What Happens After The Proposal…by Ms. Coco

What Happens After The Proposal…by Ms. Coco

Recently we did what people tell you to do after you begin courting, or dating, in 2018’s terms; we became engaged. I was completely surprised when the question was popped, only because of an incident that happened a few weeks before. Nothing major, just something to consider when you commit your life to another person.

If you don’t know, I love me some Gentleman Farmer. He is everything I am not, yet everything I hope to be. I think that pairs us well. I can feed off his energy without depleting him of who he is, and he can do the same with me, I hope. Engagement season should be the happiest time in a couple’s lives, or so I’ve heard. However, there is a reason you never see what happens to the couple after the wedding. No one wants to show you the hard work of combining two separate lives to make one new life without the wacky mishaps of the ditzy wife and the bull-headed husband. What happens when the wife isn’t ditzy and has a mind of her own (me) and the husband – to be – shows his emotions more often than not about issues one never thought men shared?

This is where we are currently. Yes, engagement season has been high with sharing with our family and friends. Discussing wedding colors, decor, music, and food has been interesting to imagine, especially for a woman like me – I have thought little of what my big day visions are. Yes, I want to incorporate my Zimbabwean heritage into the mix. I also want to include my African-American heritage of being from North Carolina. And I would like the GF to add something of his family’s legacy as well – if he so chooses.

However, before we get to that big day in September, I feel like we need to set some ground rules on how to win at our marriage. I believe we have the unique opportunity to set forth what we want without outside judgment or expectations on our lives. No one tells you how hard this can be, though. For example, before we even got engaged the Gentleman Farmer and I have frequently read the latest and greatest advice from The Gotten Institute, The Five Love Languages newsletters, and Psychology Today, among many other articles on how to strengthen our relationship. Many sources give information on how to handle tough conversations. One book in particular –How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids – mentions that even if you are in a traditional gender role marriage, that shortly after having children reverts men to believing women should do more of the housework.

I work full time outside of our home. An hour away from our home at that! Believe me when I say that is a struggle in and of itself. We had the conversation about how we envisioned the housework gets done – and we did not agree with the workload that is on each of us. We disagreed for weeks. The air was palpable with tension. We still haven’t resolved the issue, but we turned the corner and decided we didn’t want to be upset any longer.

How many conversations are we going to have that leads to disagreements before the wedding? I can tell you that I would much rather have these disagreements now than later. I don’t want the Gentleman Farmer to believe that I am angry, but I also don’t want to set poor habits now and resent him later for not doing the dishes after I have cooked or vice versa. Our relationship is on the right path; it even astonishes most days. But we strive to be better for ourselves and for our children. That means having those marriage talks right along with are we having a SnapChat filter for our wedding or not.

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Hygee, Traditions, and Life…by Ms. Coco

Hygee, Traditions, and Life…by Ms. Coco

As you know, the Gentleman Farmer and I participated in what the Danes are widely recognized for…their relationship to enjoying life, coziness, family time, and relaxation. Our home was transformed into the daily burning of candles, warmth, and smell goods – partly because we had three additional dogs in the house. I enjoyed learning more about how the Danes achieve a sense of coziness with their décor, their food options, and the time spent in warm settings. It is something the GF and I can and will (hopefully) continue to incorporate in our future.

This month we have focused on traditions. I am unsure of if we have any holiday traditions from our separate families that we would like to incorporate into our deepening bond – I certainly hope so. My family celebrated Christmas, but only from when I was young and then when we had younger cousins over for a holiday. My grandmother and grandfather put up Christmas trees from the beginning of my memory, but not in my household. My mom has said having a tree in the house is Paganistic. So I don’t have to have a tree. But I would like to do something now that will last throughout our lives. Last Christmas the GF and I created Christmas ornaments, and we placed them on this North Island Pine that died shortly after the holiday season. We also made Oreo truffles that we gave away as gifts. As of right now, I believe the Oreo truffles will be a mainstay. It’s up in the air about the ornaments.

I am looking forward to determining what we want to stand the test of time. I am a firm believer in having a strong foundation so that when we have tough times – because we all know those moments will arrive – we will have the strength to maintain. For example, we watched Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It over Thanksgiving. I have never seen the movie before, but I did know that there is a new Netflix show by the same name and I was excited to see it. It was such a GOOD movie and show! I do not directly identify with Miss Nola Darling, but I do feel similar to her as she seeks ownership over her relationships, her work, and her body. She did what she wanted when she wanted. She was vocal about her wants and needs, and she did not allow others to jeopardize that. And that is all because she had a strong foundation in people – her parents – pouring into who she was.

I believe this is why I appreciate the fact we are doing the tradition challenge last. We have gone through almost an entire year of monthly challenges, and we have met some additional character development issues we didn’t plan for. I know I always think highly of myself – who doesn’t – but I am also a reflective person. I want him to hear me. I want him to see me. I want the Gentleman Farmer to treat me as an individual with thoughts, feelings, and opinions. The GF and I have had to think separately, and collectively, about what our relationship will be and should represent. Having different biases, backgrounds, and experiences all play a role in how I see things versus how he does.  I am not always right, and he indeed is not wrong. However, my entire goal since the inception of this relationship is to be with him, to love him deeply and to be his safe space in the world, as I wish the same from him. We have to figure out how to move in this world together continuously and to be on each other’s team. I am all for him – I have always been about him, and I am still about him – and if my actions don’t show that then I am aware of those small issues needing to change before they become insurmountable deal breakers.

Getting It All Done…by Ms. Coco

Getting It All Done…by Ms. Coco

If you didn’t know, I work full-time away from home. I am a Family and Consumer Sciences Agent – what once was known as Home Demonstration Agent or Home Economics – for the extension service. I work a lot with my community on many of the things the Gentleman Farmer and I have discussed on this blog. Family relationships, finances, communication, healthy eating habits, etc. are all in my job description. The more I learn about my community’s needs, the more programs I host to give them the tools to navigate their own lives.

I find this to be a big responsibility. I love my job, and I want to help build stronger families. However, I have noticed – and so has the GF – that I am working more and more without taking some things off my plate. It all came to a head one day when I realized I am beginning to work like I am teaching high school again. Now, that necessarily isn’t a bad thing. But I left the classroom for a couple of reasons. I was at work over 12 hours a day 4 out of 5 times a week, I rarely had time to hang out with my friends or even my dog, and I was tired ALL OF THE TIME. I do not want to do this again in this position, so I started taking steps to relieve myself of specific duties.

I talk to the Gentleman Farmer about a variety of things in my life. I had mentioned several times the need to reduce my workload. Like I stated earlier, he has said to me on more than one occasion that I am not spending a lot of time at home, and in turn, with him. The GF suggested that I read the 20 Minute Manager: Getting Work Done when we decided our challenge for October was a book club – of sorts. I enjoyed this book immensely. There was self-reflection throughout the book, tips to implement now, and how to evaluate to see if the methods are working. I have applied a better system for organizing my desk, deciding what are the most critical tasks and delegating others, and have found empowerment in being able to talk to my boss about workplace issues – that’s another post for a different day.

Since reading this book last month, I have actively tried to be home earlier than past few months. We are currently hosting two other dogs – Prince Puff and Sebastian – to see if that will calm our poodle down. I do not want the Gentleman Farmer to seem as if he is taking care of them solo and I feel sorry for leaving them so long. Out of the last two weeks, I have worked hard to finish up work early so that I can get home at a decent hour. I hope the GF has realized this and will spend that extra time with me. After all, the entire reason I am re-evaluating my schedule is that of his concerns – and my sanity.

How to be Married

How to be Married

How does one be married? I found out this month as part of my reading list Ms.Coco gave me. I also gave her a book to read that I hoped would help her but I’ll let her tell you about that.

I have a growing number of books that have been recommended to me this year Ms.Coco is the main contributor. I love this idea of sharing books with each other, and it feels like we are learning a growing together.

I’m going to summarize some of the favorite parts of this book.

While JO Piazza is in Mexico, she talks about how everyone has dangerous expectations for what being married will be. These expectations can lead us to frustration and failure in our relationships.

A great exercise Piazza recommended is the five minutes of uninterrupted talking each day. Ms.Coco and I did try this for a while, and I think it’s something we do naturally anyway.

The France chapter was another one that spoke to me. The idea that American men are afraid of American women is a concern that has come up over and over again recently. The idea that women should talk to men about what turns them on and makes them happy is an important one. Usually, I think the answer will be we want to make out women happy, but women should drill deeper into our desires. The French understand the idea that both partners need to put in work to stay desirable to each other, be a wife and his mistress.

The idea that it takes work to maintain love and desire long term is scary. We think it should be something that just happens. It’s hard to avoid nagging, fighting, picking on small things, getting bored, and complaining. We spend so much time now on our Ipads, Laptops, and smartphones sharing all our uplifting and inspiring moments, sometimes we forget to share those moments with the people close to us that matter.

But to quote Mariane French women Jo interviewed.
“Sex heals all wounds.” I would take it a step further and say “Good sex transcends all problems.”

Reading and Learning Together

Reading and Learning Together

September had been a rough month for us. I haven’t got to see much of Ms. Coco because of her commute, work schedule, and her travel commitments. These commitments have put a strain on her, myself, and our relationship in ways I didn’t realize until recently.

We decided to read several books this month that the other person recommended. Books have been a comfort to me this month while I miss my very busy partner. I have also been scribbling in them, ways to ease her burden of work and commuting so we have more time together. I’ve even scribbled down some calculations about how much time Ms. Coco spend commuting every day to see if there are some ways to get some of that time back.

The first book she recommended was Whatever Happened To Interracial Love? By: Kathleen Collins. This book was very confusing to me at first but looking back on it several of the short stories stood out.

Recommended to me by my significant other was not something I would have read, but I’m glad I did. While some of the stories were hard to read and follow, I liked how the author used her style and voice to create a unique experience.

In one of the short stories, Collins uses racial differences to paint an exciting narrative about two roommates and their interracial lovers.

In another short story, Lifelines, Collines uses letters from her Characters Husband to add a fun twist to her stories about a married woman and her husband who lives overseas. They are corresponding about selling her families house in the Adirondacks. The two characters have a different view of why they are selling the home. She is excellent at putting emotions into these stories.

The second book I read was The Magnolia Story By Chip and Joanna Gaines. This book surprised me.

Another recommendation, not something I would have looked twice at if I hadn’t watched their TV show. This book had some great lessons, and I enjoyed reading it.

It follows the story of Chip and Joanna’s journey of building their relationship, business, and family together. The narrative jumps back and forth between Chip and Joanna telling the story with Joanna contributing the majority of the story.

My favorite part of this book is how Chip and Joanna struggled with their dating life, marriage, and even kids. Build their business also put stress on their life but they found a way to overcome it all together and where stronger for it.

Three great pieces of advice I got from this book.
1. Don’t own a TV, if you want to be productive, quality time is more important.
2. Sometimes you have to leap of faith.
3. Keep on going, and you will find a way.

The next book that Ms. Coco chose for me was “How to Be Married” by Jo Piazza. It’s about the lessons she learned during her first year of marriage while she traveled around the world asking for marriage advice from people in many different cultures. Surprisingly some of the information in this book Ms. Coco and I have already received much as Jo Piazza did. I’ll tell you more next time.

5…6…7…Hold…by Ms. Coco

5…6…7…Hold…by Ms. Coco

In my last post I stated an exercise I wanted to incorporate into the Gentleman Farmer’s daily routine. We talk for five minutes uninterrupted about whatever is on our minds. Oftentimes we do this without having an actual timer. I think it’s pretty easy but sometimes the GF has trouble filling up his time. I chalk this up to men using less words to describe what’s important to them. However, we’ve done this for two weeks without missing a day. I think this definitely helps us to connect in ways we may not be aware. Case in point; the GF and I were working on what the Gottman Institute calls “love maps.” This love map is a series of questions that allows partners to see/realize where their partners are emotionally. One question asked was describe your partner’s day in great detail. We knew that about each other because we discussed our day hours before during our five minute exercise. We realize our stressors, cares, concerns, and accomplishments in those 10 minutes on a daily basis. 

Another update: salsa. Like the Gentlenan Farmer and I both stated, we’ve had a great time dancing. I more so have learned how my dancing impacts my partner’s thoughts and feelings about our relationship. I always think I have the best intentions and am displaying them in ways he can understand. However, that isn’t the case. We both have learned that we have to do more, be more, and act more in ways that we both understand to have a solid relationship. This came from our salsa classes! I’m staring my babe in the eyes, smiling and wishing he’d look back at me while he’s learning new steps and is concerned with leading us to be the best dancers we can possibly be. We are both learning to dance with each other but also I want to have the most fun with the person I’m with while doing justice to this very cultural dance. Whew! That’s hard sometimes. Emotions are high and the pressure is on! Haha. I want to be seen as the person I see myself as….including being a beautiful dancer. We’ll get there yet. We went to a dance showcase of other students from the Salsa Center. They did an amazing job and I see us up there soon! Why not?!?! 

Our trip to Cuba is next week! I’m excited to spend time with my sister and her boyfriend, two of my friends, and, of course, the Gentleman Farmer. The beach is my happy place and I hope we will have many sunny days ahead with lots of learning about the culture and people of Cuba. I imagine us dancing in the streets, going to the market, sunbathing, museums, food, and lots of fun! 

Wanna Dance? Of Course! By Ms. Coco

Wanna Dance? Of Course! By Ms. Coco

When the Gentleman Farmer and I discussed what our challenge should be this month we had different opinions. However, we decided to go with his of learning how to salsa. I know he likes to dance and I have never taken any dance classes at all, so once again this is new territory for me. I appreciate these experiences that we have together.

We went to two classes this week, and I must admit, it was a lot of fun! I am not shy on the dance floor, and I LOVE to dance! Salsa does not come naturally to me; I have a hard time listening to the beat sometimes. However, the GF is a great leader, and as long as I catch his signals, I can stumble my way through. I would love to be a great dancer. Also, our teacher is amazing. Visit The Salsa Center in Lexington if you have a chance!

I am also currently reading How To Be Married by Jo Piazza. The GF bought me this book because he said it sounds like something I would read – his assumption is accurate. In the last year, I read How To Be A Woman, How To Be A Person In The World, and How to Grow Anything – Food Gardening For Everyone (really a DVD, but, yah know), so this is right up my alley. In How To Be Married Piazza travels the earth asking advice from people from several countries. She also discusses the fact that marriage is not perfect and takes real work. As you may have realized by now, I am all for working on my relationships, personal – duh- and professional, to ensure success! In one country the advice given was to always dance with your spouse. If you’re able to dance, you should be able to communicate (I actually believe communication may be the most important link to a healthy marriage). We dance sometimes, but we can always incorporate more dancing, hand holding, and eye staring into our daily lives.

We can always talk more as well. There is one exercise that is brought up in the book about talking for five minutes each day uninterrupted. For example, the GF talks for five minutes about whatever he would like to discuss. It can be good, bad, ugly, or indifferent. I must listen to him and not respond but show nonverbal actions to encourage him to keep talking. Then we switch. This allows each person involved to discuss the important or nonimportant issues that may not be addressed because of distractions from our partners or not being fully engaged. Maybe we’ll try this tonight and report back our findings.