16 things we *don’t* do in order to stay happily married

11. We don’t neglect each other’s love languages.

16 things we *don’t* do in order to stay happily married

As of yesterday, I’ve been married to my husband, Havarti (my sweetheart’s cheesy nickname. Ba-dum-pum.) for 16 years. Happily married. Really happily married.

I don’t want to seem too self-righteous here, but since marriage can be tricky and marital woes are pretty common, I thought it might be helpful to share what a happy marriage looks like from the inside. Or more accurately, what it doesn’t look like.

I’ve witnessed a lot of people’s relationships over the years and I’ve noticed some things that can cause or exacerbate problems in a marriage that Havarti and I just don’t do. Maybe that’s why we’re still happily hitched after 16 years? Maybe? It’s worth a shot.


1. We don’t place blame.

The cleanliness of the house, the behavior of the kids, the status of our finances—it’s easy to finger-point when certain aspects of life get frustrating (which they inevitably do.) But we’re partners, which means we work through these things together. Blame just builds rifts—it doesn’t solve problems.

2. We don’t play mind games.

We don’t hold back when we need to say something and we’re careful to say exactly what we mean. We don’t set up verbal traps for one another or freeze one another out. I’ve watched couples over the years play really bizarre mind games with one another and it looks absolutely exhausting. Way too much work. Say what you mean and try to say it with kindness. Simple.

3. We don’t read into things.

Since we say what we mean, we never need to wonder if the other is secretly harboring anger or upset. This took a little figuring out early in our marriage, as Havarti had known women who did just that. Having open, clear communication removes a lot of angst. If we aren’t sure what the other is thinking or feeling, we ask. We don’t assume anything.

4. We don’t hold grudges.

Perhaps this is just our personalities, but neither of us are grudge-holders. If we get irritated, we express it, talk it out and let it go. Grudges are unproductive.

5. We don’t complain about each other to other people.

Ranting about your spouse’s faults to your friends is never good for a marriage. Maybe a friend can help provide a fresh perspective on a specific challenge you’re facing, but that can be discussed without publicly flogging your partner.

6. We don’t talk about everything.

Even though we’re very open and talk about most things, we don’t tell each other every single thing we’re thinking all the time. I’m not talking about hiding or holding back important thoughts or feelings—it’s discernment. I don’t tell Havarti things that I think would worry him unnecessarily or that I know he honestly has no interest in. I’m sure he has things he doesn’t talk to me about for similar reasons.

We’ve been married long enough to know the things we need to talk about, the things we like talking about and the things that we prefer to talk to other people about (or not at all.) It’s also good to keep some things 100% private. Havarti has a journal I’ll never, ever read, and I think that’s awesome. It’s healthy to keep some things between you and yourself.

7. We don’t do jealousy.

Havarti has a thing for Parminder Nagra. Not like an obsession—no posters hanging on the wall or anything like that—just an admiration of her beauty. And he knows that James McAvoy and Michael Vartan make my lil’ heart go pitter-patter. Silly celebrity crushes.

But even in real life, Havarti can say that he thinks someone is attractive without it bothering me, and vice versa. If he talks to an old friend who happens to be female, I don’t get jealous. We know each other’s character and trust our relationship. Jealousy is insecurity—pure and simple.

8. We don’t expect each other to fill all of our needs.

We definitely fill a lot of each other’s needs, but not every single one. Being someone’s everything sounds like a nice love song, but it’s much too high a standard to try to live up to. Sometimes we need time with good friends or other family members. Sometimes we need to be alone to meet our own needs. All good. All healthy.

9. We don’t let life and kids trump our marriage.

At least we try not to.

This can be a tough one. Especially when the kids are little. An older gentleman once told me that the hardest part of his 40-year marriage was when the kids were toddler/preschool age. Naturally, marriage takes on a different dynamic during certain periods of parenthood or stages of life, but we try to always keep our marriage at the forefront.

Sometimes that might mean just touching base to lament how little time we’ve had together. But making the connection and expressing our solidarity says “We’re still in this together.”

10. We don’t underemphasize—or overemphasize—the importance of physical intimacy.

I’ll just leave that one right there. ?

11. We don’t neglect each other’s love languages.

The “love languages” thing sounded a bit fruity to me at first, but it’s actually really helpful. My strongest love language is ‘Acts of Service’ and Havarti’s is ‘Physical Touch.’ It’s valuable for me to know that giving him a back rub is as important and meaningful to him as his cleaning the house is for me. Knowing what one another needs means we can put our energies into the expressions of love that will have the most impact.

12. We don’t take each other for granted.

I genuinely appreciate Havarti’s strengths as a partner and a father. I recognize the stress on his shoulders to be the primary breadwinner and I am grateful for all of the things he does around the house. (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve mopped the floor in 16 years because he always does it.)

And Havarti recognizes and honors the juggling/balancing act I go through each day, educating the kids, working at home, trying to keep the house from falling apart. We know that we both work hard and we have a good thing going, and we are sure to thank one another for it.

13. We don’t dwell on one another’s faults.

We fully recognize that we both aren’t perfect—we just don’t focus on those imperfections. Some faults we view as adorable quirks. Others we just overlook because the good far outweighs the bad.

14. We don’t fight.

No, really, we don’t. We might argue a bit, bicker sometimes, disagree on things, but we’ve never had what I would classify as a fight. We don’t yell at each other, call one another names, storm out of the room, nothing like that. Again, that may largely be a product of our personalities, but I can’t imagine ever fighting the way I’ve seen/heard other couples fight. If it ever got to that point for us, it would mean something was really wrong.

15. We don’t take ourselves—or each other—too seriously.

Maybe we also don’t fight because one of us usually ends up laughing before we get too heated. We nurture a lot of silliness in our marriage. We have lines from movies that make us giggle, impressions we do of friends and family members (all in good fun, I promise), goofy faces, gentle teasing—we have a lot of fun together. Life is too short not to enjoy it.

16. We don’t think marriage should be hard and we don’t entertain the idea of it not working out.

That’s really two things, but they’re related. It’s not always 100% easy, but overall, marriage should be a nurturing, mutually beneficial thing. If it ever does get too hard for too long, or if it feels like the health and happiness of our marriage is in jeopardy, we’ll get help.

We haven’t needed counseling yet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we never will. Who knows what challenges lie ahead. But we’ll do whatever we need to do to face those challenges together. That’s what marriage is about.

We’re not perfect, so neither is our relationship, but it is pretty darned awesome. We’re both looking forward to another sixteen years and hopefully many more.

This article was originally published on Motherhood and More.

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I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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