Some Blogging Positive Reinforcement

gottmanbook1 John Gottman, in his wonderful book, “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail…And How You Can Make Yours Last” (1994) discusses the criteria for a stable marriage:

“…it all comes down to a simple mathematical formula:…you must have at least five times as many positive as negative moments together if your marriage is to be stable.” 

So, you might ask, what’s a single mom like me doing reading a research-based marriage book?

Yeah, well, about that.

It has nothing to do with wanting to be married or in a relationship, though I do love Gottman’s work and the way he writes about it. I actually stumbled across Gottman’s work through my own research and study on student behavioral success and creating positive learning environments for all children.  Creating a positive learning environment is not unlike marriage in some ways. If a relationship is to be perceived as positive or stable, there must be 5 times as many positive interactions as negative ones. This applies to relationships between parents and children or colleagues.

So, you might ask, what’s that got to do with blogging?  

Well, yeah, about that.

To be honest, blogging hasn’t always been a positive experience for me.  If you are a blogger you know that it feels great when people comment on your posts, when people notice, etc.  This creates a community of sorts where people connect, comment, share and exchange pieces of their lives.  There is a positive exchange and even if you don’t always get positive comments, hopefully, when things are going well (your blog is getting traffic and the traffic is commenting) you, as the blogger experience at least 5 to 1 positives for every negative.

That’s the positive part of blogging.

If, however, you are not self-employed, or have a flexible schedule like a stay-at-home parent or an entrepreneur, or a job that allows you to blog as part of your daily tasks, or, if like me, you just simply don’t know what the he** (can I say that here?) you are doing, then you might begin to experience some negativity associated with blogging.

If you wish to blog daily, but can’t, tally one negative for the frustration of wanting to write but not having time to do it well.j0433180

If you can’t write daily, tally another negative for the disappointment in seeing your blog stats decline.  Blogging really is an “if you write it, they will come” endeavor. 

If you can’t write daily and your blog stats dwindle, it means you are not getting traffic to your site and you are less likely to get comments or feedback on your blog.  Tally another negative or two depending on how much this bothers you.

If you already don’t have enough time to write daily, you likely don’t have the daily time (except maybe on weekends or vacations) to do the required research and study to find out how to get your blog SEO or to drive traffic to your blog, develop your personal brand or simply get over to other blogs you love so you can keep up on what’s happening in their lives, and thereby comment, create and sustain a blog community for yourself.  Tally, at least three negatives for that.

The positive?  Hopefully you are writing for your own purposes and that is enough.  If so, tally more positives for you than negatives.  If not,  then you’ve just ended up in an unstable blog relationship which might not last if you can’t turn that around for your bloggy self.

Maybe intervention is necessary.

For me, this intervention occurred, in part, when Amber over at Making The Moments Count awarded me the Sunshine Award.  I wrote briefly about it in my post titled Awards, Recognition, Reality & Paying It Forward.

That equated to a number of tallies on the positive side of blogging for me. It was not enough to turn around my faltering blogging relationship but it at least kept me from divorcing my blog…at least for now. 

You see, I do write for my own purposes, but somewhere along the line things changed and it became more than just about me.  It became about what I like to refer to as “The Community”.  It is about the friendships.  It is about the challenges we all encounter and share in life.  It is about the camaraderie, the laughter, the tears, the connections. It became about connecting with the real people behind the print.

The biggest negative for me is that I’ve missed keeping in touch with those other really excellent writers out there who share their stories, their perspectives, their knowledge and their lives through their blogs.  I’ve missed what I gain from reading them.

So, you might ask, where am I going with this?

Yeah, well, about that, too.  Like a wayward toddler in the toy store this post had a mind of its own.  I’m working hard to put it back in the stroller, so to speak, but I’m failing, so I’ll get to the point.

sunshineblogaward1 I am going to pay it forward to 10 other bloggers who bring sunshine to my life, but again time constrains me so I’m going to do it in parts.  What makes the bloggers I’m recognizing today so sunny for me is that they, like me, are not professional bloggers or writers.  They struggle with the time demands of a job (outside writing) that takes up most of their day then they come home to the second shift, often on their own without the benefit of a partner. In fact, they don’t even write daily some of them.  That worked in their favor here and that NEVER happens in the blogosphere. 

So, here we go with the first three of ten to get the Sunshine Award from me. 

Drum roll, please.

The first of these blogs I stumbled across months ago.  The author has a graduate degree in Communication, the same area of study I did my undergrad work in.  I’m fascinated by his approach to planned change and how he’s implemented the strategies in his own personal life to not only change his life but deliberately plan and improve his entire existence.  Give it up for jassnight at The Critical Path. Better yet, go visit him!

The second of these blogs, I stumbled across a while back during my internet excursions. I was encouraged by the perspectives of a dad, who blogs and can cook and lives to tell about it.  This must mean his cooking is tolerable; a quality I definitely admire in a man almost as much as I appreciate a man’s ability to communicate thoughtfully.  He says he’s not first date material, but I’m thinking he’s got that wrong, after all, he has a day job and it isn’t blogging.  Give it up for Travis over at A Culminating Life.

The third daddy blogger, gets the sunshine award for keeping it real and sharing the good, the bad, and the irritating post-divorce single parenting realities.  He works in one of the most stressful professions I could imagine in probably one of the most stressful locations in the country.  I applaud him for consistently trying to be the best dad he can be and for sharing his joys and his disappointments so candidly.  If you haven’t done so already, I’d encourage you to visit Big City Dad.  I think you’ll enjoy it.

So there you have it.  Today’s top three.  I hope they got some positive reinforcement from this award and will now share this award with ten other bloggers who bring them sunshine (however, they choose to define it).  It’s going to be very fun reconnecting and visiting all their great links…at Spring Break! 

Sex or Making Love? Who Is Confused?

947907_76218223 Oh, my!  ‘Tis the snuggle season that’s for sure and several of my bloggy friends out there are bringing up the topic on everyone’s mind (or, at least, theirs)…sex. But is it really sex that is on people’s minds or is it romance, is it relationship, is it something else altogether? This post is a response to several other posts posted in the blogosphere earlier this week as well as my own personal convoluted thought path travelled in response to these various posts. 

A Tale of 4 Blog Posts

The first post found here at Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy, talks about the confusion that can arise between the terms “sex” and “lovemaking”. Go there read it and return more informed about some of the thinking that gave rise (no pun intended) to my own post (also no pun intended) here.  In a nutshell she poses a great many good questions on the topic with the ultimate being what is the difference between love-making and sex.

Add to that, this new blog friend  at To Be Determined who is traveling down the post-divorce single path with me, though at a much earlier stage in her life. Like me, she’s often wished there were some sort of dating rulebook.  Unlike me she still has her 30’s ahead of her and because of this her dating options are much greater than are mine though, admittedly, I am more fortunate in this regard than many. She also, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have the added complexity of trying to be a great mommy and trying to carve out time with another adult even if that time is merely coffee or a movie. Even so, my new friend at To Be Determined has dealt with the difficult issues and challenges divorce creates and I do wish I’d had her courage to blog more seriously and more intelligently about my own journey.  Kudos in a big way to her for doing that!

The third post, and one that rather struck a bit of a nerve with me is the one that jassnight at The Critical Path wrote today.  He talks about the nature of sex with older men, from the man’s perspective and he uses the really nice metaphor of running in the Master’s Division when competing in a marathon. He deals with how sex is viewed by men and how that view changes as men age.

And then, after all these ideas were simmering on the back burner of my mind, and as I was trying to find a quick easy recipe for those red potatoes I have in the fridge to go with the roast I’m attempting to destroy in the slow cooker (because, yes, once again, I am here with you and not watching the stove like I should be) I came across this most depressing thing. Of course, all the mom’s there are like, what, 35 and under, if that, but never mind.  This last site only served to make me ask myself these questions:

  • What defines hot?
  • Who’s deciding?
  • Do I qualify?
  • Do I care?

I won’t be answering those particular questions here in depth, other than to say: 

  • I have no clue what men think is hot. What I’ve heard from my male friends is all over the board.  This confuses me.
  • I don’t know who’s deciding.  I think I am.  I think I’m more interested in just being comfortable with me in my own skin.
  • I don’t know if I qualify as hot.  It always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable to hear those words in reference to me.  (I’m sure if I was totally in love with someone and he were saying that about me I’d have no problem, at least, I hope not!)
  • Yeah, sadly, if I were to be honest, I think I do.  I also think I care less and less with each passing day, not in a give up sort of way, but because I’m finding so much more of value to care about. 

Things Are Different Over Here

j0400322 It is tough being female, over 40 and single in our youth oriented culture, even if you look great. If you look good, or average or worse than average (however you would define that and most women are much harder on themselves than they ought to be) things get tougher, that is, if male companionship of a physical nature matters to them.  It is tougher being female, over 40, single and wanting to experience a fantastic relationship someday before you die…or before you check in at the retirement home.  There’s just so much of life to share with another person and having another adult around, if the relationship is healthy,it is energizing and motivating.  Two people in a good relationship with each other can provide strength, encouragement, affection, intimacy.  They can spot each other when one needs a break or is facing stresses. They can encourage each other to be better than either of them could be alone. They can challenge each other toward optimum growth in all areas of life. They can be there to stave off loneliness and support each other during the rough spots of life.  They can build something together that is bigger than the both of them.  Something that connects to the people and world around them and which makes a positive difference to all. This experience, while rare, is still a good thing.  But how does it happen?  For the woman suddenly single in her mid-40’s, the struggle with self-esteem issues that naturally accompany divorce can be exacerbated by the fact that if her 40’s are nearly over her opportunities for love seem to be diminishing and the rumor is, well, 50 is a big number. Besides, when a man of the same age can effectively court, woo, seduce or whatever a woman half his age and many of them do, how’s she to feel about what she’s got to bring to the table?  Likely she’s got kids, responsibilities, a house payment, yard work, laundry and a job.   Sadly in our culture the chipped nails due to weeding and the dry, cracked dishwasher hands just don’t shout “Hottie!” to most passersby. Younger women often come with half this amount of “baggage” and much tighter firmer (or, at least smaller) bottoms too boot. 

If You Ain’t Hot, What Have You Got?

j0436490 In our youth oriented culture, we worship the exterior. This leads us to assess each other on the external factors in our lives.  We consider the quality of the cars we drive, the addresses of our homes, how neatly manicured the lawns are and whether or not the person has good job.  Others even make assessments based on what kind of job the person has. While we are greatly privileged with many choices in this country and the ability to chose possessions that we like and which reflect our perceptions of ourselves, does this mean that in every case the vehicle reflects the person?  Does this mean in every case that the job reflects the woman or man?  Does this mean that I am somehow inadequate, because my yard is not perfectly edged and my walkway needs repair? Am I my job?  Am I my wardrobe?

Let’s take this one step further, and address physical beauty.  What is beautiful?  What is sexy?  What is hot?  It’s a pretty common understanding that women’s standards of beauty are different than men’s.  This is where I believe the confusion, if there is confusion, arises.  Women and men see this topic differently and our image oriented society with the help of airbrushed and digitized perfect bodies doesn’t help do anything except further the notion that in order to have a great relationship you’ve got to look great first.

Does physical beauty impact the quality of the sexual relationship?  If so, how and in what ways? 

j0444284 I mean, really.  Let’s think about that logic.  If physical beauty were the pre-requisite for an incredibly mind-blowing sexual experience then how come people don’t just jump into the sack on this basis alone.  (Well, okay, maybe some do, but for the rest of us?) On the other hand, being attracted to someone is important too because there is that thing we like to refer to as “chemistry”. It doesn’t make sense.  Just look around.  We see couples every day in our daily pass through this life that are not extraordinarily good looking but who enjoy a good connection with a partner.

Or is the question more like what exactly determines attractiveness? And doesn’t that question have as many individual answers as people asking it?

Might I suggest, that physical beauty is a nice thing but, it is not the most important thing.

In the end, I think it boils down to what the individual is seeking in terms of relationship with another.  I think those individual priorities determine the level of attraction to another person and the quality of any sexual encounter if a mutual interest were to exist.

So, to go back to my To Be Determined friend’s questions as to where is the Dating Rule Book, I have to respond with there isn’t one because the dating situation is as specific as the two different individuals involved. There might be some broad brush rules of thumb but beyond that it really is up to the individuals to chart their own course and navigate their own way.

As for jassnight’s assessments at The Critical Path of men and what they hope for and expect as they age, I can only hope some of that is true. But, truth be told, I think what people look for, what people consider important and what people value is as individual as the individual’s themselves.  The difficulty is more a matter of coming up with a good fit between two people.

j0444035Regarding my friend, BLW’s post, about Sex vs. Lovemaking the same holds true.  I know she is not confused.  I know she is just posing the questions to begin dialogue.  Many, though, do seem to be confused. I don’t think any of us really are confused.  I think we all know the difference.  Sometimes we let good sex convince us there is more to the relationship than really exists.  Sometimes the lack of instantaneously mind blowing sex dissuades us from pursuing what might turn out to be a very loving, nurturing and lasting relationship. 

We all know when we’ve just “had sex”.  Even when it is “mind-blowing” sex, it is still “just sex” and we know it. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. When we make love there’s an added ingredient or two or three, that can’t be orchestrated as the result of putting two good-looking people in a room and telling them to have at it.  It isn’t any of it based on what either partner is individually, but rather, on what the two of them are together, what they share and what they’ve created between them, personally, privately, intimately. When they make love the core of their union as people is expressed physically.  This doesn’t happen overnight. 

This doesn’t happen instantaneously.

It doesn’t happen with a revolving door of partners, at least, not from what most people who’ve told me they’ve had a revolving door of partners say.

It doesn’t happen outside the context of something important and meaningful and loving.

It takes time to build something of value and anything of value costs something in terms of time, dedication, commitment, devotion and caring.

Making love happens in the context of a loving, healthy, relationship where trust and commitment are key ingredients.

The rest of it is just great sex.

Where’s the confusion?