I wouldn't celebrate Halloween any other way

By Tami Kamin-Meyer

In a little over an hour, my home will be overrun with a dozen elementary school-age boys icing pumpkin cookies before they shove them in their mouths, chugging fruit punch out of cups adorned with orange and black gummy worms draped over the sides and playing tic-tac-toe on the driveway using candy corn as their markers. The party will end in the same way it has for the last five years, with a HUGE leaf pile fight in our front yard, complete with leaves being shoved down people's shirts and pants. Both my husband and I are the ultimate targets (especially me) of the kid's leaves, and I must admit in past years I've found leaf particles in body parts I didn't know I had.

Still, despite all the preparation and work hosting the Halloween party is, I wouldn't celebrate the holiday any other way. It's as much a part of my family's traditions as is saying 'Thank You' when we finally arrive home after a long trip, safe and tired and full of memories of where we had just been. Not only is the party fun for my sons, it's a wonderful opportunity for us to work together on a joint project. Life is so hectic that sometimes I feel like as soon as I wake up in the morning, another day has passed and it's time to go to sleep again. Do you ever feel that way?

Well, the party is about to start so I better join in. This year, I have decided to dress up as a character I strive for in everyday life but never quite seem to attain: a calm, relaxed, fun-loving mother whose greatest care in the world is whether the punch bowl needs refilling.

A Step-Family That Works

By Wendy Jaffe

With all of the bad news that I usually hear concerning step-families (2 out of 3 divorce rate, dysfunctional relationships between the steps), I was thrilled to hear from a step-family that is thriving. In this family's situation, Dad #1 was a no show at his daughter's Bat Mitzvah, but Dad #2 stepped up to the plate and then some. Below are some of the words that they spoke to each other during the Bat Mitzvah service. As you can see, what makes a dad a dad has nothing to do with biology.

From Mom to her Husband:

You took on a lot more than just a wife when you married me. You had no way to know that you would have to step up to the role of father for a little girl who's natural father was not very involved.   You took on this role with love and patience and wisdom and kindness and without complaint. You have always been there for Jessica, doing everything for her that a father should do. You have always been there for me. Marriage can often be challenging  and  when two people with children marry it's even a greater one. We needed to work hard to blend our family. Not everyone is successful.  We were very fortunate. I always wondered if you could ever love Jessica the way you would love your natural children. I finally know the answer. I can't imagine a more loving father. I can't imagine a natural father doing more for his child than you have for Jessica. 
From step-dad to step-daughter:

I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of you today, how marvelous you were and how much I love you.   

Fate has brought us together.  You were a package deal, you and your mom.  I had only a son at that point; so I knew nothing of what having a daughter meant.  So here we are 8 years later and guess what, I’m still clueless about daughters (and girls in general), but I’m still trying.  All kidding aside, although I missed the first 4 plus years of your life, we’ve shared the last 8 or so.  And I couldn’t be happier.  You’ve been a welcome addition to my life and I am honored to be part of yours.

You have many special qualities, too many to list here, but one in particular I want to mention.  You have a certain swagger that is only you.   A swagger that says “I am Jessica”.  DO NOT ever lose that.  It is what makes you who you are.  And I know in my heart, it will take you and  lead you to great things in your life, a life in which I am very much looking forward to sharing with you. I missed the first four years but  I know, that I won’t be missing any more of those precious years.

Lucky mom, Lucky dad, Lucky kid.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

By Tami Kamin-Meyer

A recent 'Dear Abby' column shared reader's viewpoints about whether it was a better choice to break up with a spouse/significant other on military active duty via email, a 'Dear John' letter, by phone or waiting until the person returned home.

Comments were mixed. One military commander said it was best not to put off the inevitable and that while in combat, the serviceman/woman had a ready-made support group to help them cope with the loss. Another respondent disagreed. He said giving this news long-distance not only puts the soldier in danger, since they're likely to become depressed and possibly unable to focus on the task-at-hand, but puts those around them at risk too, for the same reasons.

As it is said, War is Hell. Neil Sedaka sang, 'Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.' What would you do?

Favorite Marriage Story Of The Month

by Wendy Jaffe

I loved this story!

Seventy-nine year old Italian actress Lollobrigida announced that she was finally marrying her boyfriend of 22 years. If my math is right, her intended is 44. According to Lollobrigida who spoke to the Associate Press in a telephone interview, "We wanted for this to happen sooner, but it just wasn't possible." 

Lollobrigida said she met her husband to be, Javier Rigau y Rafols of Barcelona, Spain, at a party in Monte-Carlo and the two have been dating for 22 years.

The diva, who in Italy is affectionately nicknamed "La Lollo," told Spain's Hola' magazine, which first reported her wedding plans, that "I have always had a weakness for younger men because they are generous and have no complexes."


The Female Brain

By Wendy Jaffe

The author of the new book The Female Brain was interviewed in this month's More magazine. Her premise is that a lot of those differences that we seem to notice about men and women are hardwired in the brain, and in our differing hormones.

Here is what she said to More magazine about our relationships with men after the children pack their suitcases and ipods and head off to college:

"What I found with many clients is that once the kids leave the house, redefining their relationships with their husbands is one of the biggest challenges they face. No one has considered to what degree this might be due to changed brain circuitry, but I suspect there is something going on there.

In one client's case, the calming effects of progesterone and oxytocin [after menopause] weren't there to cool off her anger. She found herself confronting her husband with regularity, venting decades of pent-up rage. She found herself more unhappy than she had ever allowed herself to be, and she blamed him. Clearly she had legitimate complaints about him, but truthfully, he hadn't changed; she was changing. She was being less of a victim, getting angry, and it was causing friction. Since this couple had never learned to resolve their disagreements, she had to take the more drastic step and separate from him for a while. Other women may just need to go out and do something for themselves: get a degree, change to a more satisfying career, take up a new hobby that's just for them....

These clients' stories are very common. After the age of menopause, 65 percent of divorces are initiated by women, not men; the phrase after menopause is the key here. The government statistics don't say that . They say "after age 50" and that's one year before the average age of menopause."

Please read the bold/italicized sentence again. I think it is the key here. Menopause, time, and life changes all conspire to undo relationships. The key is to learn how to resolve inevitable disagreements, BEFORE that calming hormone oxytocin dissipates!

Fairy Tale or Real World? You Decide

By Tami Kamin-Meyer

A humor writer friend of mine emailed me what she called 'The World's Shortest Fairy Tale'. It goes like this:

Once upon a time, a girl asked a guy, "Will you marry me?"
The guy said "No" and the girl went on to live happily ever after and went shopping, drank martinis,
always had a clean house, never had to cook, stayed skinny and was never farted on.
                 The end.

I can definitely see the humor in this little ditty. It started in the very first line when the woman asked the man to marry her! I mean, she had to be crazy, right?

In all seriousness, I found the story both cute and disturbing. Of course relationships are hard work and the 'lucky' lady who got turned down in the fairy tale did not, in theory, have to put in all the hours of communicating, sharing, helping and otherwise supporting the farting man, her would-be husband. But she also missed out on having someone to drink those martinis with, someone to get her an aspirin when she's PMSing and, oh yea, someone to care about who cares about her, too.

But who am I kidding? She's skinny and has never been flatulated on. She's got it made.

Sounds Like A Bad Country Song

By Wendy Jaffe

The news media is buzzing about the divorce of country singer and Dancing With The Stars contestant Sara Evans. You can't blame the media. Thanks to Evan's incredibly detailed court papers, which included allegations of Internet pornography, provocative requests allegedly made by her Republican husband on Craig's List, and verbal abuse, it became a media perfect story. (National Enquirer and People magazine reporters are undoubedly working overtime this week!)  But it is also the kind of story that Evans did not need to make public.

It has been many years since a wife had to prove "fault" in order to obtain a divorce. Evan's only purpose in filing such a detailed complaint was to humiliate her husband. Of course, since the divorce papers are now in the public record, her children will have no trouble pulling up the divorce petition when they are adults. (And of course, all of the press over the case can be pulled up in two seconds via Google.)

Check out this video of a divorce attorney discussing the case on CNN. She does a great job of articulating the harm that these types of sensational allegations cause in divorce cases.

Sara's divorce complaint falls under the category of "Divorce Don'ts."

Marrieds in minority: Is government assistance on the horizon?

By Tami Kamin-Meyer

According the U.S. Census Bureau, my husband and I are in the minority. The results of the American Community Survey, released earlier this month, found that of the nation's 111.1 million households in 2005, 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, were made up of married couples — with and without children. Just five years ago, that same survey reported that marrieds comprised 52 percent of all American households.

Now that I've been declared a member of a minority, I am looking forward to some government assistance. First on my list is mental health coverage. Certainly after 13 years of marriage, which includes two elementary school-age children, two cars, one dog, one goldfish, one house and one husband, my life is far more insane than when I was younger, single and notably wilder.

Now that I've been declared a minority, I expect that any job application I submit will receive extra-special consideration. I mean, for goodness sakes, to survive my background and no, not my upbringing but rather the bringing up of my children, I definitely deserve a break today.

And I certainly won't balk at receiving a monthly government stipend while sitting around watching Jerry Springer or Dr. Phil on the boob tube all day.

Yup, being in the minority sure has its advantages. Please be a dear and pass me the remote and the bon-bons...my shows are on.

Wedded bliss-ters

By Tami Kamin-Meyer

Sometimes, marriage is blissful. It is comforting to know someone else will walk the dog in the morning so I don't have to, reassuring to know I can rely on someone else to balance the checkbook and gratifying to know someone other than me will wash the dishes sometimes.

Sometimes, though, marriage is like blisters. It can be repetitive, annoying and in dire need of lubrication. And I don't mean K-Y Jelly, although that's a thought. Sometimes, marriage can rub you the wrong way and make you yearn for the days when living in a one-bedroom meant feeling like you were so lucky to have all that space for yourself.

There are times when I am convinced that not only is my husband from Venus and I am from Mars, but that our two planets are such polar opposites that if he was the funkiest pair of leopard-spotted clogs that I would normally sell one of my children for, I wouldn't bring them home if they were on the "Take me home, I'm free" rack.

Then there are times when I couldn't imagine life without him. Thankfully, that's most of the time. When I was a child, I thought that if my parents would just buy me life insurance, I would live forever. I thought that that was what life insurance did...ensure you will live forever.

OK...so I didn't quite grasp the nuances of insurance back then, and I understand today that there is no real way to ensure life will be perfect, either. But I do understand that by comprising with, listening to and supporting my husband, and getting the same in return, we are ensuring that during our years together, we are forging a happy and nurturing life for ourselves, our children, families and friends.

And besides, I already have a pair of leopard-spotted clogs, so both my children and husband are safe.

Prenuptial Agreements Are The Topic on TODAY

By Wendy Jaffe

The topic on the Today show this morning was prenuptial agreements. Meredith Viera (I can get over Katie leaving, but if Matt leaves that is it!) quizzed high profile divorce lawyer Raoul Felder and regular Today show therapist Dr. Gail Saltz about the increasing number of engaged couples who are entering into prenuptial agreements before the wedding. They cited statistics from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers to demonstrate that the number of couples entering into prenuptial agreements is increasing.

I had interviewed Mr. Felder for my book and took a look back at what he had to say: "Aside from the obvious-making sure there is a good mutual respect in place-have a good pre-nuptial agreement. Many wars have been caused by miscalculation of entitlements and ambitions. A pre-nuptial agreement prevents this." (DLGTSM, p.208)

Although many people tend to view pre-nups as unromantic, their major upside should not be overlooked: they force couples to discuss how they are going to deal with money before they take that life changing walk down the aisle.

Plus, as Mr. Felder pointed out this morning on Today: Divorces aren't romantic either.