortable balled up on the couch. I decide I’ll go back to bed, to have any chance of falling back asleep. Unfortunately, my cough picks up to an almost constant refrain. After more than half an hour, I can tell he is fully woken up by this. And I am too. I hear him get up, go to the bathroom, then head back to his office. I cough and cough, rolling onto my back, eyes closed, willing myself to fall back asleep.

He’s likely watching porn, as per his early morning routine. I imagine him deriving more pleasure from rubbing it out alone in the shower than the blowjob I had been planning to love him up with the night before. Before I was given the freeze out. I’m not upset; just tired and bewildered.

I wedge another pillow under me, raising my upper body. My cough begins to wane. But it’s too late for more sleep for him, for m….

An hour later, I awaken. He hasn’t said goodbye to me for leaving for work. This disappoints me a little, but I’m too distracted by my cold to get truly upset. That’s when I hear him walking the hallways. He’s moving slowly this morning apparently.

I get up and go to my “office.” When he gets out of the shower, I go into the bathroom to wash the cobwebs out of my eyes. He is standing in the kitchen, getting his bags together when I get out. I decide it’s ridiculous to wait for him to talk before saying anything.

Img src: jeanneguy.com

Img src: jeanneguy.com

I apologize for waking him up so early with my coughing. He says he’s sorry my cold is so bad this morning. After a hug, he tells me not to overdo it today. I tell him that I’ll try. My IM goes unmentioned and hasn’t been replied to. I don’t know if he even noticed I wasn’t in the bed most of the night.

With too little sleep, it’s going to be a long day for both of us. I’ll definitely want to tread lightly in our interactions tonight. Hopefully we’ll both wake up on the right side of bed tomorrow, and neither of us will feel remnants of eggshells under our foot.

Why You Don’t Need a Ring on it For Christmas

FB EngagementsSo last night and this morning, I was scrolling through Facebook, and I saw the beaming faces of multiple, old classmates announcing their Christmas engagements. While it’s a somewhat predictable time of year to propose–and where’s the fun surprise in that–I was genuinely happy for these women who are well deserving of lifelong love. But I must be completely honest with you—I was surprised by the twinge of envy I also felt. While I don’t consider myself a romantic traditionalist in general, a part of me couldn’t help wondering when—if—I will reach that exciting milestone in my own relationship.

There are a few things I share in common with my newly affianced friends. We’re no spring chickens. I’m the youngest, having just turned 37 two weeks ago. While we’ve never been married, all of us have been in more than enough relationships to genuinely recognize authentic, enduring love when it is staring us in the face. Our relationships aren’t new. Loved ones have long inquired when to expect the big day and babies. Friendships and families have blended. Lives and residences have been entwined.

In my case, I’ve been with Warrior Poet for more than two-and-half years now, and we’ve been living together for a year-and-a-half. He’s been by my side through the best and the worst of times. We’ve been each others cheerleader, champion and best friend. We have three families and a supportive circle of friends with whom to share special events together throughout the year. And in a couple weeks, we’ll be taking a trip of a lifetime together to one of the world’s most romantic cities and then to one of the most magical countries. Thinking about this, I was immediately chastened by how greedy and selfish it was to wish for more right now.

Christmas Love BouquetIn one of my FB groups, a woman posted about her disappointment that, after four-and-a-half years of a relationship, she wasn’t proposed to over Christmas. She said the only thing she wanted for the holiday was a commitment. People quickly responded to remind her that there is not time clock on commitment and that everything happens in its own, right time. While one couple got married after seven months together (15 years ago, btw), it took 16 years for another couple to get engaged. Yet the most sobering response was from a woman who said that while she understand the disappointment of the girl with no Christmas ring, there were many who wished that they had even a taste of what she already has—someone in her corner, someone by her side when the going gets tough.

It reminded me how important it is to recognize and express gratitude for the blessings we do have now. As single people, we can be grateful for the opportunity to really get to know ourselves, for the time to become our best selves, and for the experience of growing more complete and content on our own. If we’re in relationships, we can be grateful to have someone who sees, accepts and loves us for who we really are and has faith in who we can become. We can cherish the nurturing and support we receive. We can marvel in the process of getting to know each other even more with each passing day and the experience of our shared journey together. We can celebrate the continued acts of loving and the commitment it takes to show up for each other day in and day out, whether we’re wearing a ring or not.

What Couples Uncover When Chatting About Their Unique Relationships

Src: Flickr Creative Commons/ellenlove

Src: Flickr Creative Commons/ellenlove

This past weekend we went to a housewarming party, where we got to spend time with a few of our favorite couples. As always, the Warrior Poet and I learn so much from our conversations with them, giving us further insight into how others relate successfully and unsuccessfully in their romantic endeavors. Two interesting things arose in conversation that night—how couples communicate (or don’t) and how couples deal with conflict.

One of the surprising statements of the night was that having a max of 15 or so minutes of meaningful communication per day was the reality for others. “Neither of us are big talkers,” the guy in one of the couples explained. They enjoy being in each other’s company, but not don’t feel the need for much chatting. Another couple gets in fights frequently over communication blunders and misunderstandings.

WP and I exchanged knowing glances—our days wouldn’t be complete without some serious downtime talking with each other about more than just a play-by-play of our respective days. Whether we are discussing our goals for the next steps in our respective careers, contemplating the cosmos or trying to solve the world’s crises over lack of resource, or we’re making up parody lyrics or ridiculous names for our brood of non-existent dysfunctional children, a day doesn’t feel complete without looking into each others eyes and really jumping into each other’s minds for a good chunk of time. Two-and-a-half years into the relationship, we continue to lose track of time some nights because we’re so busy talking about whatever comes up.

Admittedly, we haven’t been together for more than a decade; as much as we already know and understand about each other, we still delight in discovering even more. And we don’t have children, which takes up a lot of time, attention and energy for parent couples. Nor are we a workaholic power couple spreading ourselves too thin to have the energy to do much more than the necessary check-ins. Yet, we also have our own, full lives we’re living.

I am working on building my own business, am constantly educating myself and following a half dozen passions—while also dealing with health and financial stress. WP’s work life is consistently frustrating, and he is extremely driven in his pursuits outside of work and rarely gets home before 8 p.m. at night. Yet on the two days we both work from home, we make an effort to briefly check in throughout the day. And each night, we eat dinner together and spend time in each others company until falling asleep.

Admittedly, sometimes the night is full chill mode of listening to podcasts or watching something or the computer. Or we decide to wind up the night reading side by side in bed. Sometimes, WP gets home late and exhausted, and we have barely enough time to prepare and eat dinner before he falls asleep. Yet, whatever we are doing, the time together is paramount, and we enjoy the time we carve out to talk to each other, no matter the topic. It’s what makes us feel happy and complete.

The other big thing that came up in our couples’ conversations the other night was how conflict is resolved. One couple is aware that it is made up of two, explosive and stubborn individuals. The longest they’ve gone without talking was a full week, which I cannot even fathom. The individuals in the other couple both hate conflict, but the man can’t stand leaving things unresolved for very long so he initiates airing things out. The rare times that things get weird between WP and me, I’m usually the one who has to bring up the topic to get us to directly address it.

Interestingly, yesterday I got on WP’s nerves because I was washing dishes while he was trying to cook meals for the week. I thought I was doing a good thing by cleaning new dishes that he would was going to need for the baking. He started sighing loudly and eventually went to sit in the corner and got one the phone until I was done. I left the room in an annoyed huff, mumbling, “I was just trying to wash the dust off the dishes for you.”

I sat and stewed for a while. I know WP is very sensitive to people and sounds, and it can drive him crazy not to have full reign of the kitchen when he is cooking. Yet he does all the cooking, and I feel better when I can do anything to help. Sometimes this is tolerated, but yesterday it was not.

It made me feel badly that I was just another annoyance to him at the time. I know how territorial he is about his kitchen at times and that I can’t take this too personally, but I would much rather have had him say something than just very audibly and dramatically sighing in annoyance over something that lasted less than five minutes. So I clung to my hurt feelings for a couple hours, though he seemed fine.

But after watching thought-provoking documentaries together, he initiated discussing the global issues the shows brought up that were much more significant than a kitchen showdown. Any awkwardness that had built up dissipated, and I openly engaged in the conversation as usual. No harm, no foul.

I know, like any couple, we can still improve on our communication, especially when neither of us is feeling at our best. We like to assume we can read each other’s minds, and get frustrated when it’s not always so. Yet I’m grateful that these moments aren’t very frequent and almost never lead to frustrated outbursts or tears. Neither of us thrives on such things.

It’s different strokes for different folks, and that’s what makes observing and learning about other relationships so fascinating. Different personalities have their own ways for navigating through the landscape of their relationships and making things work for them. Sharing our varied experiences can be a great way to learn from each other…and it definitely makes for entertaining group conversations.

How to Recognize What We Desire Most Comes From Within

What You Deserve And Desire

This past Saturday morning, I woke up to find a photo of a bare-chested man in my inbox. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not going to complain about the view. However, its unexpected appearance was surprising to me for a number … Continue reading

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Almost a mother, almost a wife on Mother’s Day

Kids Say the Darnedest ThingsThis past Sunday, I was sitting at the dinner table with my family—my niece and nephew, brother and sister-in-law, my beau, my dad and last, but not least, my mom. With the exception of the Warrior Poet and I, everyone was feasting on two scrumptious desserts when my 6-year-old nephew, who adores his tía, said he counted three mothers at the dinner table: “Mom, grandma and Tía [me].”

Considering that I have no biological or adopted children, I was a bit puzzled. I was a bona fide cat mom until a couple months ago, sure, and my family has a habit of saying Happy Mother’s Day to everyone. My nephew’s earnest grinning reminded me that the closest I’ve come to parenting was caring for him and his sister over the years.

I think it was my brother who asked his son what his criteria was for being a mother. He responded with a laugh, admitting he didn’t know what the word ‘criteria’ meant.

Almost a Mother

After the question was rephrased, my nephew clarified, “You’re almost a mother.”

“Why is she almost a mother?” my own mother asked.

The impish first-grader replied, “Because she has almost a husband.” He pointed to the Warrior Poet, whom he’s embraced with glee during the multiple family visits and holidays, as he’s not afraid to get playfully hands-on with my nephew.

Treating his observation seriously, my nephew was asked, “How does having an almost husband make Tía an almost mother?”

He responded, “Well, when you get married, then you have children.”

There was laughter and a little bit of embarrassment. But come on–he’s 6 and adorable. The Warrior Poet knows me well, but I wouldn’t put it a different person in a different relationship to stage that sort of cuteness. I was even getting paranoid that my family members would think that we were pregnant and that my nephew had somehow picked up on it.

Warrior Poet replied, “Well, I can’t argue with that logic.”

I sighed a breath of relief as the topic of conversation shifted. It’s not that we haven’t ever talked about the future. The fact that we plan to be together is a given in both of our minds. We’ve even discussed the kind of spare but lovely ceremony we’d like to have if we get married. We’ve come up with endless imaginary children that we’d have. But it’s all fantastical mind-play.

Last night, while talking about insurance, the Warrior Poet said, “I could marry you so you can be sure you get good coverage, but that’s not very romantic.”

True, but does that mean he doesn’t plan to marry me any time soon?

Throwing Out the Ticking Clock

Though there is no need to put any pressure on our relationship, we are not getting any younger. If I ever have children, I will already be an at-risk pregnancy because of my health conditions. I’m over age 35, so that just ups the risk factor. My parents always point out that I could adopt, which both Warrior Poet and I would theoretically consider, but that’s not as big a concern as it once was for me.

As much as the Warrior Poet enjoys other people’s kids, I don’t think he really sees himself ever being a father. Which is fine, really. I went from wanting a soccer team of children to being resigned to the fact that I may never have children of my own. Yet I have nieces and a nephew, my friends’ kids, and I’ll probably wind up teaching children again sometime in the future. It’s not the same as having your own kids, but it might be enough to satisfy the urge to nurture.

A Mother’s Love

This Mother’s Day was the first in eight years where I haven’t been able to officially proclaim that I was a cat mom. It may sound ridiculous to people who don’t love animals and welcome them into their home or who don’t pour their love and attention into caring for their pets. But when you allow yourself, you can form such a strong and powerful bond with your animals. And for those of us who aren’t mothers of children, our fur babies can often feel like the next, best thing.

This is not a post to trivialize motherhood. My own mother is the epitome of compassion and self-less love. She raised her three children with grace and great strength, and, along with my dad, instilled in us empathy for others a strong moral code, drive for creative expression, deep appreciation for education and learning, and the ability to value all aspects of life—work, play and travel.

As for marriage, Warrior Poet says he gains inspiration from the marriage of my parents, and that he has the same realizations about our love that my dad has shared about his love for my mom. But where he was seriously looking at rings and such for his ex, despite how wrong they were for each other, I know that his mind is not there as far as we are concerned. We’ve signed on for another year of our lease, but he hemmed and hawed when our insurance agent suggested we might save in our respective car insurance bills if we got it as a couple.

Our almost decade younger friends, who have been dating one month longer than we have and had a horrifically tumultuous first year plus of their relationship, are certain that they will get married. The guy knows he’s going to propose soon. With her child in the picture, they have already become a lovely family.

We are not young. We know what we want in life and in love. We know we have a near ideal relationship (though we’re definitely not perfect, haha) for each of us. We always are talking about how happy we are and how lucky we are to have found one another at long last. But there’s an unspoken barrier about the future that feels strange to me.

 Not Yet…But Ever?

Warrior Poet has been with me the through some of the roughest times and been an awesome champion through that—so maybe he’s just waiting to see if I return to the super energetic and active woman with whom he first fell in love? It wouldn’t be the first time, by any mans.

Or maybe he’s scared to make a wrong decision about someone again. Or maybe he just realized he doesn’t want to participate in the institute of marriage. Or maybe deep down, a lifelong partnership is just not the way he sees his life going in reality.

This would have put me in full panic 4 or 5 years ago—it did in fact put me in panic in the relationship I was in at the time. Yet that was largely because I knew the person I was with was not meant for me in the long haul. I know I don’t actually shrivel up in three-and-a-half years when I turn 40, but being single at 40 would be a completely different ballgame than single at 34.

Either way, sweet nephew, while the Warrior Poet and I may be almost husband and wife in a lot of ways, we are most definitely not married, nor does it seem to be in the picture for my love any time soon. But I think he’ll still be around to fake-wrestle with for a while longer yet.

Two Years To the Date of When I First Saw Your Face

Celebrating usIt’s been two years today since that fateful afternoon we first met face-to-face. After hours of talking, as late afternoon turned into night, warmth turned into a chill we tried to recapture by the outdoor stove, we realized we’d both been holding in our pee until we were about to burst, just so as not to part company. Unfortunately, by then every store in the area was closed. I suggested the Taco Bell that was less than a minute drive away. We laughed at ourselves that we wouldn’t stop talking until our bodies insisted we do, and we are still laughing about it today.

Not much has changed when it comes to the endless talking, which now continues right up until you fall asleep. We make each other laugh so hard, tears come out of our eyes sometimes, or I snort, which only makes us laugh harder. We cherish how words and emotions just pour out of ourselves when we’re together. There’s no façade or hiding parts of ourselves we’d like to keep in the dark. Together, we sort through the darkness until we find light, tend to each others wounds until it feels safe to breathe strong again.

You have done so quite literally for me on and off over the last six or so months. When my exuberant old, energetic physical self eventually sizzled out on me, you were there to pick me up, to hold my limbs until I stopped trembling, to care for me when I could not do so for myself, to feed and nourish my body, mind and soul.

You never stopped believing in me. You never gave up. You continued to search for answers, and rejoiced when I was able to strongly stand on my own two feet again. You gave me another reason to not give up and sink back into pity or despair.

Life is not perfection, nor do I think it’s meant to be. Stress has weighed on us in various ways along the path that has only tested our resolve. Our imaginations sometimes get the better of us. We super-sensitive souls occasionally face bumps when we misinterpret what the other really means but think is not really saying. A little more than a year ago, we almost allowed that to break us apart completely…But we always wind up reaching to come back to each other, stronger, more committed to filling our lives with joy and harmony together.

We have created so many wonderful memories over the past two years. We’ve created a home and life together that promises to only get better and better with age. You inspire me and encourage me every day. You lift me out of my despair. You rejoice in my accomplishments and triumphs as if they were your own, just as I beam with pride over your own success. I’m proud of how we’ve grown individually and together since we decided to take this journey. I love who we are now and where we are headed.

No matter how long it has been since we last set eyes on each other, I look forward to your embrace as we return to each others presence. I look forward to the time we will fill with our voices and laughter tonight and the next night and the next night. I look forward to all the amazing adventures and experiences we have stretched out endlessly before us—together.

Learn What Singles in America Are Saying About Dating, Sex and Relationships From Match.com

MatchOn February 8, Match.com presented its first Singles In America panel to announce the results from its 2014 Singles in America study. The event was hosted by Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger, who was joined by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton and other sex and relationship experts. This is the fourth year Match.com has done a comprehensive study of singles in the U.S., and as always, there were some surprising findings.

Stanger opened up the discussion by asking, “Who in the audience went on a first date and knew it was the one—so much so that you planned your future?” While none of the dating and relationship bloggers in the audience admitted that they had, Stanger said she’s done it a million times. And she is not alone.

According to the Singles in America study, 51 percent surveyed in America said they imagined a future together with someone on their first date. What is perhaps even more surprising is that men do it more often than women.

Dr. Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist and chief scientific adviser to Match.com, felt the results made perfect sense. “Men are much more romantic than women are. They fall in love faster because they are so visual,” she said. “When they meet somebody that they really love, they want to bring them home to friends and family sooner. They want to move in sooner. Man have many more intimate conversations with their wives than women do with their husbands because women have intimate conversations with their girlfriends.”

Not sure who these husbands are having conversations with if their wives are chatting with their girlfriends—I think that’s more accurately called a monologue, but what do I know?

The panel was mixed as to whether the velocity of emotions that come with a man’s visual mindset gave their counterpart power.

“I do believe it’s about power, but what I’m searching for is equality.” Perez Hilton said of the very visual mindset of the gay male community.”

Leading sexpert and Bravo TV star Emily Morris said that while she loves her power, she felt that men’s visual mindset made them more fickle. A man might believe his Friday night date was the one…until he went out on his Saturday date.

Fisher disagreed. “I don’t think it’s about power—that’s a feminist thing that’s gotten into everyone’s head,” she said. “It’s about love and about trying to figure out, you know, who you’re going to spend your life, about who you’re going to spread your DNA into the next generation with.”

Another surprising study finding was that 59 percent of singles want to plan their first date together. Audience members and the panel agreed that the person who asks for the date should plan it. Stanger asked how this works.

“It’s entirely possible that they’re already beginning to negotiate who’s flexible, who’s dominating, who’s gonna play some sort of false impression of who they are,” said Fisher. “The first three minutes of meeting somebody are powerfully important for many, many reasons. The brain is constantly categorizing…”

In last year’s survey , the top two things dates were judged by were their teeth and grammar. This year, the top three were grammar, confidence and teeth. Respectively, they show youth and health, your psychological stability and your background.

Dinner reigned supreme for a first date activity. Stanger put it like this:

Drinks are an audition

Lunch is an interview

Coffee is cheap

And dinner is for romance

After a first date, 46 percent of men and 35 percent of women want there to be follow-up within 24 hours. Only 6 percent of men still abide by the 3-day rule. Fifty-one percent prefer a phone conversation, but texting is a close second.

Speaking of texting, ladies, put down your cell phones and breathe. Texting multiple times before the man replies is their biggest turn-off. And men, stop sending sexy photos—for women, that’s a big turn-off.

Statistics try to scare you into thinking that marriage-minded singles are a rare commodity these days. However, the Singles in America Study found 53 percent of singles want to get married, and a whopping 89 percent of singles believe you can still live happily ever after. And a big proportion of gay men and women also indicate they want to get married.

So where are people most likely to meet their last first date? You guessed it—online!

For more on singles, sex, dating and relationships, watch it here!

Live streaming video by Ustream**This is a sponsored post for Match.com**