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The Secret “=Formula” for a Happy Relationship

If your marriage is anything like mine, you've done all kinds of things to nurture the relationship, you prioritize date night, you schedule a session with a therapist when necessary, and you've read The Five Love Languages. Maybe you've made a date of Happy Hour and a trip to Fascinations. I recommend all of these tactics. But there's another strategy I endorse, one that I've never read in any book or on any website. It's one my husband and I started using before we had kids, and before we were even engaged.


It's free. It's accessible.

It's the spreadsheet.

When I was 29, I moved across the country with everything I could fit in my Jetta and a very tenuous job offer. Within two weeks, the job fell through. During those same two weeks, I met Dan, who would later become my husband.

For the first time in my life, I was in love, but I couldn't take a job in another city because that would mean leaving Dan. Meanwhile, I was tearing through my savings like a toddler on a squeezie pouch bender. So, I did what any professional adult would do.

I asked my parents for money.

Dan was horrified, (rightfully so) and offered another solution – a spreadsheet. Somehow, I'd made it through college and graduate school without understanding how to use Excel. First, he showed me how to create columns and rows and enter formulas. Next, I had to fill in all the blanks. Being Jewish, this is the closest I'll ever get to Confession.

When we went over income, I had to explain I hadn't been working on days I'd been invited skiing, Saturdays, Sundays, or on short notice. When we reviewed my recent expenditures, I revealed my compulsion to buy an adorable, new pink hat (it was on super sale), why I deserved the lattes I bought on the way to work (I did work, sometimes), and why I needed Nordic race skis – in case I entered a cross-country ski race. Nearly a decade later, I still haven't done a ski race.

Sharing everything about my finances – including my childish belief that my parents would always be there to bail me out – made me feel extremely vulnerable. It also created an opportunity for Dan to understand me better and to help me get my act together. Ultimately, I gained control of my financial life and saved twelve thousand dollars in one year – a quarter of my income – toward the down payment on the house we bought just before our wedding.

When we moved in together, we merged our finances. Quickly, we realized we had a major problem. I earned less and spent more. My husband, on the other hand, earns more and spends less. While money is a loaded topic for many couples, our particular dynamic escalated the tension acutely.

Our love nest was awash in fear: my fear of feeling guilty about spending money or feeling deprived, and his fear that I'd spend our entire mortgage on cute hats and espresso drinks.

I wondered why my parents never seemed to fight about money. Married for over forty years, I've heard them argue about nearly everything else. The graph below demonstrates my theory that couples who fall on the green line (such as my parents) have fewer tensions around money than couples who fall on the red line (like Dan and me). As shown, my father is the higher earning, higher spending partner, while my mother earns less and spends less.

I worried Dan and I were destined to argue about money forever, but the spreadsheet saved the day, once again.

On the first Sunday of every month, we diligently sat down with our spreadsheet to map out our budget, our projected earnings, fixed expenses, and variable expenses. For years, we used this system to ensure that we were on the same page about our finances, that we were spending our money intentionally, and that neither of us felt anxious or trapped. Meanwhile, when we had concerns, we had a chance to discuss them.

Everything was great… until we needed a new spreadsheet. Five years and two kids later, on a bright Sunday morning, we were expecting friends for brunch. While I raced to prep food, clear piles of paper, and return rogue dolls to the toy basket, Dan scrolled through Twitter with his feet up on the couch. I paused my cleaning frenzy intermittently to give him the stink eye and a task.

As the potatoes browned and the frittata baked, our mutual resentment grew. I was sick of watching him relax when the trash needed to go out. He was tired of my demands. Finally, he took the kids for a walk, leaving me alone with breakfast and my rage.

I texted my sister.

“IS IT NORMAL TO WANT TO MURDER TO YOUR HUSBAND WHEN YOU'RE HAVING COMPANY??"

Thankfully, she clearly saw what I couldn't; that my husband and I lacked a shared set of expectations. Once our friends left, the kids were napping, and our tempers had cooled, I broached the topic. My husband acknowledged my demands felt never-ending. I explained I felt he wasn't pulling his weight.

Again, a spreadsheet saved the day. Within minutes of our conversation, my husband emailed me a Google Spreadsheet titled “Guest Cleanup Tasks." It lists every task we need to do before hosting company, organized by room. Over a year later, we pull it up every time we host a gathering.

I love that we have a common understanding of what needs to be done and that Dan now takes an active part in completing some of those tasks. He much prefers consulting the list to find a task, to being bossed around by me. This simple spreadsheet has taken most of the stress out of entertaining.

Clearly, I am a huge fan of spreadsheets in my marriage. But it's not really about the spreadsheet. A spreadsheet is just a vehicle through which to gain insight into your own values and the values of your partner. A spreadsheet is a means of creating dialogue – and ultimately, understanding – one of the cornerstones of a loving relationship.

As the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Understanding is love's other name. If you don't understand, you can't love." I would venture to add, “If you haven't done a ski race, don't buy the fancy skis."

Want to add some of this magic to your relationship?

View and edit “Guest Clean-up tasks via Google Docs


Edit or view “Money Factor" Graph in Canva

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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