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Decision review: Marrying W-

W- and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary last Sunday. It’s been a fantastic year! Time to review just how fantastic it was, and how we can make next year even better.

Reasons for getting married (instead of continuing to cohabit):

  • [X] Build a stronger foundation for long-term plans (including paperwork): Yup, really helps
  • [X] Reduce social friction from uncertain relationships: Yup, worth it
  • [X] Bring families together: More grown-up relationships, too

Our day-to-day lives are much like they were before the wedding, but being married has subtly changed things. Long-term planning is easier when you’ve got the commitments and paperwork in place.

It’s great being able to use familiar words that fit into social structures. I like being able to namedrop my husband, and I grin when W- tells a salesperson that he has to discuss things with his wife. J- occasionally refers to me as her stepmom when she’s talking to her friends or writing on her blog. It still takes some getting used to, but it’s handier than saying “my dad’s… umm… girlfriend? partner?” in situations when referring to people by name doesn’t give enough context.

Clear relationships also make it easier to relate to family. I get along better with W-’s family now, I think. There’s been a shift in how I relate to my family, too – we’re more grown-up and less stressed.

Even though more people are going through life without marrying, it still seems that getting married is acknowledged as one of those growing-up milestones. The simple wedding ring I wear shifts small-talk conversations. People more frequently talk to me about kids than before. Thanks to being part of W- and J-’s lives, I can relate to the anecdotes people tell of family and teenagers.

Life is great.

Next year

Next year promises to be exciting. We’ve developed great household routines like bulk-cooking, we’ve been tweaking our space for better flow and organization, and we’ve been improving our communication practices for an even stronger relationship. With a solid foundation in place, we can step up our game. Looking forward to it!

2011-10-02 Sun 15:20

Book: Choose to be happily married: How everyday decisions can lead to lasting love

Bonnie Jacobson, PhD., with Alexia Paul
2010 Adams Media, Avon, Massachusetts
ISBN 13: 978-1-60550-625-8

The book consists of short chapters that explore common conflicts and positive approaches in committed relationships. Each chapter includes one or two case studies, ways to recognize the conflict, and tips for resolving the conflict. This book is a good read for couples who are beginning to find themselves ensnared in repeating conflict patterns because they can identify and get tips for their situation. Couples who are starting out may also find it useful as a way to recognize potential conflicts before they become established.

  • Flexibility

    Responsive Reactive
    Good judgment Critical judgment
    Expressing your true self Conforming to a role
    Autonomy Isolation
    Surrender Submission
    Establishing space Neglect
    Patience Passivity
    Benign boundaries Emotional tyranny
    Awareness of limits Emotional recklessness
    Embracing change Preserving the status quo
  • Communication

    Taking responsibility Blame
    Needs Wants
    Detach Withdraw
    Speaking up Silence
    Giving the benefit of the doubt Making assumptions
    Intimate listening Hearing
    Influence Control
    Constructive criticism Destructive criticism
  • Personal power

    Deciding Craving
    Fighting fair Fighting unfair
    Support Protection
    Forgiving Forgetting
    Good selfish Bad selfish
    Family loyalty Self-interest
    Joy Happiness

Reflecting on relationships

For my 25th year, I focused on building a wonderfully loving relationship with W-. We developed shared hobbies (cooking, photography), built shared experiences, and made home even smoother and more comfortable. We’re the sappiest, happiest, and luckiest couple I know, and I think we’re off to a great start. Over the next year, I hope to keep making this part of my life even more wonderful. This part of life doesn’t need radical improvements. Things are amazing already! Constant, gradual improvements will keep us growing.

I haven’t neglected my other relationships. I’ve come to look forward to weekly chats with my mom, and I love it when my dad drops in too. I occasionally hear from my other friends in the Philippines and in Canada. I’m missing something, though, and I’d like to focus on that for my 26th year.

I want the closeness of my childhood, when my sisters and I would make up games with each other, when I could make my mom melt and my dad laugh. I want to bring to that the awesomeness of being grown-up, of sharing different perspectives on the wonderful thing that’s life. I’m curious about the sisterhood in greeting cards and movies. I’m curious about how other people relate to their parents.

I want the closeness of my barkada, of a richly interlinked group of friends who are friends with each other, the kind of friends you share experiences with, grow up through life with, have ridiculously impenetrable in-jokes with. The people you laugh with until your sides split and your cheeks hurt, the people you cry with until someone says something that flips the situation around and you’re all on top of the world again. I want to develop new friendships, too, and bring people together for shared experiences. I’m curious about how other people keep in touch with friends over a distance or build friendships after university, when people no longer have the luxury of lots of time spent together while going through huge changes.

So that’s what I’ll explore for my 26th year. =) For my birthday, then, I’d love to hear stories and tips. Do you have great relationships with your family or your friends, particularly over a distance? Tell me what that’s like! What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? How did you get started? How do you keep growing?

Raising life by the power of two

When two people share an incredible experience, that experience is not
multiplied by two, but rather raised by the power of two. It more than
doubles – it’s squared! A 10 doesn’t become 20 – it becomes 100, or
even more. Why?

Because shared experiences become stories that are told over and over
again.

On page 79 of “Work the Pond” (Darcy Rezac) is a powerful example of
how to build an incredible experience and get a story told not ten
times, but a thousand times. The Navy invited opinion leaders to
understand what the Navy does and to tell the Navy’s story. They put
together a fantastic experience involving landing aboard and taking
off from an aircraft carrier and hanging out of top-gun pilots. But
they didn’t just arrange this spectacle for the opinion leaders – they
were smart enough to include the spouses as well. This meant that
instead of the experience becoming, “Oh, no, not the carrier story
again!”, it became a treasured story to be told over and over again.

I remember a story my parents told me about giving people incredible
experiences. My parents understood that if you’re going to give
someone an Experience with a capital E, that experience would be
magnified even more if they had someone to share it with. If they were
the only ones to, say, go on a helicopter flight, the stories would
wear thin or be almost unbelievable. If they had one friend along,
though, the stories would go on and on, growing more exciting with
each memory.

I’ve seen that among friends, too. Driving around town with the
Katz brothers was *amazing*. They completed each others’ sentences,
refreshed each others’ memory, built up each other’s energy. Reliving
memories with my barkada (close group of friends) brings back the fun
and the laughter. (Peppy, remember all the ice cream we had after I
worked on your computer?)

I really appreciate being able to share all these experiences with
people. I think that’s one of the coolest things about having long
relationships, and I’m looking forward to enjoying that even more with
my family and my friends.

Anyway. If you want to make something really special for someone, make
it possible for them to share the experiences and the stories with
at least one other person. =) “Remember when…” are such powerful words!

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Book: Lifeskills: 8 Simple Ways to Build Stronger Relationships, Communicate More Clearly, Improve Your Health

The book goes into interesting detail about the neurological changes
that happen when people get lots of tender loving care. =) Quite
interesting reading.

My parents raised me with lots of affection and positive thoughts.
Perhaps that’s also the reason why people find me calm during many
stressful situations, and I recover from disappointments quickly.
Here’s the technical explanation:

  • A loving action triggers serotonin production in the hippocampus.
  • Serotonin stimulates a specific type of receptor on other hippocampal cells.
  • Receptor activation results in the formation of cyclic-AMP and PKA,
    which prompts the production of receptors for cortisol (stress hormone).
  • Extra cortisol receptors migrate to the surface of the hippocampus.

During times of stress, the adrenal gland produces cortisol, which
causes adrenaline effects to last longer, mobilizes fat for energy,
and shuts down the immune system. However, the additional cortisol
receptors tell the hypothalamus to calm the fight-or-flight response.
While the stressful stimulus is there, this signal is overridden.
However, when the stressor is removed, the extra cortisol receptors
make it easier for someone to calm down.

More notes later. In the meantime, thanks, Mama and Papa!

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On priorities ()

Here’s the official word from my mom.

Harvey Chua [email protected] writes:

Dearest Sacha,

You will have plenty of time for a love life later on. For now, concentrate on your studies. But then, it’s your choice. I can’t be watching you all the time, so you would have to watch yourself and decide which or who(m) are your priorities. Just remember that there are rewards, repercussions or complications – depending on what actions or decisions you make. Judge well what is good for you.

Love you always,
Mom

P.S. See, you do have a love life. We all love you. I more than and
ahead of anybody and everybody else.

So, here are my priorities as of 20030113, not necessarily in order:

  • Get a PhD. The training will help me do research, and I’ll be able to pick up useful teaching techniques along the way.
  • Teach computer science. I really, really like computer science, and I want to help other people realize how fun and helpful it is.
  • Help people grow and reach their potential. (That includes helping myself grow. =) ) Still have to figure out how to help people do that.

I’m not completely devoted to this plan, and by that I mean that I understand that I am not absolutely essential to the progress and development of computer science. Still, I really like the field, and as one of those rare girls who actually enjoy computer science, I feel I have an opportunity to make a big difference. =)

I don’t think I want to have to deal with the possible complications of “being in luuuuuurv” until I’ve earned my PhD and have established a name for myself. So that pretty much rules out formal, long-term, conventional romantic relationships (eeeeew! ) for a long time. I suppose that should postpone all dilemmas until after I finish graduate school, by which time I should have a better understanding of all of this.

This does not, however, prevent me from appreciating the friends I have. I know that really good friendships help me grow as a person and achieve my dreams, and indeed the warmth and support I receive from my family and friends is something I treasure.

And it really is rather nice to interact with people. I think I have recently figured out how to get around my occasional
spells of antisocial-ness. It seems to be simply a matter of practice and will, and I must give credit to some friends who don’t know that they helped me figure it out.

There is something to be said about love and growth, if my Philosophy and Theology classes have any truth to them. I also have to watch out – might become _too_ rational or need too much control over my life. ;) Like for example, I have a bit of a hang-up regarding the word “love”, since it can mean quite different things to people, and I’m a little afraid of becoming incontinent as defined by Aristotle. (See? I get to use Philo after all.) Distraction is doubleplus ungood, but so is neurosis.

I love computer science not just because of the abstract algorithms and programs, but more because of the people I get to meet and help and learn from. So I’m into this whole social thing, but I’m just taking things a little at a time. Kinda like the spiral model of software development. ;)

I’m sure we’ll all manage to figure something out. =) So basically, people know my plans. If you think that you can help me become a better person and that I can help you become a better person, then we’ll see how things work out.

This is published for future reference, since it’s nice to have more information. =)