The Wildest Advice I’ve Ever Heard about Marriage…and I Was Convinced.

I was mind-blown. I expected to be baffled with disbelief. But no, I was baffled with…assurance.

You see, this particular advice would have been ideal to hear before becoming engaged. I made a commitment that I don’t intend to break. And yet, I am assured I made the best decision when I accepted the ring.

As soon as I’d heard a mother tell their child this advice, I thought, “I don’t know about what I just heard or what she meant by it, but this sits right with me.”

It is as though the grungy, battered appearance of the mother put an emphasis on the truth she shared. It was as though she couldn’t say something truer to her child.

Choose someone you not only want to marry but also would want to divorce.

a brown braid hidden under a faded pink handkerchief, riding on bus 92, headed down Florida Ave.

Before I say anything further, think about this segment for a minute. Let your reaction unravel.

What was your take on this?

What did that mother intend to convey?

When I planted this divorce scenario between my initial reaction and revelation, my mind naturally went to my recent engagement to Maya. I know next to nothing about the world around us. We are these incidental human beings just trying to do right by our people and the environment as best as we can. We said “Yes” to the complete unknown. We don’t know what a marriage entails. We don’t know what a lifetime commitment requires. We have no idea how hard it will be. We can only imagine. Dream. Wish. And believe. But this time, I chose to listen. I listened to a woman of wisdom even though she wasn’t speaking to me. (Or was she?)

As I disappeared into my thoughts for the duration of the bus ride, I knew I wasn’t planning or preparing myself for the possibility of a divorce in the future. If anything, that’s not an option as far as I am concerned for my relationship. I said “Yes” to the love of my life and that’s final. And Maya agrees. So, again, this isn’t about if Maya and I get a divorce. This is about knowing your partner as though you both were in a “worst-case” scenario. Think about how they may handle it. And how they may take care of you. It is about knowing your partner in a more intimate, deeper sense.

I thought about the person Maya is and her quality of character. I asked myself, “How would Maya’s character play out in the event of a divorce?” Despite all biased implications when assessing about the person I love, my thoughts concluded with, “If there were to be a divorce, I trust in Maya’s character to be gentle and caring, reasonable and kind, responsible and trustworthy.” Besides the multitudinous reasons why I am committed to Maya, I want to marry her because I know she will try and try again, ten times over, until we’ve survived and healed from tough times. She will even try when the problem may be beyond repair. If we ended in a divorce, she will care enough to ensure I have what I need to support myself. Maya will put in the time and effort to maintain our companionship even if our marriage fails. She will prioritize our family. The marrow in every 206-something bones in my body contain all the confidence that Maya will only do good to our relationship, our marriage, and a divorce if, God forbid, there is one.

I rested my head against the dried up water spots on the bus’s windowpane and grinned, watching the city pass by.

Introducing 30 Day Challenges for Couples

So many of us find ourselves swirling in mundane routines, day in, day out. We let the clock tick our way through habitual, familiar instances. Wake up, go to work, run errands, come home, make a meal, sleep. Go at it again, and again. And sometimes its just necessary, isn’t it? We need to keep our bills paid, our tummies full, and each other cared for.

What can we do to shake things up in our routines without breaking away from responsibility? Maya and I have been doing…

30 Day Challenges!

We are committed to trying new ways of lifestyle or a change of habits, each for 30 days, on a daily basis. Besides the obvious, we chose the 30-day time period so to allow ourselves time to discover, adjust, and learn. Also, some challenges may significantly change how you feel physically, mentally, or emotionally over time.

Maya and I have learned about one another in ways we haven’t before by which these challenges elicit. I especially appreciate learning about Maya’s experience with each challenge, since they often differ from my own. Doing these challenges with a buddy also provides you with a teammate who can hold you accountable. A coach if need be.

Now, before I share what these challenges can look like, let me tell you that it is OKAY if you don’t fulfill your 30-day challenge, whether you have a cheat day or don’t complete the time-period. You’re not doing this for anyone else other than for each other. You’re doing this to experience novelty and shake up your routine together. To have fun. To experience. In fact, the first challenge Maya and I did, we didn’t complete. We made to Day 17. Got distracted. Laughed about it. Moved on. What is most important is that you allow yourselves to begin again. Start anew.

Now to the actual challenges: what are some examples you could try? The following list is just a fraction of suggestions, some of which Maya and I have done, plan to do, or pulled out of the hat. Please drop in any other ideas in the comment box to share.

Remember, these suggestions are based on one thing you can maintain on a daily basis for 30 days, together. However, you can get pretty creative with some of these, so create away. Be your own artist to your routine. Add your own twist. Also, before I forget, I created a free, downloadable 30-day challenge tracker for you to keep record of each day you complete!

  1. Go Vegetarian
  2. Meditate for 5 minutes in Silence
  3. Share 1 Thing You Admire About One Another
  4. Go for a Walk
  5. Don’t Drink or Buy Alcohol
  6. Read a Chapter
  7. Sit Outside with No Phone/Distractions for 20 Minutes and Talk
  8. Complete a Puzzle
  9. Do an Exercise Routine
  10. Go Vegan
  11. Get Rid of Something You Don’t Need/Don’t Use (Donate, if you can!)
  12. Set Aside $5/Day for Vacation
  13. Share About Someone You Appreciate and Why
  14. 10 Minutes of Yoga/Stretching
  15. Take A Selfie Together with A New Background/Pose/Facial Expression
  16. Drink Homemade Juice for Lunch
  17. Write Down 1 Thing You’re Thankful for Before Dinner
  18. Draw A Picture Representing How You Felt Today
  19. Send a Funny Meme to One Another for a Laugh
  20. Say/Sign: “Goodnight” and “Goodmorning”

Getaway Weekend: Dewey and Rehoboth Beaches in Delaware

She was unapologetically herself, not once explaining herself to anyone. With jorts rolled up unevenly and hair gone astray, she was carefree. Maya produced her trademark happy head wiggles in the middle of a restaurant where others bring their best etiquette. On top of an umbrella ride, she molded quad chin faces because she knows she’s beautiful anyway. Kids under the age of 12 were betting their dollars when she excitedly joined in their game booth, knowing she could be like them at 30. Showing me around the place where she grew up spending routine summer vacations with her family had me riddled with admiration and such love. Last weekend, we ventured throughout Dewey and Rehoboth beaches in Delaware.

I put together the following sample itinerary which includes what Maya and I luxuriated in and recommend for your pleasure too.

Day 1 in Dewey Beach

  1. If you prefer a quieter scene and more ample space for you and your company at the beach, Dewey Beach is your spot. There’s less noise, no boardwalk, and a relaxing atmosphere as compared to the crowded, lively Rehoboth Beach just minutes away.
  2. If you’d rather not fuss about packing a picnic, you can head across the street to Grotto’s Pizza for a midday meal. They’re always running summer-long specials and hey, their pizza? Its a dreamy swirl in your mouth both metaphorically and literally.
  3. After a heated, sandy day, head over to the patio bar right on the pier called Rusty Rudder just before dinner time. Find a suitable umbrella for shade and order your choice of a refreshing drink or two. They serve frozen strawberry daiquiris, a variety of margarita flavors, crushed alcoholic drinks, ice-cold beer and a plethora of appetizers to choose from. Sit back, slurp and sync to some live music coming from the adjoining performance stage.
  4. After some refreshments and lively entertainment, go on a 10 minute walk down the main road until you arrive to Woody’s. If you want to be impressed by award-winning crab cakes through some casual dining in the evening, Woody’s got your back. Order the Crab Cake Platter as an entree which will give you two 6 oz. crab cakes at $33.50. It just might be your night to splurge on a pricey, delicious meal. I mean…we’re talking: Best of Dewey 5 years in a row by iDewey, Best of Delaware Crab Cakes & Best Restaurant in Dewey Beach by Delaware Today 2014-2017 and Best Crab Cakes by Coastal Style Magazine for the past 3 years.

Day 2 in Rehoboth Beach

Travel by the Jolly Trolley from Dewey Beach over to Rehoboth Beach, a sweet 7 minute ride. The trolley runs from 8am – 2am. The fare is $3.00/person one-way or $5.00/person round trip. If you’ve got anyone under 5 years old in your crew, they can hop on for just a buck! There are some trolleys that are wagonized behind a big van, some that are classics, and the rest are party bus style for late night trips. For your convenience, the fixed route of the jolly trolley is downloadable at the end of this post.

  1. Hop off the trolley when you arrive to Rehoboth Ave. which meets the boardwalk and the busier scene offered at Rehoboth Beach. Take a stroll up and down the shopping district, going into whichever stores/venues you please. Keep an eye out for the alleyway strips such as Penny Lane Mall which are lined up with small, chic shops. Treat yourself with a snack and drink while you walk around. Popcorn. Fudge. Freshly-squeezed lemonade. All the deliciously classic tastes at the beach.
  2. Just around the corner from the bustling shopping district is one of the funnest parts on the boardwalk: Funland! This classic game park is family-owned and was operated since the 1960s. It is nestled inside a large warehouse which opens back up to the sky inside where all the amusement rides are swirlin’, swingin’, and spinnin’. Two things you can appreciate here are the modest prices and the use of old-fashioned paper tickets awarded as tokens. A single ticket is only $0.40. If you want a discount, you can get a 50 or 100 ticket book that price tickets at just $0.36 or $0.30 respectively! Provided is a list of the rides available and the amount of tickets needed for each.
  3. After spending all your money on the adrenaline-rushed action at Funland, walk up town to the Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats for dinner. In 2018, this location opened up a 36-seat patio that sits right next to lengthy transparent windows for views of the active brewery. Also, another neighbor to the location is the emporium if you feel you haven’t gotten enough of Dogfish. They sell apparel, canned & bottled drinks, and growlers to take home.
  4. To wrap up your night, jot over to Royal Treat on Wilmington Ave. for a late night treat. You’ll see lines bursting out the front doors, steps, and into the sidewalk. This place ranks in the top 5 and 10 of Dessert and Best Places to Eat in Rehoboth Beach…you won’t be disappointed.

To see Maya immersed in her childhood pastime setting, I observed her appreciation of the childhood she had. Her innocence and playful spirit revealed themselves. It became apparent to me that she has a bucket of happy memories in stow.

I had the best time.

Why I told my Catholic, German Grandparents before Proposing to my Liberal, Jewish Partner

Pride Month is wrapping up. Many have been celebrating and decking out in every imaginable color from personal wardrobes to Target store racks. Others have been remembering and honoring lost heroes and friends. Some have discovered the novelty of their identities while a few more committed to becoming allies. And unfortunately, as always, there are those who have wasted their time being disruptive and disrespectful toward LGBTQIA+ community (Straight Pride? Gimme a break). Each year for Pride, I honor the month by writing a retrospective story about any milestones or hardships I’ve faced in the recent year as a queer individual. Now that it has been nearly a decade since I first came out, I thought it’d be suitable to write about the last chapter of my coming out story which took place last fall.

I came out as gay for the first time at 16 years old. Like a classical coming out story, I came out to immediate family and friends, one by one, throughout my late teens. However, it wasn’t for another 8 years until I finally mustered up some courage to tell my grandparents (Opa and Oma). They’re the last individuals I came out to. This delay was rooted by fear; fear that I’d learn their Catholic views to be more righteous and sensible than their own gay granddaughter. Despite the still-existing fear then, I developed an acceptance to any potential consequences overtime.

Several months ago, I packed up my fear and acceptance and brought them with me during my visit with Oma and Opa for a weekend, alone. The second night, I asked my grandparents if we could go talk in the kitchen “because I have something I need to tell you.” After a couple hours of shaky hands, cracked voices, and sporadic stiffy silences, they came to terms with my truth. They looked at me in the eyes. They anxiously listened. They asked hard questions, attempting to understand. We squeezed one another’s hands until our blood circulation no longer reached our fingertips. We found some answers. We cried together. By the end of the night, Oma decided this conversation called for a round of Disaronno shots. We commenced with some swigs as relief settled into the room.

But that wasn’t it. I needed to tell them something else. Then I decided to wait, knowing I needed to do one thing at a time so to be gentle with them and their process. They needed time to process my reality as an individual. A few months later, I visited them for another weekend alone and told them something else.

I bought an engagement ring.

I am proposing to Maya.

Will you come to our wedding?

With more shaky hands and cracked voices, they sent me on my way with their affirming hugs as they sandwiched me, nodding that they’ll be there for our wedding. They affirmed my reality as a soon-to-be married partner.

Now, why was I compelled to tell them before proposing? Usually people tell their family, friends, and grandparents after the fact, right? Over the years, my Oma has repeatedly expressed her frustration that she finds out last about anything important going on in the family. This happens despite her being the family’s savior again and again; keeping the whole family fed, cared for and alive. She hasn’t been respected in the way she deserves to be. That needed to change so I decided she’d be among the first to know I wanted to propose to Maya. While an irony, this was my gift to Oma. It didn’t seem like a gift because she was nauseous with confusion and concern. I anticipated this and yet it still hurt to see her hurt. Nevertheless, I knew that including her in something momentous for both of us, mattered more. If she still doesn’t know what I was trying to do, then at least I know what I was trying to do for her. Being who I am is hard for my Oma and it may be for the rest of her life.

But at least she wasn’t left out from the truth this time.

A New Way to Think About Engagement Proposals

Last weekend, I proposed. But you were already engaged.

Yes, I know I proposed too. So, why ask her to marry you when you already said yes to her?

Reciprocate the request for their commitment. That’s precisely the first reason why I proposed. Maya asked me but I didn’t ask her in return. She asked for my commitment to her for the rest of our lives. I wanted the same. Yes I recognize when a proposal happens, the reciprocation of such a commitment is often assumed. However, doing a two-sided proposal gives incredible affirmation of such a dual commitment.

Defy traditions and expectations. It seems as though tradition puts us under the impression that we need to lead our lives a certain way and do things a certain way such as an engagement proposal. A person proposes to the other. The other says yes. They get married. They live “happily ever after”. There’s that. But there’s also freedom to do as you please. The freedom to celebrate, affirm, and live your love for one another the way you want to. The options are boundless. That’s why I thought, why not do my own version of a surprise proposal, hopefully making my fiance feel just as special as I did when she proposed to me. Because of that, we had double the surprises, double the fun!

Pursue the extraordinary. Whenever we hope to become exclusive with another individual, we’re often looking for stability and security. They’re in this just for you, as you are for them. Meanwhile, we become frightened when we become that “old married couple” who don’t seem exciting or into one another. I believe a psychotherapist, Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity, says it perfectly.

“We seek a steady, reliable anchor in our partner. Yet at the same time we expect love to offer a transcendent experience that will allow us to soar beyond our ordinary lives. The challenge for modern couples lies in reconciling the need for what’s safe and predictable with the wish to pursue what’s exciting, mysterious, and awe-inspiring.

-Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity, 2006

So, how can we have both? How can we maintain both the lust for novel experiences and the assuring stability and faithfulness with our partner? Do the adventure you desire with them. Do something new with them. Do something different with them. Stay attuned to their love language as well as your own and be responsive to that. Do the firsts again, with a twist. Host an engagement party twice. Renew your vows every few years. Go on a honeymoon for 2 weeks every summer because heck with it right? Enjoy your extraordinary selves, together.