Four Keys to Spouse-Life Balance

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

Kids alter life way more than a marriage does, and it's easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day survival that the marriage thing gets put on the back burner. Making sure the relationship with the women/man your married, though, should be a key part of the "balance" calculus ... nothing else may go as far in ensuring that work-life balance actually means you're happy at the end of the day.

I've been thinking about the elements that contribute to successful "spouse-life balance" (and isn't that every bit as important as "work-life balance?"), and I've come up with four keys. I don't always live up to the ideals -- that's why I'm writing them down -- but they serve as useful reminders for me.

1. Date your spouse. I'm not sure you can have a fulfilling marriage without at least some one-on-one time. Once a week is great, once a month is pushing it. And it doesn't have to be CityZen. A nice dinner after the beasties are in bed can work just as well as a price fixe menu. (Note to self: Break out the good china this weekend and set the table for two.)

2. Understand your expectations for each other. It used to horrify me to see surveys that showed that traditional marriages -- male breadwinner, at-home mom -- usually ranked as the happiest. But it's not the stereotypical gender roles that make those relationships stable; it's the fact that -- for better or worse -- both husband and wife know exactly what their roles are. In more egalitarian relationships, some of those expectations have to be made painfully explicit.

3. Sync calendars. Nothing makes life go easier at my house than everyone knowing exactly what everyone else is up to, even if half of the items don't involve me. This goes to point 2: understanding what's going on and setting expectations appropriately.

4. Appreciate your spouse. I assure you: Nearly every parent is busting their behinds in one way or another and just acknowledging that goes a long way.

I'm sure I'm missing some ... let me know yours.

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at

By Brian Reid |  November 16, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Tips
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Not to self: Break out the good china this weekend and set the table for two.)

Does anyone edit theses things?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 7:49 AM

This has been on my mind a lot lately as well since we are new parents. Now that our 7.5 month old daughter regularly sleeps through the night and goes to sleep reasonably early, we are starting to feel like a couple again. We make grown-up, thought-out, simple dinners and have some wine and talk. The trick will be remembering to keep doing this as often as possible when our daughter is older and has activities and school projects and other evening time/energy sucking events.

To the first anonymous coward poster, I write/edit for an online publication and even with 3-4 sets of eyes and a proofreading, our documents sometimes have a small error. Humans tend to do these things, if you hadn't noticed. I'm guessing that an early-morning blog does not get the same proofreading attention as a regular Washington Post article. How about giving Brian a break?

Posted by: MaryB | November 16, 2006 7:56 AM

I also think that praising your spouse in front of your kids is a great one. Shows respect and helps the kids appreciate the parent too.

Any thoughts on whether it is okay to fight in front of kids or not? I'm torn about this -- disagreeing is a normal part of a relationship, and it is hard to keep all fights off-line. Any strategies?

Posted by: Leslie | November 16, 2006 8:04 AM

Really listen to your spouse.

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | November 16, 2006 8:06 AM

To 7:49 a.m.: Yes, these things get edited. And yes, I meant to include that aside. :)

Posted by: Brian Reid | November 16, 2006 8:08 AM


It wasn't meant to be rude. It was a serious question. It's not the first time I've seen errors in the posts. Quite being so sensitive and trying to make my comment out to be more than what it is. I hardly think that asking a question about Washington Post policy should induce name calling. Then again, it is the mommy blog!

Sorry Brian if I hurt your feelings it was not directed at you.

Posted by: take a pill MaryB | November 16, 2006 8:13 AM

to: take a pill MaryB

Once you start paying for access to this blog, then you have a right to complain.

Posted by: f01 | November 16, 2006 8:17 AM

1) Whether you have children or not, never ignore or take for granted the things your spouse does around the house. Thank them.

2) Talk to each other. Keep lines of communication open. Do not assume you know what the other spouse thinks, believes, knows or wants.

3) Do not argue in front of the children. My parents did this at times, and it tore all of us kids up emotionally every time they did it. Maybe it was because their arguments were so rare, but they were traumatic even then.

4) Agree to have "me time" for each spouse, even if it is just an hour or so. Everyone needs time to relax and reflect.

5) Have fun together! If you've got kids, let them see you enjoying each other's company (this is not a euphanism for sex, BTW). I have friends who are single and their relationship with the other parent is cordial but distant; I have to think the kids notice that, even the little ones.

Posted by: John | November 16, 2006 8:19 AM

re: fighting in front of your kids. We disagree in front of the kids, but if it gets too heated we take it into the other room or hash it out later. Not to say that I haven't lit into my husband in front of the kids (or visa versa)- but we usually catch ourselves.

If you never let your kids see that it is ok to disagree, when appropriate (which is the stickler) - then they never learn to do it. Being able to disagree and being disagreeable are 2 different things.

Posted by: cmac | November 16, 2006 8:22 AM

john - your post was right before mine and the fighting in front of the kids was quite a different response. I don't condone screaming at each other with kids crying and running from the room, but if my husband says something I disagree with - I tell him. Same with him. Luckily we don't disagree on much - but kids need to learn that it is ok to NOT agree on everything.

Posted by: cmac | November 16, 2006 8:26 AM

'Talk to each other. Keep lines of communication open. Do not assume you know what the other spouse thinks, believes, knows or wants.'

that is very important!

Also, there is so much divorce these days, that a small argument may make the kids think a divorce is coming. so tell the kids that discussion and disagreement are part of a relationship. I heard years ago, make sure the kids hear you apologizing and making up too. And argue with respect, because your kids are watching and listening, and will copy your behavior, and possibly look for the same behavior in a spouse.

Posted by: experienced mom | November 16, 2006 8:27 AM

I think kids need to learn how to disagree. A knock down drag out fight is not appropriate but if you have a difference of opinion I believe it is ok for kids to see it as it is a normal part of daily life. If they don't learn how to do it decently at home where will they learn it?

Posted by: SS MD | November 16, 2006 8:32 AM

Don't take other frustrations out on your spouse. If work has you miserable, try to leave it behind when you get home.

Don't be petty. Understand that your spouse isn't out to get you.

Posted by: NewMom | November 16, 2006 8:32 AM

To: take a pill MaryB

"Quite being so sensitive..."

Perhaps you should edit your own comments before complaining about small mistakes in others' writing. Otherwise, you may be labeled a hypocrite.

Posted by: J | November 16, 2006 8:34 AM

regular sex helps too!

Posted by: Sam | November 16, 2006 8:34 AM

Actually the person who posted about the typo was just asking if the Post had editors. It wasn't mean nor was it hypocritical.

Posted by: ? | November 16, 2006 8:40 AM

Other's writing

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 8:42 AM

Thanks "take a pill MaryB", I've got the allergy meds and vitamins lined up ready to take them! I can't seem to remember these things in the morning!

I do find it amusing that you find my sticking up for another writer to be gross sensitivity on my part. Thanks for the grin!

Posted by: MaryB | November 16, 2006 8:44 AM

Dudes! Make sure you know when your marriage taxes are due:

1. Her Birthday.
2. Valentine's Day
3. Anniversary
4. Mother's Day
5. Christmas
6. When you walk through the threshold after a business trip.
7. The anniversary of your first date.
8. the anniversary of your first, well, um, I don't really want to mention it here for the ladies sake, but you probably know what I'm getting at. Maybe, it's a different date than #7 listed above, but, if it is, there's nothing wrong with that.

So guys, if you don't cough up your marriage tax and sprinkle the relationship in the form of flowers, jewerly, and silly romantic "gag me with a spoon" poems on a hallmark card, expect a "marriage drought" for about a week. In severe cases, it could last up to a month.

And if you have one of those wives that claims that she can do anything a real man can on her high heels and backwards, it's perfectly OK to substitute any of those girly gifts with a new sparkplug wrentch, nail gun, or that chainsaw you've always wanted.

Posted by: Father of 4 | November 16, 2006 8:45 AM

To the first anonymous coward poster


Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 8:45 AM

What about trust, communication, commitment, and respect? It's one thing to spend time together and know where the other is at any given time, but without the basics of a relationship, you've got little to go on.

Posted by: Hali | November 16, 2006 8:46 AM

I think the grammar, spelling and editing police get on everyone's nerves. As far as tips: just be thoughtful, respectful, and honest (small lies when necessary- ie. Do I look fat? Correct answer is ALWAYS- NO you are the most beautiful man/women in the world. Can you believe they chose X over me for the promotion- Correct answer-I can't believe it. You are clearly the most talented hard working person out there).

Posted by: foamgnome | November 16, 2006 8:52 AM

My parents never disagreed or fought in front of the children. We were completely blindsided when he left.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 8:53 AM

Just to stir the pot a little -- does accompanying your spouse to a work-related social function (without kids) count as a date?

My DH was at something the other the other evening and he told me later that his colleagues were ribbing him about whether or not he was really married -- You see, I feel like we have such a limited budget for babysitting, that I'd rather save it for an "actual date" rather than blowing it on sitters so we can go to some darned thing with his colleagues. (BTW, the fact that I'm not there is supposedly not counted against him -- but the thing is, a lot of the other mostly wives go and apparently they regard these things as entertainment. So I guess it IS their date for the month.) Would it count as your date for the month or the week? Do you actually go to these things? Do you ever make choices about the babysitting funds -- in favor of nonworkrelated things? Just curious.

Posted by: Armchair Mom | November 16, 2006 8:55 AM

The typo is that you wrote "not to self" not "note to self" which is what you meant to write :)

Posted by: To Brian | November 16, 2006 9:00 AM

I also can't stand when people take things out of context!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 9:03 AM

After 10 years of marriage with four children, my wife and I often compliment each other on our good partnership. This speaks to the "know your role" advice given by Brian. Our roles are not traditional as we split most of the responsibilities, including bread winning. Other things said above that I agree with are: compliment your spouse in front of the children, be playful with your spouse in front of the children, and disagree respectfully in front of the children. Basically all these things set the mold for your child's relationship with their future spouse/signifcant other(s).

What all this adds up to is a partnership in the enterprise of raising children, running a household, and managing family finances. But remember, partnership is key but not quite enough, there must be romance so Brian's first bit of advise, date your spouse, must always be part of the equation.

Posted by: VA Father of 4 | November 16, 2006 9:03 AM

To Armchairmom: When DH worked in private industry we went to a couple of these work related events. They were usually held by the company and were quite nice. Of course it was really just work for your spouse. But they always had nice food, liquor, and a nice place to hold the event. That was pre child times. Now both of us work for the government and there is just not a lot of socializing outside of work with colleagues and almost none that are official. We don't go to any of these. I find the government is less social and when you cut down to it, if you are not forced to go to these outside work functions, attendance drops way down. We don't view it as $$ for a babysitter. We just find them boring to begin with. We probably would not attend them even if we were child free. The flip side is you don't really meet a lot of work related friends. I have a few girlfriends from work but visiting with them is just normal friend to friend visiting.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 16, 2006 9:04 AM

Frankly, I believe romance is a cultural thing. In my circle of asian folks, I've seen couples married for 40yrs that have almost zip romance (my parents included). Replacing that is a deep partnership, 100% commitment through sickness and health. Couples that have weathered death of a child, financial bankruptcy, in-law fighting, moving to another country, you name it. What keeps them going is not a weekly romantic date, it's 100% personal sacrifice for the other spouse, 100% commitment to marriage and family. The common thread is a sacrificial, selfless attitude towards the family. Instead of "I've done my part, now do yours", "my needs aren't met so I'm outta here" or some kind of marriage contract of responsibilities, each spouse is determined to do anything and everything for the good of the family. I believe that is the key to a long-lasting and happy marriage. Just my little opinion, my perspective from my life experiences.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 16, 2006 9:18 AM

Dates are important. Our kids are night owls, and I'm not. So, since we can afford it, we have a weekly day/time with the babysitter. This gets us the babysitting much more easily than calling up for varying times, and the babysitter loves the regularity. It's our time - sometimes it's a date date, sometimes it's shopping together, once in a while it's fighting together (so we don't fight in front of the kids).
If you can afford it, I highly recommend a regular day of babysitting. If you can't afford it, you may be able to trade with another couple - each gets a day every other week.

Posted by: inBoston | November 16, 2006 9:21 AM

I think that just about anything can be considered a date as long as it is planned ahead of time, doesn't include the kids, and is something both parents want to do that brings them closer together. It could be grocery shopping with a stop for coffee or lunch or a leisurly trip to the bookstore. The idea is doing something as a couple not just at the same time.

Posted by: Dating your spouse | November 16, 2006 9:33 AM

Wow--maybe I am living wrong, because for all of those 'tax' days I am not getting flowers, jewels, presents, etc. I am addicted to a lotion that is relatively expensive (relative to Vaseline intensive care!--25 dollars), and for the last few years I have asked for a refill of that should an occasion present (no pun intended) itself. Since he passes by the store where it is sold on the way home from work it is not a lot of extra work. I think presents are more important early on in marriage when you might be a little more insecure and need those things to feel loved. I love it when he puts his dishes in the sink!) Yes, we have been married 15 years. There has never been a 'marriage drought' unless one of us was sick. We both know the value of free entertainment that reduces our stress! With kids however, the stress can be finding five minutes together! We have fought in front of the kids, but for several years before one of us matured, not saying who, when the arguments got too heavy one of us would be asked to come into the bedroom to continue the discussion. Being the one asked makes you feel about two inches tall. It is also embarrassing. It is funny how life turns out. As a young woman in college I predicted I would keep my maiden name, work full time, share the housework, etc. The reality is I took his name, which makes me happy, I worked full time only the first 6 months of our marriage, and I do most of the housework and cooking. We are very liberal, but have a fairly traditional marriage. It was a total accident! We got married in college (he was in, I was just out) and oops! 11 months later had our first child. Planning is great. It gives you something to compare your real life to!

Posted by: Marriage tax? | November 16, 2006 9:38 AM

That was a great post. Thank you.

Posted by: to Mr. Honda | November 16, 2006 9:41 AM

Amour! Romance! Love makes the world go round, non? Families are too busy and that is not good. You must get away from the children and make passionate love! It is healthy for the body and healthy for the families.

Posted by: Thierry | November 16, 2006 9:43 AM

See, and I thought the typo about the womEn you married was going to get people asking Brian how many wives he had... You never can tell.

Re: Arguing in front of children. I think it's probably a good thing for the children to see disagreements, and subsequently, to see parents make up--to know that you can disagree, even get mad at someone else, and still love them. If it's something that gets out of control with yelling, foul language, or insults--maybe not so good for the childrent to experience, but heated discussion is not off limits. Our son will get upset if he sees mommy and daddy are really upset with one another, but he understands that we still love each other and I hope he picks up on the respect with which we treat one another.

Surprise one another: Take off of work randomly and spend time together; Leave a note/card/song by e-mail or voicemail; Just stop for a minute and look into one another's eyes. Remember that life is short.

Posted by: marc | November 16, 2006 9:43 AM

I think my husband and I are both humbled by past experiences so much, that it just makes us appreciate each other that much more. We met at a time in both of our lives when we thought we were done with dating and thought that maybe it just wasn't for either of us to settle down. But, we were just drawn to each other, and I knew he was the one by the middle of the first date. We said 'I love you' 8 days after the first date!

We both also come from pretty disfunctional families, so we're making it a point to argue fair and not bring that baggage into our home. It's hard sometimes, but we can't stay angry for long, and we never go to sleep with the issue unresolved. We say I love you when we leave in the mornings, and during any phone calls we have throughout the day, and before we go to sleep at night.

We hold hands and smooch in public. We're nuts about each other. It's amazing how we see the jealousy come out of people when we do that. We're not being obnoxious about it at all, either. But it's amazing how many people don't have that sort of dynamic in their own relationships.

Simply put, we're both incredibly lucky. And I think we're reminded of that everyday, and how lonely we would be if we didn't have each other.

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 16, 2006 9:52 AM

childrent = 1)offspring of ents; 2) fee for temporary ownership of child; 3) yet another typo...

Posted by: marc | November 16, 2006 9:53 AM

When I said "don't argue in front of the children" I meant the yelling and near-violent disagreements that are scary to watch as an adult, much less to a child.

As long as you are disagreeing calmly and without rancor, it is good for a child to see, as it demonstrates how a problem can be worked out without resorting to yelling and throwing things.

As far as remembering "special days" for your spouse, even though my wife always tells me not to bother, she is always pleased I didn't forget her birthday, our wedding day or Valentines Day. Surprising her with flowers for no reason or a special homecooked meal isn't a bad thing either.

Posted by: John | November 16, 2006 9:56 AM

You should certainly disagree in front of your children, but take some time and fight fair. Children learn about these things at home. Kids who see dirty, belittling, demeaning behavior will grow up and do the same thing. So disagree - but behave yourselves. Everyone will be happier.

I think it's important to support your spouse in being happy - even if it doesn't make you happy.

Say your spouse loves his/her work, but it takes them away from home a lot. Be happy that they have found something that makes them happy - and quit with the grousing over their absences. You have to accept your spouse for what/who they are.

Posted by: RoseG | November 16, 2006 9:57 AM

Another suggestion: Cut and Paste one of Jokester's posts into an email and send it to your spouse. Takes about 20 seconds.

If your spouse also reads the Mommy blog you can write:

Hi! Honey! I LOVE you!

Posted by: Father of 4 | November 16, 2006 10:00 AM

Like 'Raiseyourownkids,' my spouse and I have a good physical relationship. One day after dinner we were snuggling on the couch and started to make out, for lack of a better term. We thought our kids had gone downstairs. I heard a small noise and saw my ten year old standing behind the couch. Nice cold bucket of water THAT was! We jumped apart like teenagers on the front porch when the light goes on!!

Posted by: to John | November 16, 2006 10:05 AM

You wouldn't by any chance be a golfer, would you?

Posted by: to RoseG | November 16, 2006 10:06 AM

"You should certainly disagree in front of your children, but take some time and fight fair."

That's right - no eye gouging, hair pulling, or punches below the belt - everything else is fair game! :)

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 10:06 AM

I think its important to just decide to weather the challenging times. For us, the first 6 months or so with a new baby are pretty lacking in couple time. But because we know its temporary, we don't panic.

We don't do "date nights" that often-- we prefer to work on projects together. A weekend where we get the kitchen painted or finally get the basement organized is a good one. But this may just be another way we are unusual. :D

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM... | November 16, 2006 10:10 AM

Mr. Honda, I really like your post. Of course, both spouses must have the same sense of commitment and understanding of how the marriage will work. If one expects romance and passion and the other doesn't provide, it won't work. That said, I have seen many relationships dissolve into anger and finally break because of expectations that are unmet. The thing is, usually the couple had never discussed expectations, what they imagined marriage to be like, what they hoped for, etc. They just married expecting, as you said, "You do this and then I'll do that." There is a lot of withholding and weighing in the bad relationships I know. Women especially tend to withhold sex and go on "sex strikes" as a way to control their husbands. I've never seen it have a positive outcome.

What children should not witness: Screaming fights than include taunts and putdowns of the other spouse.

What children should witness: Parents showing affection and voicing appreciation, mild disagreement that is worked out, lots of humor.

Posted by: Joyce | November 16, 2006 10:16 AM

Joyce is right. Some people absolutely NEED that romance, and others are content with practical expressions of love. Wanting romance means finding someone who also values the passion and romance. Or at least training your spouse to give you the romance you crave. And if you're too far apart on the passion/practicality poles then it's probably a bad idea to marry.

Posted by: Flyonthewall | November 16, 2006 10:21 AM

Men, can you tell me how to interpret this? My friend has been married 5 years. The past three years, her husband has purposely not given her a birthday gift or done anything special for her because around the time of her birthday they were having stress and arguments. For their last anniversary, he DID give her a gift, but only because his son and daughther (from first marriage) pushed him to do it and made dinner reservations for them to go out as a couple to celebrate.

I would really like to hear from a few men if this is a sign that, as my husband says, "the love is gone", or if it's a way of punishing the wife for the arguments they have. She has clearly told him that it deeply wounds her. And to her credit, she continues to give him gifts on his birthday and their anniversary and make special meals.

Posted by: MM | November 16, 2006 10:22 AM

Men, can you tell me how to interpret this? My friend has been married 5 years. The past three years, her husband has purposely not given her a birthday gift or done anything special for her because around the time of her birthday they were having stress and arguments. For their last anniversary, he DID give her a gift, but only because his son and daughther (from first marriage) pushed him to do it and made dinner reservations for them to go out as a couple to celebrate.

Wow, that is certainly a sign of an impending divorce. How rotten of him. Even if you are having stress in a marriage, I don't think punishment has any place in a marriage.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 16, 2006 10:27 AM

Sounds like they fight a lot.... This does not sound like a healthy marriage to me. What he's doing is mental abuse, and I wouldn't be surprised if physical abuse is right around the corner...

Posted by: Hey MM | November 16, 2006 10:28 AM

I think time apart is as important as anything.

Seriously, I found that I was ALWAYS trying to work on our marriage- thanking my husband copiously every thing he did around the house, arranging for "dates," reading blogs/articles/books about happy marriages...and in the end, I was resentful that none of this stuff seemed to matter much to my husband.

What worked a lot better was to stop trying so hard and go out with my friends more often.

Do we have the best marriage in the world? Maybe not. But I certainly feel better about it, by doing my own thing more often.

Posted by: Silver Spring | November 16, 2006 10:29 AM

I know you're thinking no, not again, this guy is just looking to raise my dander.

Well only if what I speak is truth.

I had a friend who learned a very valuable lesson about the family pecking order. One I try to remember.

He and his brothers one day had driven their mother to the brink, they were four teenage boys, and she packed a suitcase and left the house. Dad arrived home from work and told each boy to pack a suitcase and be back in the living room in five minutes.

Then they were told the pecking order. I married your mother before we had any of you, if your mother wishes for you to stay elsewhere you're gone. She's coming home and we'll decide what is going to happen.

Needless to say those boys never took their mother for granted again. And they also learned to put their own spouses a bit higher in the pecking order.

I often remind myself of that as I am thinking of dealing with my children and their feelings for their mother.

As an aside, I think it is healthy for kids to see two mature adults working out their differences. My seven year old took about six months to figure out the tension between her mother and I would be worked out and that we still loved each other. We seldom yell, and seeing two people work out differences is a great lesson in compromise if you ask me. But why am I always the the one compromising? (I'm joking.)

My wife and I used to try to get a date a week but with my schedule we sometimes are guilty of the once a month formal date. However, just last night we sat and talked for 45 minutes about parenting, life and personal issues. It was refreshing.

So my opinion is let your kids know where they stand, work out your disagreements (this of course doesn't involve physical violence, in that situation get out) when they come up even if there are kids around. But most of all, a successful marriage is giving of yourself and appreciating what is given to you.

And if the grass seems greener on the other side of the fence, just remember green lawns are well manured.

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | November 16, 2006 10:29 AM

I've been coping with this issue lately myself - between caring for my sweetie (who has been recovering from 4 broken ribs since July) and DD and keeping up with the housework and work and our few non-church activities, and all the church activities, I feel like sometimes I'm never going to get a date night.

I did make sweetie take me to dinner the other night - but it's hard for it to feel like a date when all you do is go to dinner in a loud restaurant full of football fans (the game was on in the bar).

But I do get a pleasant surprise once in a while - like when she cleaned the living room up when I was at a meeting at church and she was home alone. Makes it a little more tolerable. I'll be glad when I'm not mommy to everyone in the house, though.

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | November 16, 2006 10:30 AM

[I think it's important to support your spouse in being happy - even if it doesn't make you happy.]

this is the idea of the "marriage bank". consider it not a sacrifice, but an act of good will, throw it in the marriage bank and over time, it will grow with interest.

Posted by: Father of 4 | November 16, 2006 10:34 AM

It is probably ok to fight about small things in front of kids but, after many storms, we figured out that we should never criticize each other in front of kids. Too unsettling, and it places kids in position of picking a side (in their minds if not out loud). I've seen this with friends and it just descends into ugliness.

Posted by: Kelley | November 16, 2006 10:35 AM

It is probably ok to fight about small things in front of kids but, after many storms, we figured out that we should never criticize each other in front of kids. Too unsettling, and it places kids in position of picking a side (in their minds if not out loud). I've seen this with friends and it just descends into ugliness.

Posted by: Kelley | November 16, 2006 10:35 AM

My parents *never* fought in front of us kids, but I found out right before my father died (when I was 17) that he was deeply unhappy with his marriage. It's been a tough pill for me to swallow, particularly because I think my mother doesn't realize it.

Anyway, on to cheerier topics - DH and I usually get about one "date night" a month (a formal, hire a babysitter thing) because both of our schedules are kind of crazy. But with DD going to bed by 8:00, we have weekend nights to hang out, cook dinner, watch movies & chill. While sometimes one of us will go out with friends (also important), we value this quiet time together.

Posted by: PLS | November 16, 2006 10:41 AM

To MM:

Ignoring or forgetting holidays or special occasions usually sends a pretty strong negative message to one's spouse, but it's kind of impossible to speculate as to why this husband is acting in such a way. It's pretty hard to dote on someone or celebrate them if you're angry/upset/hurt/unappreciative/etc. Do they have the type of relationship where she can ask him?

Posted by: marc | November 16, 2006 10:41 AM

Making sure the relationship with the WOMEN/man YOUR married, though, should be a key part of the "balance" calculus.

Seriously, get a copy editor -- it's not like this is a real-time chat.

Posted by: Grammar polizei | November 16, 2006 10:41 AM

"Being able to disagree and being disagreeable are 2 different things."

cmac --

You're so right about this.

I truly wasn't sniping at you yesterday, regardless of what you think you read between the lines. I was simply disagreeing. It wasn't personal.

Posted by: pittypat | November 16, 2006 10:47 AM

I agree with Mr. Honda.

Sometimes commitment to a relationship is more important than commitment to your spouse, it helps gap the times between those loving moments.

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | November 16, 2006 10:51 AM

I would add that it's important to uphold each other's dignity to people outside the marriage. That might include the kids, too, depending on the issue. For example, our parents and friends don't need to know that I made a stupid mistake with the flooring that DH and I were installing, or that he didn't know you couldn't put a lambswool sweater in the washer. It's fine to make fun of your own mistakes but it's not fine to hold your spouse up to the ridicule of others.
I do think it's different when you're confiding a real problem, when you need a listener and some wise advice, or when you're teaching the kids something. But I sometimes find myself griping about DH in a 'Look what I have to put up with' kind of tone and I hate it.
Balance demands that I extend DH more charity than that, as I most certainly need it myself.

Posted by: worker bee | November 16, 2006 10:54 AM

Jack wakes up with a huge hangover after attending his company's Christmas party. Jack is not normally a drinker, but the
drinks didn't taste like alcohol at all. He didn't even remember how he got home from the party. As bad as he was feeling, he wondered if he did something
wrong. Jack had to force himself to open his eyes, and the first thing he sees is a couple of aspirins next to a glass of water on the table. And, next to them, a single red rose! Jack sits up and sees his
clothing in front of him, all clean and pressed. He looks around the room and sees that it is in perfect order, spotlessly clean.
So is the rest of the house. He takes the aspirins, cringes when he sees a huge black eye staring back at him in the bathroom mirror. Then he notices a
note hanging on the corner of the mirror written in red with little hearts on it and a kiss mark from his wife in lipstick: "Honey, breakfast is on the stove, I left early to go get groceries to
make you your favorite dinner tonight. I love you, darling!"
Love, Jillian

He stumbles to the kitchen and sure enough, there is hot breakfast,
steaming hot coffee and the morning newspaper. His son is also at the table, eating. Jack asks, "Son... what happened last night?" His son replies, "Well, you came home after 3 A.M., drunk and
out of your mind. You fell over the coffee table and broke it, and
then you puked in the hallway and got that black eye when you ran into
the door." Confused he asked his son, "So, why is everything in such
perfect order, so clean? I have a rose, and breakfast is on the table
waiting or me!" His son replies, "Oh THAT...well...Mom dragged you to the
bedroom, and when she tried to take your pants off, you screamed, "LEAVE ME

Broken Coffee Table $39.99

Hot Breakfast $ 4.20

Two Aspirins $ .38
Saying the right thing, at the right time . . . PRICELESS!!!

Hey, the bottom line is that being a family is a team sport.

Posted by: Tillman | November 16, 2006 11:01 AM

armchairmom: Good question about the night out with co-workers. We do go out with my husband's co-workers and I count it as a date - but we have become friends with so many of them. Many wives come too and it is great to catch up - we only see each other 3-4 times a year. It was a bit awkward at first but now it has been years and I really enjoy it. I admit I get bored with the "shop talk" - but my husband is a cop so their days are much more exciting than most.

We have only gone out with my workfolk a couple times. I tend not to get social outside the office with the people I work with - I have been burned a couple times and I just don't go there anymore.

Posted by: cmac | November 16, 2006 11:01 AM

Thanks for opening this dialog re arguing in front of the kids. I agree it's healthy but only if kids also see the other side of it at another time: sitting down and talking calmly, doing fun things together, getting along. Everyone blows up at this house, but then we get over it and move on... no lingering undercurrents going on. I feel like I know when it's crossing the line and time to move the fight away from the kids... hard to know in the heat of battle, though. Holding your ground or hurting the kids.... never forget their tender feelings. Sign me: guilty at times

Posted by: hannie | November 16, 2006 11:02 AM

MM, I see nothing but trouble ahead for your friend. The following quote indicates that your friend's husband is spiteful and carries a grudge (for three years!!!). Apparently his children are more mature than he is.
"The past three years, her husband has purposely not given her a birthday gift or done anything special for her because around the time of her birthday they were having stress and arguments."

Posted by: footloose and childfree | November 16, 2006 11:04 AM

Pitty: I may have been in a "disagreeable" mood yesterday. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree.

Posted by: cmac | November 16, 2006 11:07 AM

I am from a family of 5 girls. My mom -- though not a feminist -- instilled something wonderful in us: me time. That even the best relationships need a break. My husband on Fridays is gone from 9 am till about 11 doing research in another state. I'll grade (we're both professors), clean the house (I love cleaning and he sees dirt about 8 months after I do, so it balances out well!), go to store, and often see a movie (something he hates to do with me). All by myself. We're both refreshed at the end of the day in terms of our relationship and have something to talk about too. Unfortunately, due to health reasons, we couldn't have children and those same reasons prohibited us from adopting, so it's just the two of us. I know this is a 'mothers'/parents'' blog but I love the discussions here and am an avid reader. I also think laughing - at jokes, at each other in a loving way (I agree though about keeping them inside the relationship) truly is the best 'cement' we've found in our 20 years of marriage.

Posted by: prof girl | November 16, 2006 11:08 AM

To Fof4 @ 8:45 --

Why do you need to perpetuate this kind of crap in response to a thought-provoking blog topic?

Yes, you've really made my blood boil, Pat.

I realize you think it's funny in a Dave Barry-ish sort of way. But really, it's not. (And you're no Dave Barry. He's actually a genuine wit.)

Brian mentioned expectations in his blog, and to my mind this is one of the biggest problems in most relationships. As I heard someone say years ago, "Expectations are premeditated disappointments." It's so true.

Any woman who expects that her husband will "perform" in a certain way on all of the occasions you list is setting herself up to be miserable. It's right up there with the notion "If you really loved me, you'd know what I want. I shouldn't have to tell you." We both know that's total crap.

And any man who thinks that, by doing the expected dance (flowers, jewelry, etc.), he is showing his love and contributing to the strength of his marriage is fooling himself. The "marriage tax," as you call it, is the easy way out. Anyone can do that stuff; it's not an accomplishment.

What's really shocking to me, Pat, is that you would put this forth even in jest. From my several months of acquaintence with you on the blog, I've learned that you're a devoted husband who is a total partner in the running of home and family. You do things for your wife (if your posts are to be believed, and I believe them) that are thoughtful, loving, considerate, and sweet. You put your family's needs ahead of your own wants and, in general, serve as an example of how to be a pretty wonderful husband and dad.

So why would you want to make a huge joke out of today's subject?

Is it so important to you to be funny? I can't think of any other reason why a good guy like you would regress to being so juvenile.

Posted by: pittypat | November 16, 2006 11:12 AM

How about asking your spouse "How was your day?"

I know it sounds corny and whenever I do it my wife goes into a hour long oratory over a five minute topic, but it helps her unwind and lets her know I care.

It can be painful for me, but she is worth it.

Posted by: My2Cents | November 16, 2006 11:15 AM

My seven year old took about six months to figure out the tension between her mother and I would be worked out and that we still loved each other.

'between her mother and I' is an affectation.
It should be 'between her mother and ME'

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 11:15 AM

Have high but realistic expectations for eachother. If you've made a choice in partners that serve eachother, this should be taken care of already.

Don't settle, and don't whine. Or, if you want to whine, ask permission from the other person first.

Posted by: Liz D | November 16, 2006 11:17 AM

I'm a stay at home mom who is surprised to find out that I'm apparently not in an "egalitarian" relationship. Is earning a paycheck what makes a relationship egalitarian? I'll tell you this, if anyone has the better end of this deal it is me. I get the spend lots of time with my children and their friends, I make most decisions reagarding health care, discretionary spending and home operation AND I have optimal flexibility. My husband goes to a job he loves and is well compesated for it. He also helps around the house and spends a lot of time with the kids. We discuss big purchases and make a family budget each year that we review monthly. Don't make the assumption that because a wife is at home, she's just performing her "role" and letting hubby make all the decisions.

Posted by: Moxiemom | November 16, 2006 11:18 AM

What a great discussion.

I really like Mr. Honda's point about partnership, and I think it captures a lot of my feelings about our marriage. I feel like the best part of marriage is learning to think of yourself as part of a unit, and not so much as an individual. Of course you still have individual wants and desires and needs, but I find myself wanting to nurture my husband's needs and I feel he does the same for me - it doesn't feel like a sacrifice to do something for him.

One other thing that some of the posts made me think of is learning to give your spouse what s/he wants, not what you would want. For example, I know that when I'm feeling stressed, I want to either have time to just sit and read and do nothing, or go out and get away for a bit. So my first inclination when I see that my husband is stressed is to try to give him time to do that - but that's not what he needs. What really makes him happy and less stressed is if I clean up the house (he's the one who sees the dirt and clutter first in our relationship) or take care of something along those lines. I really like getting special surprises on birthdays/christmas - he doesn't; he'd rather just go out to dinner. I think learning what things matter to your spouse, which is almost surely different from what matters to you in some areas, goes a long way to making each other happy.

Posted by: Megan | November 16, 2006 11:24 AM

My wife and I have discovered google calendar.
We have the whole family schedule electronically shared. I now know when her meetings are and she knows mine. We also know the kids' school schedules at a glance.

It has been the best tool for keeping us in sync. I feel a bit like an advertisement, but we were always running into problems with forgetting who was where when we just shared the old-fashioned calendar in the kitchen.

My revision to rebel dad's list: Go Electronic!!

Posted by: A geeky family | November 16, 2006 11:30 AM

Moxiemom - I'm a SAHM too and I wasn't at all offended by the egalitarian comment. I took it as meaning relationships where couples try to split absolutely everything down the middle - financial contribution, childcare, chores, etc. - and where nobody is actually responsible for any specific thing. Marriages where one parent works and one doesn't just naturally lend themselves more to splitting up the duties on duty lines rather than 50/50 lines.

Posted by: momof4 | November 16, 2006 11:30 AM

Pittypat, just saw your response to F04's post and was surprised by how offensive you found it. I hate the stereotype idea that women are always witholding sex for petty reasons - I don't know a single woman who does this, in fact, among my friends it is just as often the man who is not as interested in sex - but I don't think that Fo4 was trying to belittle marriage with his post.

There are a lot of people, men and women, who DO feel strongly about observing special days, and doing so for them can be a show of affection. THere's nothing wrong with that, I actually think it's rather common, and I don't see how making a joke about that fact somehow undermines Fo4's commitment to his wife or family or whatever.

Posted by: Megan | November 16, 2006 11:33 AM


Maybe you should consider lightening up a bit? Your post was really mean - wow would you like it if you were "the funny one" and someone posted to you like you did just now to Father of 4?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 11:34 AM

" I hate the stereotype idea that women are always witholding sex for petty reasons - I don't know a single woman who does this, "

The woman on Wife Swap this week did this. Not that we should consider Wife Swap to be an example of "how women are", but it does happen!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 11:36 AM

Thanks for noting the error in today's entry. I've fixed it. For those of you asking, Leslie and Brian do have an editor reading behind them. Alas, one who balances like the rest of you and misses things from time to time.

Posted by: On Balance Editor | November 16, 2006 11:40 AM

God, pittypat. I guess it is YOUR turn to be disagreeable today. Fo4 was joking, and maybe it was not as 'clever' as you think Dave Barry is, but I think you are going a bit overboard here. Maybe you ask Mary B to share those pills! Ever heard the phrase 'don't need a hammer to kill a fly'?

Posted by: to pittypat | November 16, 2006 11:40 AM

worker bee:

Thank you for raising an important point. After we were married, my husband started to say things in front of his sisters and his mom that really bothered me - comments about things that I had done - sometimes stupid, sometimes about how much money I had spent on something, whatever. It was really inappropriate - if he had an issue with those things, fine - but the place to bring them up was not in front of his family. I ended up in tears once trying to explain why it was wrong. . .he didn't even seem to know what he was doing. He doesn't do it anymore - or at least he stops when I 'look' at him. Once I asked him to change his shirt before we went somewhere in front of a large group of my family members (not intended as anything but a request but he saw it as a power trip) - he basically said no and I ended up snapping at him in front of said group. Both are examples of passive behavior and both were bad ideas - we have both learned that neither behavior is acceptable and we deal with these types of things much better now. It is all one huge learning process.
We fought like crazy for a while after we were married - there was a lot of stress with different things. I grew up in a house where my mom yelled all of the time - his never did. I would yell just to be heard when hubby and I fought because that is what I needed to do when I was growing up. After a few talks, I finally 'got it' that he doesn't deal with yelling very well - I told him that sometimes it felt like he wasn't listening very well and I had to yell to be heard - now, even when things aren't so great and we really disagree, I don't yell as much and we get through it much more easily. He also listens to me much more when I say 'this is wrong' so that I don't feel like I have to yell to be heard. Big big important step. Much better. If we decide to adopt, we are in a much better place.

Posted by: WAMC | November 16, 2006 11:41 AM


Wow, that is hard to diagnose in abstract, without knowing the personalities of the people involved. Part of it depends on whether his response is passive-aggressive anger and/or intended as humiliation.

As part of what Silver Spring said, on epartner can be motivated and do all sorts of little extra things to help, but if the other's response to it is nil, it may not be that he rejects it. Some guys for instance are as thick as stumps to subtlety, and it's just part of their personality.

So MM, if the guy you are talking about is sensitive in nature generally, quick to pick up subtle signs, and is generally thoughtful with everyone else, then I would say his response to his wife potentially signals real trouble. Especially if he is passive aggressive in manner, or if you think he has clearly done this to intentionally humiliate/belittle. Can't tell for sure if you thought that was at play.

If however, he is just one of those couch potato sports fan type guy who needs a nuclear bomb to notice the world around him, then he may have thought such niceties are for newlyweds, and feels the relationship mature enough to not require ornaments. He might not mean anything major about it, and wonders what all the fuss is about (see Silver Spring's post above).

For me the sad part is that even if he is the latter guy, once the wife complains that it really hurts her, it should be motivation enough to do the little required to make her happy on this.

For myself, I personally hate enriching Hallmark for every single occasion (why have cards become so retardedly expensive anyway?), but my own Yellow Rose has made it clear that she really appreciates cards. So I get them. I'd rather spend the money on flowers (I used to bring her roses from the flower garden all the time when we dated as HS sweethearts nearly 25 years ago.) Though she still likes roses, cards are the cat's meow for her.

Maybe my irritation sets up a good girl/guy question. I could live my entire life and never get another card and wouldn't care much one way or the other. I'd prefer an Email, snail mail, or phone call from soomeone anytime to cards. Are cards a greatly desired thing for the female vs. male posters here?

But back now to close out my post topic. From my points above MM, there just isn't a cut and dried answer for me to the question you posed. It depends whether this is just an extension of his normal nature, or not...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | November 16, 2006 11:43 AM

eh, i bet fo4 has sex witheld more than he'd ever admit. except, of course, when it's Blblically sanctioned! Time to make another annoying son, eh?

Posted by: meh | November 16, 2006 11:44 AM

why have cards become so retardedly expensive anyway?),

Isn't that the truth!

Posted by: foamgnome | November 16, 2006 11:46 AM


I'm just really disappointed in Fo4.

I'm one of the people who usually gets a chuckle out of his posts -- even when most of you don't find him funny. So don't tell me to lighten up.

This is an important subject, and we could use his experience and insight. After all, he really does have a terrific marriage.

And, by the way, I don't think he needs to be defended by all you guys. He's made of tougher stuff than that. :>)

Posted by: pittypat | November 16, 2006 11:51 AM

So many posts end up getting done from when I stop reading and try to type to when I can actually get around to post that it seems like the whole world of discussion has changed during my absence...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | November 16, 2006 11:56 AM

One thing that I have learned in 17 years of marriage is that basic friendship and respect help a marriage stay strong and grounded.

We talk and laugh and show affection for each other in front of our kids and in private. We talk about kids, but also non-kid stuff that keeps us interested in each other. I don't want to look at him twenty years from now when all our kids are gone and not have anything in common. I think of our relationship as the foundation of our family and I want it to be rock solid.

We also date regularly, every Saturday night, and that has been a huge boost to our relationship. We also do things alone that makes us not so dependant on each other for conversation and entertainment.

I also think that husbands and wives need to be affectionate with each other, hugging and laughing and kissing. Sometimes just holding hands reminds us of our connection with each other.

I laughed at the comment about the ten year old catching the parents making out on the couch. That happened to my husband and I one evening. We were cuddling and making out, starting to fool around when our sixteen year old walked into the family room--my husband flew across the room to the other couch--later we were laughing about it and he said "when we were kids we were caught by the parents, now we are parents we get caught by the kids".

Posted by: magnificent7mom | November 16, 2006 12:00 PM

Biblically sanctioned sex is weird to me. The bible is not a good example of a code of moral behavior. In the bible, people had sex with slaves, other women if their wife was infertile, and with multiple wives. All this would be considered a big NO NO. So what exactly is bibilically sanctioned sex.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 16, 2006 12:01 PM

"So what exactly is bibilically sanctioned sex?"

ask fo4, he's the one who used it several months back. just throwing the phrase back at him today! i think it means sex that's only for making the babies, not for pleasure. (And don't get started on contraceptives!!)

Posted by: meh | November 16, 2006 12:03 PM

RE: YetAnotherSAHM...working on projects together ...

This made me laugh! My husband does consider our yardwork/painting/etc. as "together time." I don't.

To me, project=work - has to be done, obviously, but doesn't count as date time.

I would rather sit down with a glass of wine, or dinner or go for a walk - even if its only for an hour or so.

Funny - anyone else have project-dates?

Posted by: dateprojects | November 16, 2006 12:09 PM

"ask fo4, he's the one who used it several months back. just throwing the phrase back at him today! i think it means sex that's only for making the babies, not for pleasure. (And don't get started on contraceptives!!)"

What about oral or manual stimulation? Light bondage?

Posted by: slimjim | November 16, 2006 12:11 PM

Hmmm, I find it rather revealing that the happily married men on here have a sense of humor.

Maybe we just don't take things too seriously.

And by the way, I don't really care if my wife tells people I was responsible for over $4000 damage to my wife's great grandmother's piano. So it had moved back and forth across the U.S. at least four times, once by us. But come on people, three blocks? How was I to know my Scoutmaster friend A.) couldn't tie knots and B.) didn't understand inertia so only tied it down on one side.

My fault I should have double checked. It's fixed now, but really whenever someone at my church is moving I always holler out, "I'll help move the piano!!!!" It still gets laughter now, three years later.

My wife cried and cried. Then when my mother-in-law said it should be fixed rather than a brand new piano, that's when I began to cry. $4000 damage to a $1500 piano. But my wife is happy and that was worth the $4000 and never having to move a piano for anybody else ever again.

Lighten up on Fo4, and a few others here who use humor to deal with life.

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | November 16, 2006 12:12 PM

Sassy downtime clothes. In the post-Britney era, they exist, even for older parents. Low-rise, flared, yoga pants (i.e tight in the butt) instead of sweatpants. Slight belly-baring shirt or tank top instead of free work logo tees. Casual, open, maybe long or with a sash cardigan over top instead of a sweat shirt or robe. Basically, anything form fitting and fun.
For the husbands, a soft track suit, velour hoodies, perhaps a knit hat for the young dads.

We buy our down clothes specifically to be downtime/afterwork clothes, not just retire old things or gym clothes to that role. That way, we have something comfy for ourselves and special for the other.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 12:13 PM


I always look forward to your guest blogs on Thursdays-- typos and all. I think you're much more skilled at opening thoughtful discussion without casting aspersions than Leslie is.
This will go off-topic, but is semi-related: did anyone see the article in the NY Times earlier this week about "Momtinis" in upstate New York-- women who arrange play dates for their kids so the moms can drink wine... I wondered what people thought.
Would THAT count as a "date?"

Posted by: CQ girl | November 16, 2006 12:13 PM

No project dates here. We have different working styles. Each takes on a project and is the 'manager.' We do the project according to the manager. One example is how we take care of yard/lawn/trim trees. We just do it differently. So we split the job into two and each of us is the manager for one. My project is the front yard. His is the back yard. For some gentle laughter: my front yard is green and gorgeous. His back yard is half dirt...bha ha ha haaaaa.

Posted by: dotted | November 16, 2006 12:14 PM

Perhaps like a lot of guys, my husband sometimes gets me INCREDIBLE presents for my birthday, Christmas, etc and sometimes he completely forgets and/or gets me nothing.

The forgetful times bothered me so much for the first few years. Not anymore. Just doesn't matter in the scheme of things.

Now sometimes if I see something I like around one of these special dates, I buy it and give it to him with a note that says "Here's what you're getting me for my birthday" or whatever. It's funny and we're both happy that way.

Posted by: Leslie | November 16, 2006 12:15 PM

I'll bet the editing police lines her clothes up by color the closet, and organizes her socks by color in her drawers. And her DH and kids, too. OCD?

Last time I checked, we were all human.

I agree -- take several pills. First, a laxative.

Brian -- Nice post today. I agree with all of it.

Posted by: Another Mom | November 16, 2006 12:18 PM

Okay, here's one for Pittypat. (I send this off in your direction because you're our 'hopeless romantic' .)

I buy my wife very cool gifts because I would like cool gifts in return. Yes, I know there is some materialism inherent in that, but it also follows the "Do unto others..." philosophy.

What's your (and everyone else's) read on that?

Posted by: Random Guy | November 16, 2006 12:25 PM

Actually more than one person pointed it out. I was just wondering if anyone got paid to be the editor for the blog. I didn't think my question was rude.

As far as your post goes, yes I do organize my closet, like the rest of my life. This is probably the reason that I am more successful than people like you.

P.S. How are your husband and kids? Fed, clothed, happy? Don't make assumptions about other people's families because someone ask an honest question on a blog.

Posted by: to another mom | November 16, 2006 12:27 PM

I think one of the best things people can do BEFORE they get married with regard to marriage roles, fighting, how to raise kids etc. is to go through PRE-MARRIAGE COUNCILING!! My hubby and I did this and it was one of the best things we did because we were forced to talk about things we hadn't even thought about. In the maddness of planning a wedding it is easy to lose sight of the marriage and the counciling sessions brought us back to what was important.

Posted by: Melissa | November 16, 2006 12:28 PM

CQ Girl:

Saw the article - thought it was great. One caveat - I'm not a mom.
BUT - I don't see the big deal - as long as they aren't getting sloshed and can watch the kids - who cares if they have a glass or two of wine? Add some snacks and its no different than having a soda - again, as long as its responsible.
Kids pick up on the habits of parents, so if they see mom and dad getting sloshed, they will be more likely to handle alcohol that way, too - if they see it as no big deal, they will be more likely to think of it the same way. I remember getting sips - but no more - of my dad's beer when I was maybe 10 or so and neither my brother nor I had the interest in drinking that most of our high school friends had.
It is all in how it is handled.

Posted by: WAMC | November 16, 2006 12:31 PM

Randm Guy:

I think that's cool, actually. My hubby and I are a lot like that...we get each other practical, functional gifts that we'd both enjoy. He's a musician, so he has a list of guitars he'd love. I love to cook, so he gets me cool gadgets or even gift cards to Bed Bath and Beyond. As our own moving in together gift, we bought a 42 inch plasma TV. Since we're movie and music documentary buffs, it works out!!

Posted by: RaiseYourOwnKids | November 16, 2006 12:31 PM

Texas Dad of 2 - don't know what to tell you about the cards - I personally can't stand Hallmark either, but I do know a lot of women who put a lot of stock in cards. Weird.

Random Guy - I realized at some point that I was doing the same thing to some extent. I really like finding a really special gift for someone, I think it's really fun and I put a lot of effort into it. At some point I realized that I was going to even greater lenghts with my husband in the hopes that he would realize I like that sort of thing and do the same for me, which wasn't going to work. So I just told him that I think it's nice to get a well thought out (not necessarily expensive gift) and it means a lot to me, and he said, Oh, I never thought much about it. But now he does. And I still do it for him, even though I know he doesn't care that much, because I think it's fun.

Pittypat - I don't think Father of 4 needs my aid either, but I was taken aback by your post to him. It seems to me that Fo4 has very openly embraced traditional views of both marriage and gender roles, and much of his humor is based on those views. This post doesn't seem unusually provocative to me and your rather strong response struck me as a bit surprising.

Posted by: Megan | November 16, 2006 12:36 PM


Hubby and I did counseling before we got married - we realized we needed it and the church required it, anyway. It was the best thing we did, too. It was a very stressful time for us in the months leading up to the wedding, new town, new house (which was very old and needed tons of work and we had no idea - BIG mistake), new job for hubby-to-be that required 70+ hr weeks, me finishing masters degree - we were crazy - all within six months before wedding. The sessions really showed us how different our families are and what our respective fears were and so forth - it is a good thing for everyone and in no way should there be any shame involved. I think it is even good for couples to go for refresher sessions - we haven't but we have thought about it. Things are little stressful right now - we are great but things around us aren't and hubby suggested it the other night.

Posted by: WAMC | November 16, 2006 12:38 PM

If those are the best examples of smutty writing you can find on Fo4,
You need to get out more. He's a married guy with kids and the name of
the blog is On Balance. Balancing privacy (which includes Biblically
sanctioned marital relations) and kids must be especially hard, and
occassionally funny, for a sightless person.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 26, 2006 11:41 AM

This may explain the bibically Sanction Sex

Posted by: Let's Talk More About Sex | November 16, 2006 12:41 PM

To "to another mom": This is probably the reason that I am more successful than people like you.

The truth is revealed: I hit an exposed nerve. You are incredibly insecure. I'll lay off.

My comment had to do with why you felt you had to hammer on a simple typo. In the larger context of a blog (btw, it's an INFORMAL virtual chat space), it's so darned irrelevant. Your comment started off today's otherwise excellent, upbeat blog on such a negative, anonymous note.

Posted by: Another Mom | November 16, 2006 12:44 PM

One rule that works for us is:

When disagreeing, whomever feels the strongest about their opinion should win.

At first, it was difficult to know whose opinion was stronger without arguing. Understanding came with time. Key phrases came into play to alert each other. After being married for many years now, this rule keeps the peace, preserves dignity, and helps us to make each happy. It works for us.

Posted by: dotted | November 16, 2006 12:58 PM

to Another Mom:
Interestingly, I didn't catch the original typo until it was pointed out hours later. My eye went right over it. I knew what he meant and that was enough for me.

Posted by: dotted | November 16, 2006 12:59 PM

Brian, it's not hard to appreciate your spouse (tip #4) when if spouse is someone as cool as RebelMom... but then I'm biased.

I agree that a date night is a great idea. My youngest son is not quite 8 weeks (our oldest is 3), but my husband and I are heading out tomorrow on our first date in probably 4 months. My mom is babysitting for us.

It occurs to me that my husband and I are very lucky to have multiple grandparents around and other family members who are willing to babysit for free. I imagine it is even harder to schedule a date night out when the cost of babysitting has to be factored in.

Posted by: APL | November 16, 2006 1:03 PM

Ugh... that should be "when YOUR spouse" in my comment above. The joys of sleeplessness that accompany a newborn...

Posted by: APL | November 16, 2006 1:05 PM

What?! You put socks in drawers? I always though that you found them in the dryer? Also, do the colors have to match?

Posted by: yet another mom | November 16, 2006 1:08 PM


After almost 4 years of marriage, we have adopted the 'key phrase' strategy as well. It has worked well and has significantly cut down on disagreements and our communication is much better. We both sometimes forget, but for the most part, a wonderful way to 'help.'

Posted by: WAMC | November 16, 2006 1:18 PM

"Your comment started off today's otherwise excellent, upbeat blog on such a negative, anonymous note"

So I assume Another Mom is your legal name? You are just as anonymous as the first poster!

Posted by: to Another Mom | November 16, 2006 1:19 PM

reading the article in my small staff office. Your points apy well to work relations too.

Posted by: michael knipmeyer | November 16, 2006 1:21 PM

WAMC: the joys of conversational shorthand really come into play once the babies become old enough to want to drive. The conversation is still 'over their head.'

Posted by: dotted | November 16, 2006 1:23 PM

Thanks to all the sharp eyes who noticed my mistakes. The next post may have to be on copyedit-life balance, and it'll be absolutely flawless.

Even more thanks to everyone who is sharing their tips!

Posted by: Brian Reid | November 16, 2006 1:25 PM

Just for everyones info --

The errors on the blog would be caught by a PROOFREADER, not an EDITOR. Believe me, the WP wouldn't waste an editor on a blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 1:31 PM

sexual freedom.
couples should be able to have extra marital affairs. in a stable commitment this should not be a problem.

Posted by: robert | November 16, 2006 1:38 PM

I got married at 37 and feared losing my "fun" life. My wife and I were both committed to maintaining some intimacy after kids. We waffled between the family bed and a more structured bedtime routine. Ultimately, we decided on a structured early bedtime (7 - 8 ish) to allow us some personal/couple time at the end of each day.

Sure, sometimes, this time of day is for more work, household chores, ot other projects but by and large we have a couple of hours every evening to connect. We have discontinued cable TV in favor of spending more quality time together. We might cook, make some "fluffy" coffee, or heaven forbid enjoy some sex. Sometimes we wonder how it might have been if we were tied to our child's sleep patterns. We have certainly heard horror stories from some other parents.

We also go on monthly dates to get us out of the house and continue feeling like we can enjoy life away from our kids. I know there are some "wars" between the sleep camps but everyone agrees that kids need sleep. I feel like this one decision has helped us balance our lives a bit better.

Posted by: equal_too | November 16, 2006 1:39 PM

"INFORMAL virtual chat space)"

Sorry this was not my comment. I love how when someone is rude to a person on this blog and they fire back they are automatically insecure.

Better luck next time.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 1:45 PM

"I'll bet the editing police lines her clothes up by color the closet, and organizes her socks by color in her drawers. And her DH and kids, too. OCD?
Last time I checked, we were all human.
I agree -- take several pills. First, a laxative.
Brian -- Nice post today. I agree with all of it."

Actually your comment was underhanded and mean. Not to mention sexist. How do you know this person is a woman! Maybe you are the one who is insecure and has issues.

Posted by: cc2 | November 16, 2006 1:49 PM

RE: gifts/cards/birthdays

I could care less about getting cards, flowers, candy (well, maybe not the candy). My husband loves that stuff - and it is wasted on someone that doesn't particularly care.

He got me some Chocolate beer by Michelob a couple years back for Valentines Day. At first I thought it sounded kinda gross - but it was quite tasty. That is my kind of gift~!

Posted by: cmac | November 16, 2006 1:59 PM

dotted and WAMC, we also use some shorthand - they are often little joking references to things that have come up in the past, and it works well.

Something else we did way back after our first real fight was to talk through how and why we reacted to things the way we did. The fight took us both by surprise, since we very rarely have conflict and what we fought over was so minor, and a friend who's been through a lot of therapy recommended taking that moment to figure out why we reacted so strongly. I think it was really helpful - I got a much better understanding of how to bring things up without making him feel attacked and defensive; I think he got a similar understanding about what triggers negative reactions in me. It's allowed to us to work out the vast majority of issues with conversation and dialogue and not much fighting. I know it probably sounds very goofy and overly self-help-bookish, but I think it helped us both.

Posted by: Megan | November 16, 2006 2:01 PM

Everyone on this chat is anonymous, so I don't really get why people have an issue with others not posting a "made up name."

Posted by: made up name | November 16, 2006 2:10 PM

If it weren't for "project dates" I don't think DH and I would have any time together! We both enjoy it though and whether it's gardening or painting, or building furniture, we work together. We also cook together and usually clean up together. The kids pitch in too and see us working as a team on almost everything. We try to have dates but have found we like being at home with the children in the evenings and on weekends. We do a couple date about once a month but we make a point to meet for lunch once or twice a week. We also work out together and find there's a lot to talk about on a daily walk or short run.

I think one thing that helps is that we enjoy the same activities and make an effort to learn and enjoy what the other is interested in. I learned to ski so I could go with my avid skiing husband. He gets up to run with me even when he'd prefer to sleep. We "hang out" together more than many of our friends. Maybe that's why we seem to need fewer dates.

As far as gifts - we like to give/get tools and appliances - I really, really hope he picks up on my hint for a mixer and I know which miter saw he wants. I admit they are not "romantic" but they do show that we understand and support each other's hobbies and activities. I think we'd both like golf clubs too ...

Most of all - we LAUGH. A lot. I think humor resolves more disagreements than anything else.

Posted by: Stacey | November 16, 2006 2:24 PM


It is irritating to have numerous anonymous postings and you never know who to repond to, is it the same person, are they just flame throwers? This forum works much like a (virtual) discussion so if you don't know who you are talking to - how can you keep the discussion going?

We are all anonymous, but to further discussion we identify ourselves. If you don't want people to respond to you - remain anonymous.

Posted by: CMAC | November 16, 2006 2:25 PM

I don't think it's necessary to argue in front of the kids. My parents argued in private after we were in bed, but we heard anyway, and it made us anxious. They had poor conflict-resolution skills. I think it's more important that all your arguments, whether in front of the kids or not, are productive rather than rancorous. You never know what little ears are open. Really big problems should be reserved for private because kids may misinterpret complex issues: get a babysitter if necessary. But little everyday disagreements I think are ok to be in front of kids so they learn that you can disagree with someone but still love them, and so they learn healthy conflict-resolution skills.

Posted by: m | November 16, 2006 2:33 PM

I didn't go into my marriage thinking it would always be the days of wine and roses. I figured sometimes we'd be madly in love, sometimes we'd be friends and roommates, and sometimes we'd take each other for granted. We once talked a long time ago about how we both believe love is a policy, not an emotion, and we've tried to live that way -- it's something we do, and often something we feel. My hope was that all along we would act like we love each other (even when we didn't feel like it -- which, let's face it -- sometimes you don't) and above all that we would stay committed to our marriage come what may. I am very, very happy in my marriage after 10 years and my husband is as well.

Recently, several of my friends have announced that they are separating or divorcing, and it worries me a bit (because so often I wonder "why does our marriage work so well?"), but when I think back, I realize that in most cases, the marriages that are failing now were not doing very well even during the dating stage. So we just hang on to each other and hope for the best.

Posted by: AnonToday | November 16, 2006 2:38 PM

"Everyone on this chat is anonymous, so I don't really get why people have an issue with others not posting a made up name."

Because it's harder to respond to a specific person/comment.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 2:39 PM

Re cards:
Can't stand them. Especially when most people just sign their names instead of writing a personal message. Try as I might I can't see the point of buying a card and then not writing in it. I'd be much happier with a letter or email.
Re flowers:
Can't stand them either. They die, or the cats eat them. It's a sad reminder of mortality instead of the happy occasion we're supposed to be celebrating.
In fact, celebrations in general are a waste to me. I tell everyone not to bother with my birthday in the vain hope they'll let me off the hook for theirs! Selfish but true.
What I really like to do with my DH is dinner someplace nice, or cook something he enjoys. No presents, no shopping, just some time together making memories.

Posted by: worker bee | November 16, 2006 2:41 PM

And, by the way, I don't think he needs to be defended by all you guys. He's made of tougher stuff than that. :>)

Posted by: pittypat | November 16, 2006 11:51 AM

It bears pointing out that this is classic bullying behavior, emoticon or no. The bully attempts to direct the blame and the victim's anger toward the intervenor, rather than at himself (or herself, here), thus forcing the intervenor to step aside and clearing the way for further attacks without interference.

Related to today's topic, this is also a common pattern in disfunctional and abusive families. For example, a father accuses a mother of "making her son a sissy" when she attempts to deflect overly severe or abusive behavior by the father. Think carefully about how you and your spouse treat each other, particularly in front of the children. They will perpetuate your patterns into their own adulthood.

Posted by: former school counselor | November 16, 2006 2:47 PM

These comments have all been such helpful reminders, particularly the ones on fighting/appreciating your spouse in front of your kids. I have a 15-month-old, and my husband has started a new business, so we have close to zero alone time anymore. At times, we are both tired and have lately been taking the other for granted, or taking out our stress a little on the other. I'm going to make a better effort thanks to these reminders.

My husband, who is so honest and straightforward in his behavior, is the one who taught me that how I approach people can elicit different reactions. I also know that if I approach my stressed out DH with love and patience, I am putting love and patience into the "marriage bank" for another day when DH may need it to deal with my cranky mood. : )

Posted by: Rebecca | November 16, 2006 3:06 PM


I truly am fascinated by Fo4 and the way he is perceived on this blog. People here label him as "traditional" but having close associations with some UBER-traditional people, I don't see him so much that way...

Fo4, I actually do have a couple of real questions for you. It seems clear that you embrace the Catholic faith. Yet, to me, it often seems like you condone pre-marital sex (like with your joke today). Is that just because it is funny to joke about, because you've changed your mind since marriage, or because you really do think that pre-marital sex is OK ("Biblically sanctioned")? PLEASE don't read this as a confrontational question, I'm actually really interested.

Also, I thought you said yesterday that your faith dictates that sex and conception shouldn't be separated... how "only" 4 kids then? Did you break from your faith or have a harder time than some more fertile couples?

I'm sure everyone will tell me to lighten up and just enjoy Fo4's posts - Believe me, I do!!! I'm genuinely curious.

Posted by: Becky | November 16, 2006 3:12 PM

Stacey, I was thinking about you and skiing earlier this week when we had a blizzard up in the mountains - hopefully the slopes will be in good condition for you next weekend!

On project-dates, my husband and I are similar to Stacey - we enjoy doing yard and housework together, and increasingly we are able to do it with our son either playing alongside us or "helping" - which usually makes it more time consuming but also more fun. I'd say we both consider that great time together, but we also cherish getting some date nights in. And hanging out in the evenings after our son goes to bed (on good nights :)) is also great time together. But our official date nights are only about once a month, on average.

Posted by: Megan | November 16, 2006 3:25 PM

Keep your sense of humor! It goes a long way during those awful times.

And I agree with what others have your spouse in front of the kids, or at least put up a united front. If you have issues, deal with them privately. Kids'll quickly figure out how to pit you against each other, and that's not a nice place to go...or be.

Posted by: suemac | November 16, 2006 3:32 PM

That happened to my husband and I one evening.


Would you ever say 'it happened to I' ?
(I really hope not.)

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 3:40 PM

Would you ever say 'it happened to I' ?
(I really hope not.)

Posted by: | November 16, 2006 03:40 PM

Were you just so excited to jump down to the comments box and correct someone else that you didn't bother to read and notice that someone else beat you to it? Good grief, people, chill out on the English mistakes already.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 3:55 PM

That happened to my husband and I one evening.


Would you ever say 'it happened to I' ?
(I really hope not.)

Posted by: | November 16, 2006 03:40 PM

Well, we all hope that you would stop correcting people's grammar and find something intelligent to add to the discussion.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 16, 2006 3:55 PM

Why is it that Rebeldad Brian Reid can write a much more interesting, informative, and thought-provoking post than Leslie?

I mean, let's face it, Leslie, when you compare your post from yesterday about freezing eggs as a solution to work/family balance with today's post from Rebeldad, there's really no competition. Rebeldad is just more thoughtful.

Rebeldad for new "On Balance" blogger!

Posted by: Ryan | November 16, 2006 4:10 PM

How about instead giving Leslie kudos for sharing her soapbox with someone with a different viewpoint?

Posted by: fabworkingmom | November 16, 2006 4:19 PM

I think the key to a strong marriage is to try to give more than you get. I know it sounds simplistic, but it's worked for DH and me.

Posted by: Raysmom | November 16, 2006 4:20 PM

I'm with fabworkingmom - I think that Leslie and Brian's styles complement each other nicely. Lelie's knack for stirring controversy can generate some interesting discussions, even as it also brings out more trolls and so on. RebelDad's posts bring a welcome change of pace. I like the mix.

Fabworkingmom, didn't you mention earlier that you were considering setting up a moderated blog elsewhere? Any progress?

Posted by: Megan | November 16, 2006 4:29 PM

Brian and Leslie bring different points of view to this blog. How can you compare type A Wharton women to men comfortable with non-traditional gender roles? It's night and day. I learn from both and more importantly from all of you.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | November 16, 2006 4:29 PM

I would love to see a moderated blog. This one's pretty bad because of the anonymity and the zero-enforcement of the posting guidelines.

Regarding Leslie, we all better learn from her because yesterday she bragged that she "has it all" already. I for one still struggle mightily putting out fire after fire.

Posted by: Thoughts | November 16, 2006 4:45 PM

"It bears pointing out that this is classic bullying behavior, emoticon or no. The bully attempts to direct the blame and the victim's anger toward the intervenor, rather than at himself (or herself, here), thus forcing the intervenor to step aside and clearing the way for further attacks without interference."

former school counselor --

Whoever you are, I'm guessing you're not a regular on this blog. If you were, you'd know the characters better.

First of all, divide and conquer has never been an effective strategy here. Yes, people do stick up for others sometimes, but nobody seems to try and cut someone else out from the herd. (Except for the occasional troll.)

Second, any intervenors who wish to intervene will damn well do so no matter what I say. That's why I used the emoticon; I was laughing at my own folly in telling these folks that Fo4 doesn't need protection. (As if!) And, if you had read my earlier post to him, you'd see that I genuinely regard him as a great husband and father and was taking him to task only for something he said today. Let me assure you that he has done the same for me in the past!

So, everything in your misguided post was predicated on an inaccurate assessment made without sufficient knowledge of the situation or actors. (Assessment is something you learn to do early on in counselor training, is it not?)

STRONG LANGUAGE ALERT (Don't keep reading if you have really thin skin):
Maybe you shouldn't be so quick to wave your former credentials as an edu-counselor and lecture us on "classic" pathological behavior. You have no business plying your former trade here. It's irreponsible and unethical. (I assume you know the basics of ethical practices guidelines that all qualifying counselors, therapists, and shrinks are required to sign on to and abide by?)

It bears pointing out that you are not following the ethical practices guidelines of your former profession.

Posted by: pittypat | November 16, 2006 4:54 PM

pittypat is mean

Posted by: lucky husband | November 16, 2006 4:57 PM

pittypat needs to get some.

Posted by: 500 | November 16, 2006 4:59 PM

pittipat rocks

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 5:01 PM

I find Rebeldad's blogs to be lame. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but his posts are not thought provoking. Today's is pablum. And by the way, has anyone challenged him on his assertion that marriages with SAHMs are stronger or whatever he asserted? I think he is full of it.

Posted by: anonymous on purpose | November 16, 2006 5:03 PM

pittypat is my hero

Posted by: pittypatlover | November 16, 2006 5:03 PM

a couple of D batteries
set it to HIGH
and pittypat will start purring again.

Posted by: 69 | November 16, 2006 5:05 PM

Here's one study that Rebeldad was probably referring to when he made his "assertion" (which wasn't really an assertion but a reference to various studies that he has read in the past.)

Posted by: look it up | November 16, 2006 5:09 PM

Thanks to those who responded to my question about the husband who purposedly didn't buy his wife birthday gifts. I am sad for my friend because their fights do seem to be getting uglier and more hurtful. He threw out "Ok, then, divorce me if you want to, but I'll make sure I take [their little girl]." She never mentioned the "D" word. I think he's begging for it.

Anyway, when my relationship with my boyfriend was in early stages, he would say "You don't have to thank me [for doing x or y]. It's my obligation." But I argued that I SHOULD say "thank you" because it showed that I appreciated what he was doing for me. He kept up his side of the argument for a while, but I continued to say thank you and I notice now he does it also. He saw my point.

Garrison Keillor said something like a good marriage came down to three things: conversation, sex, and good manners. I have tried to live by that.

I notice too many couples who early no stop treating their spouse with manners and dignity. Yes! to whoever said you must uphold the dignity of your spouse. When a spouse starts criticizing their partner to their friends, the marriage is on a slippery slope.

Posted by: MM | November 16, 2006 5:11 PM

Can't believe you remembered! It's still work in progress. I'll keep you posted once I have a tangible product. It's not so much a moderated blog as a social networking site for parents seeking balance where the focus will be on solutions that parents have found that work for them.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | November 16, 2006 5:12 PM


I would first note that school counselors are not the same as "shrinks" and have a different code of conduct. However, giving you the benefit of the doubt, I can only guess that you think I did not adequately clarify that I was speaking as an individual and not as a representative of my former profession. Consider this a clarification. I was speaking as an individual who left that profession and is happily retired.

And for your information, I do read this blog fairly often, and recall you employing the precise same tactic when someone defended cmac several weeks ago.

Posted by: former school counselor | November 16, 2006 5:14 PM

former school counselor

Rock on with your bad self. you hit the nail on the head.

Posted by: yeah, yeah, yeah | November 16, 2006 5:19 PM

fabworkingmom, that sounds awesome! I can't wait to get a peek when it's ready. Seems like you're really living up to your screen name! ;)

Posted by: Megan | November 16, 2006 5:26 PM

I thought it was insightful of Rebeldad to mention the clarity of roles as a contributing factor to success in traditional marriages.
It applies to lots of other things in life too. Imagine a job where your job description is too vague: it leaves you open to being blamed for missing things you didn't even know you were supposed to do. I'm sure this is a cause of stress in society in general when roles shift. One of my male friends expressed confusion that he was raised to be stoic and now he's blamed for not expressing his emotions. He's not trying to get himself off the hook--he's more like someone who was trained for one job and then unexpectedly hired for something different.
The advantage in traditional marriages is that the roles are ready-made and don't require a whole lot of discussion. I'm all about nontraditional marriages, but I agree with Rebeldad that some of the people in these marriages have probably not had all of the discussions needed to create a new balance.
Case in point: DH and I both work, and split our household expenses 50/50; he makes more than I do so he has more personal spending money; he has kindly offered to take on a greater share of the expenses proportionate to his income. (I said no, I like having it strictly equal, but thought it very generous of him to suggest it.) Anyway, it's a conversation that wouldn't happen in a traditional marriage with a SAHM, and could go many different ways depending on the partners' expectations & needs.

Posted by: worker bee | November 16, 2006 5:28 PM

Give me a break. That was a hyperlink to a throw away college newsletter. That study was garbage first of all and it didn't assert that those in "traditional" marriages (man the earner, the woman at home) are the happiest. It just showed that women preferred men who earned more than them (they are "happier" whatever that means) and they preferred emotionally supportive spouses.

So if someone is going to say they "read a study" and assert a conclusion from it, he or she needs to read the actual study and not make up conclusions not supported by the study.

Posted by: to look it up | November 16, 2006 5:46 PM

former school counselor --

Maybe you've been out of the profession for too long to know this, but the same basic ethical practices guidelines apply to all workers in the field of mental health care -- from psychiatrists to Ph.D. psychotherapists to master's degreed licensed professional counselors, licensed psyciatric social workers and nurses, substance abuse counselors, etc., etc.

The basic, foundational principles of ethical behavior apply to all of them. Certainly, those with greater responsibility (psychiatrists, clinical psychologists) also have expanded ethical obligations, and different professional organizations have specific, published guidelines which may vary in kind and degree. But the basic stuff applies to all. And you violated at least two of the basic ethical guidelines by posting what you did under the "signature" of "former school counselor."

If you were posting as an individual, you should not have used that signature; it confers a credibility to your opinions which is not borne out in fact.

As to my "employing tactics," once again, your premise is unsound. In both cases, I have enough respect for the person in question to say that I think he/she is strong enough to defend him/herself. In no way do I expect to clear the field so that I can "go at" the person unrestricted.

Finally, your textbook recitation of "classic bullying behavior" lacked any personal insight or application and, hence, persuasiveness. Anyone can open a book and quote from it.

To forestall any more of this foolishness, I publicly promise never again to say on this blog that someone doesn't need to be defended.

Posted by: pittypat | November 16, 2006 5:47 PM

"I thought it was insightful of Rebeldad to mention the clarity of roles as a contributing factor to success in traditional marriages."

Relationships are not jobs. Communication is important, but your discussion is based on a faulty conclusion that is not supported by evidence. Are there studies that show that "traditional" marriages are more successful (less divorce or whatever) than egaltarian marriages? I doubt it. I can argue that there is an imbalance of power in "traditional" marriages which could be an issue for both spouses.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 5:51 PM

No pittypat! Say it isn't so! You can say what you want. No one likes school counselors anyway. Down with school counselors!!!

Posted by: To pittypat | November 16, 2006 5:53 PM

drama much?

Get over yourelf you sound like a wind bag.

Posted by: to pittypat | November 16, 2006 6:04 PM

Finally, your textbook recitation of "classic bullying behavior" lacked any personal insight or application and, hence, persuasiveness. Anyone can open a book and quote from it

He persuaded me! You are a bully, just ask cmac!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 6:05 PM

Pittypat, the legal and ethical obligations of school counselors vary depending on what boards they are certified by and what the requirements of their school systems and state are. Contrary to your assertions, there is no one comprehensive set of standards that applies to all. Indeed, the varying requirements of different organizations is one of the many challenges of the field. Furthermore, stating that one is a former counselor does not automatically imply that one is speaking on behalf of the profession. I used this name because it was as a school counselor that I witnessed the type of behavior I spoke of. That is my experience, and it is not a violation of the ethical codes I am familiar with (primarily that of the American School Counselor Association) to speak from my personal experience in that way.

Posted by: former school counselor | November 16, 2006 6:09 PM

"Are there studies that show that "traditional" marriages are more successful (less divorce or whatever) than egaltarian marriages? I doubt it."

I haven't read the studies either but that is what Rebeldad mentioned--actually, his statement was that they were supposedly happier--but both he and I expressed skepticism about either the results or the causes.
I wasn't advocating traditional marriages over egalitarian at all. I'm egalitarian all the way myself. Just wondering about possible causes of the stats mentioned.

Posted by: worker bee | November 16, 2006 6:12 PM

"Furthermore, stating that one is a former counselor does not automatically imply that one is speaking on behalf of the profession."

No, you're right. That's why it's an ethical violation, not a legal one.

Posted by: pittypat | November 16, 2006 6:13 PM

I'm really confused here. I don't know which way is up or down in Pittpat vs. fsc. However, can't anyone talk about things from their own experiences? It seems to me knowing he is a fsc did lend his definition some validity..and I'm no psychologist, or even liberal arts for that matter.

so I'm confused.

Posted by: dotted | November 16, 2006 6:22 PM

former school counselor --

Just out of curiosity, how is it that you fault me for "bullying behavior" but say nothing about the male posters who deal with disagreement by making me the butt of their little-boy sexual innuendos?

I wonder if it is because you, too, are a little boy. If not, I'm betting that you're the mom of boys just like them.

What a shame.

Posted by: pittypat | November 16, 2006 6:25 PM


I'm reluctant to take this discussion much further, however, I will try to clarify what I can. The Ethical Standards for School Counselors, published by the American School Counselor Associations, does state that a school counselor has an obligation to distinguish between statements made as an individual versus those made as a representative of the profession (rule F.1.e). I do not believe this prohibits me from referencing my experience as a school counselor in making my personal observations. And as I have clarified, I am not a school counselor any more and I am not speaking on behalf of the profession.

I have no idea what Pittypat is talking about in regards to supposed legal violations, or what code of conduct she thinks applies to everyone.

Posted by: former school counselor | November 16, 2006 6:27 PM

Hey, look, Rebeldad did a great job stirring up discussion. Yet, unlike Leslie, he didn't have to say asinine or pretentious or arrogant things. He didn't have to show that he's completely out of touch with most people. He didn't have to show that he makes more money than everyone else and, therefore, is concerned with whether they should freeze their eggs for having kids at age 60.

There's nothing wrong with being thought-provoking, but "thought-provoking" blogs do not require arrogance or showing off your wealth.

Posted by: Ryan | November 16, 2006 6:31 PM


Maybe this topic should be put to bed and we can all chat tomorrow? I love reading from Pittypat, by the way.

Have a great evening pittypat and fsc!

Posted by: dotted | November 16, 2006 6:32 PM

former school counselor,

I'm merely pointing out that a comparison of the ethical practice guidelines from the American Counseling Association (which applies to all counselors -- school, organizational, comunity mental health, etc.), the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association demonstrates that the basic underpinning of ethical conduct is the same across the board.

And, as you should know, clear distinctions are made among ethical, moral, and legal violations in all of these guideline sets.

Of course, as a retired counselor, you're no longer bound by most of those guidelines. Nevertheless, it is professionally and personally irresponsible to represent your opinions as emanating from a background in any mental health profession.

Posted by: pittypat | November 16, 2006 6:46 PM


I appreciate your second response that is both civil and specific. I understand the source of your confusion now. In my state, school counselors must have a masters degree and be certified by the American School Counselors Association. We are not required to be certified by or members of the American Counseling Association, the American Psychological Association, or the American Psychiatric Association, and therefore are not bound by their codes of conduct. I am sorry it took so long to clear this up. However, I still do not see what legal grounds you are referring to, as you have not specified any legal claim.

As to your commentary about my being a small man or the mother of small men, I am sorry you felt it necessary to make such a gratuitous attack. I do not feel it necessary to address every nasty comment on this board, otherwise I would be here all night.

I am sorry that this upset you so much; I spoke out because that is how your posts often come across to me and I believe to others. You say that is not your intent and I have no choice but to accept that at face value. However, having now been the subject of your sharp words for the afternoon, my original opinion remains intact. I hope in the future my mind will be changed.

Posted by: former school counselor | November 16, 2006 6:58 PM

heee. heee. 10 points for Pittypat.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 16, 2006 6:59 PM

You're right--there are other factors at work in these studies. My pet peeve is when people draw erroneous conclusions from studies. This happens when people read what they want into these studies. Most of these sociological studies are crap anyway. Often you just have to look at the beliefs of the researchers and you can see their bias.

I just want to caution people from flippantly making assertions that are false (e.g. studies show that traditional marriages are more successful).

Posted by: to worker bee | November 16, 2006 7:16 PM

OK, I think what Pittypat is saying is close to when I posted on a specific survey results from an agency that I formerly worked for. I started my post by first putting up a disclaimer that stated that the opinion in this post was my own and not the opinion of my former agency or my current agency. I then when on to share my opinion which was based on my statistical knowledge and my specific knowledge. I am bound by my employment to list that disclaimer either verbally or written when speaking of a data product that my current agency produces. I am also required to list that disclaimer in order to prevent the impression that I am some how representing my agencies opinion on some other data product. I was not legally required to list the disclaimer on my former employer as I am no longer an employee there. I can always state any opinion about their data product and let my readers think what they want. I don't do that because of a code of ethics. And yes, even statisticians do have ethical codes. On the other hand, I routinely try to explain things when people shoot out random statistics on this blog. I am perfectly allowed to, both legally and morally, without a disclaimer. Because I make no specific mention of my current and former employeer. Sort of like fcs did. But unlike fcs, I do not use my blog name to indicate my expertise in a field. I did think that was a bit misleading on her part. It did seem like she was trying say this was fact and she was somehow representing her field. Whether she is legally or ethically bound to state a disclaimer, I really don't know. I don't know much about the field of counseling. But it was truly misleading to say fcs and then say, hey this is just a personal opinion. Especially if you are not a regular poster (not just reader), people don't know where you are coming from. Regulars know that I am a statistician and Fo4 is blind. So a lot can be ascertained from that prior information. Overall, I hope there is a truce. Pittypat, stick around. I like your opinions even if we often disagree.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 16, 2006 7:31 PM

NC lawyer:

"heee. heee. 10 points for Pittypat"

You think? I thought fsc explained her position pretty well. Especially her/his last post.

I am hesitant to post anything on this, particularly after yesterday's exchanges.

Have a great night everybody. Tomorrow's topic is just 12 hours away - get your sleep!

Posted by: cmac | November 16, 2006 7:38 PM

"I am sorry that this upset you so much; I spoke out because that is how your posts often come across to me and I believe to others."

Ooooh, fsc. can you say passive-aggressive?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 16, 2006 7:46 PM

Pittypat is SO RUDE to people ALL THE TIME yet you all give her a free pass.


She said, "you are a little boy... or your raised ones like that... what a shame."

She doesn't know this person from Adam, she says stuff like that, and people CHEER for her?


What better proof do you need than the vicious and rude way that she attacked FCS (which, by the way, "Pittypat" was neither witty nor particularly intelligent although you did try to use big words and refer to large organizations.

Posted by: no way! | November 16, 2006 7:48 PM

cmac: I tend to root for the underdog over the smug, although admittedly the line is often not clear. Generally, I have a fondness for those who at least consistenly use the same moniker rather than changing their designation from moment to moment as it supports their arguments, even when I disagree strongly with the content of their statements . . . not trying to throw any stones here. I wouldn't have fought that battle over multiple posts, but it's harder for some to walk away than others. have a great evening - btw, I'd probably attend and have more fun at work parties with my spouse if he was a police officer, too:>)

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 16, 2006 7:54 PM

Pitty pat can never take any kind of critisim. She is a bully.

Posted by: I agree | November 16, 2006 8:17 PM

Well, I guess someone must be a bully because this definitely sounds like playground behaviour.

Posted by: xyz | November 16, 2006 8:57 PM

Re: pittypat vs. Father of 4 vs. the counseling profession -

All I have to say is that I am not a little boy, nor am I raising little boys who make sex jokes, and I took absolutely no offense in Father of 4's first post of the day. I also thought it was mean to say "you're no Dave Barry" or whatever it was and that even if pittypat was offended by the post, she didn't have to pick on something that is obviously important to Fof4 (his humor.)

Re: traditional marriages being happier than egalitarian marriages and surveys that say such a thing....well first of all, Brian didn't say that he was necessarily agreeing with the surveys, he said that he was horrified by them. And who exactly is to say that he hasn't read a ton of studies that say exactly that? Maybe someone took a survey at his kid's school and he read it - maybe he has access to research we don't have on the subject - how the heck do we really know??

And secondly - why is it so hard for people to believe that people in "traditional" marriages are happy and that there isn't an imbalance of power?

Posted by: momof4 | November 16, 2006 9:01 PM

To momof4: I think it is hard for people to believe that people in "traditional" marriages are happy and there isn't an imbalance of power, because some people in nontraditional families stake the equalness of marriage comes from the equal financial power. When in fact, the equalness in any marriage really comes in the "belief" that partners are equal regardless of who brings home the bacon. Personally, I think traditional marriages only work if the out of the home worker respects that the work IN the home person is making an "equal" contribution to their family. Not equal in 50% of the work but in the sense that each partner brings to the table a myriad of different skills and talents. And each partner is valued member of the family. It would be difficult for me to be a SAHM not because I think there is anything wrong with being one. Or because I view work at home as a lesser contribution. But I would find it difficult because no matter DH says out loud, I get the distinct feeling he does not value the in home worker as much as the out of home worker. Also, he is frankly deathly afraid of being the single breadwinner. To a certain degree, I can understand that. No one is going to fire a SAHP or give them a bad performance evaluation. I think there is notable stress in being the family breadwinner. I love my husband and do not regret at all marrying him. But I sometimes kick myself by not having the whole SAHP discussion before marriage. Before having DD, I never dreamed that I would want to be a SAHP. By then it was too late. I was already married and made a life for my husband and myself.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 16, 2006 9:13 PM

foamgnome, you brought up an interesting point. The fear of a lot of men of being the single breadwinner. My husband feels the same way.

I have to wonder how that fear was perhaps clarified for men by the women's movement -- perhaps before, it was a fear that did not dare to speak its name! The women's movement may have liberated men to express this fear to women, as well as conditioned/allowed them to insist that women help with breadwinning as well. What are others' feelings on this?

I should note that DH and I both work, and I have a 15-month-old. DH has expressed a similar fear to foamgnome's DH. I should also note that DH was unemployed for a year and I work from a home office. We were short of money at that time, but I LOVED having him home. Not only did we spend some great time together, but he cooked, cleaned and did laundry. Miss those days!

Posted by: Rebecca | November 16, 2006 9:29 PM

Hey Girls,

Stop the cat fights! Where is the Jokester when you need him?

Posted by: Fred | November 16, 2006 9:45 PM

Fear of being the sole breadwinner? What kind of psycho-babble is that?

Of course, if my wife made as much as me, I would be happy to be a stay at home dad.

Posted by: A Husband of many years | November 16, 2006 9:48 PM

If any one is still looking, the other Sam posted again today. Not that I disagree with what he or she said. It's just that one or two people know me in real life and I'd like them to know that wasn't me . . .

I'm going to try not to post any more anyway. Gets me too distracted at work some days and affects my work life balance adversely (because I have to make up for the lost time). So future "Sam" submissions will be from someone else.

Posted by: Sam | November 17, 2006 10:17 AM

can't we all just get along?

Posted by: rodney king | November 17, 2006 11:28 AM

i need help. if my wife is really stressed out and doesnt know what to do with our marriage can roses cheer her up.

Posted by: unknown | December 6, 2006 7:45 AM

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