When relationships are f-ing hard…keep loving.

I am difficult to love. I know that. And I’m pretty impossible to live with. Trust me, I recognize that too. I’m stubborn, have high expectations, and I can be a smart ass. Luckily for me, I fell in love with someone with the exact same qualities. Clearly everything goes smoothly in our house on a daily basis. I’ve never found myself saying, “Do you even know what a toilet bowl brush looks like?” And I’ve certainly never heard things like, “We really need to fire the maid, she’s not good at the whole laundry thing.” Add in that equation my sensitivity and his indecision and welcome to a typical night at our house. We signed up for this?

I’m going to say that thing that people don’t like to face: relationships are f-ing hard. It’s the truth. They are not the fairy tales you see in every romantic comedy on the Hallmark Channel. My life hostage and I are entering what I’m fondly referring to as the terrible twos. Parents you know exactly what I’m talking about and for all the non-parents out there, talk to your mom and dad, maybe bring baked goods.

In the beginning of any relationship, everyone wears rose colored glasses. Talking until you shut a bar down to learn all the ins and outs of one’s personality. Telling yourself one more kiss, until one more becomes 3 a.m. Anticipating text messages and phone calls with butterflies in your stomach. It’s passionate, it’s adorable, and it’s all so exciting.

Then you begin to move past the honeymoon stage. Maybe you move in together. Now you have all the daily responsibilities of life and you’re sharing new responsibilities with someone. You’re still learning their personality but in different ways. The passion and excitement are still there but they have to be balanced with bills, DIY projects, juggling schedules, and the age old question, what are we going to do for dinner?

It seems like lately we can’t make a decision without an act of Congress. We talk it to death. And then we probably get into at least one disagreement on it, likely two or three as we usually circle back around a few times before we fully beat the dead horse. And how do those disagreements end? With each of us in self imposed time out. I told you, terrible twos.

When this phase first started, I kept telling myself it’s because we’re both stubborn and have a certain level of impatience. But then a few weeks ago, in the midst of a disagreement, I realized something that almost bowled me over. What it really boils down to is that we’re both just trying to bend over backwards to make the other person happy. Neither of us are going anywhere and we only want to see the other one smile. We want to be the reason they smile.

Since then, in those moments of disagreement, I try to take a moment and reflect. Because he does make me smile. I smile at the start of every day when he bounces into the room with the energy of Tigger and proceeds to explain the thought process behind what he’s wearing that day. I smile when I hear his text tone on my phone, it still gives me the butterflies. I smile when he’s my biggest cheerleader, building me up in ways that make me blush from the tips of my ears to the balls of my feet. I smile when at the end of every day he makes sure we’re touching when we fall asleep. He is the reason I smile and he does make me happy.

One of our favorite Brad Paisley songs talks about how he continues to fall in love with his spouse even though he thought he already loved her as much as he could. That’s the kind of love I’ve always dreamed about, my fairy tale. Relationships are f-ing hard and they will test you long before and long after the terrible twos. My advice, for whatever it’s worth: find your fairy tale, whatever that looks like and constantly fall in love with your spouse, even when you think you already love them. Fall in love when they make you happy, fall in love when they make you smile, and even fall in love when it’s not exactly what you thought you signed up for.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

Can’t a girl just eat some steak and fries?

I love wearing leggings (or as my life hostage calls them leggin’s – I’m not sure what he has against that extra G). I’m putting that out there. Growing up in the 80’s, I quickly learned leggings were the epitome of cool and now they’ve made a long awaited comeback.

My leggings obsession is passionately monogamous to one brand – LC by Lauren Conrad for Kohls. Black, size medium. And that friends is why I’m not supposed to wear leggings. Because I am medium, I’m a medium sized girl. And the world is not sure what to do with me. Medium girls don’t fit into a nice little box, therefore they aren’t normal. Too “thick” to be considered thin and too “small” to be considered plus size, both acceptable labels by the way. Raise your hand if you’re over labels.

I’ve never really fit into a typical body label. My brother is a lifelong athlete, has thighs that could rival any Triple Crown winning thoroughbred, and a body fat index somewhere in the same range as The Rock. My parents I think have always looked alike, as they say couples tend to do – both thin in an athletic way, full of muscle tone.

Then there’s me. I have cellulite on my sturdy thighs. A bust that makes button down shirt shopping a joke suitable for late night TV. Hips that don’t lie, as Shakira would say. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to shake the flags that wave with or without the wind on my underarms.

Yet, I’ve learned grateful acceptance. Those sturdy thighs? They’ve helped me cross the finish line of two (soon to be three) half marathons. That bust that could give Jimmy Kimmel a field day may someday be nourishment for a child who is brought into this world with the help of Shakira’s hips. And those pesky flags, they make me freakishly strong and allow me to move furniture as if it were made of cardboard.

I was at the doctor a few weeks ago. (Full disclosure: my doctor is phenomenal. She is board certified in three specialities, always treats me like I’m her only patient of the day, and is the most non-judgemental person I’ve ever met.) On this particular day, I noticed my weight was not where I wanted it to be and mentioned something about it to her. She looked at me and asked, “Rachel, are you happy?” I was so taken aback, I’m sure I looked like I’d seen the ghost of Elvis.

Me: “What?”

Doc: “Are you happy?”

Me: “Ridiculously.”

Doc: “Then you are a healthy weight.”

Absolute craziness! A medical professional was telling me my happiness dictates my health. Hold up, shouldn’t I have already been aware of that?

A recent picture of actress Halle Berry circulated where she of all things, showed off a gut. Not only did she show off a gut, she flaunted it like the fabulous female she is – wearing a body hugging dress and even placing her hands on her “bump.” That sent all the gossip magazines into overdrive – she must be pregnant! Her response: can’t a girl just eat some steak and fries?

Hell yes Halle, you have every right to eat steak and fries! You have every right to eat what you want, whenever you want. To work out every morning or sleep in. To be thin, medium or plus sized. To carry those extra pounds that showcase your happiness. You can even rock your black, size medium leggings, and absolutely no one has any right to say you’re not normal.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.

I’ve moved on and that’s okay.

Marital status: single, married, separated, divorced, widowed. It took me six months of therapy to be able to mark divorced. A check box should not be so daunting. Divorced, I am divorced. That should not be so difficult to say but yet somehow, even today, it is.

I’m fairly certain I can say that no one sets out on a journey of marriage to be divorced. That is not the ultimate end game; at least it wasn’t for me. I was getting married once, one and done. But life had different plans. Ones that involved intense embarrassment – I couldn’t make a marriage work, how horrifying is that? Plans that had me blaming myself – I must bear the responsibility 100%, the fate of my marriage rode solely on me. And finally, plans that sent me to a therapist, with doubt plaguing me constantly – therapy? I must be a serious head case.

The perfect façade that I had been protecting for so long was going to come crumbling down and people were going to gossip. I make a conscious effort each and every day not to be a gossip – don’t repeat what you hear and don’t judge another’s circumstances. And now, that was going to happen. To me. People were going to gossip. About me.

And in the midst of the web my life was weaving for me, a web I had been fighting and didn’t ask for; the universe sent me something else I hadn’t asked for – my life hostage, the yin to my yang, my best friend and the absolute love of my life.

He made me laugh, a guttural deep belly laugh that bends you in half until you can’t breathe. He made me roll my eyes, almost daily, at qualities he had that absolutely annoyed me. He made me cry, on more than one occasion, at the fact that I had 30+ years of my life where I didn’t know him. And he put a twinkle in my eye, which to this day, remains strong.

I was extremely protective of him, I still am. I never wanted anyone to gossip about him. They could talk about me all they wanted, but no one should touch him. He was not the cause of my marriage’s demise. He was my champion, my protector.

I remember being out to dinner one night and saying to him, “You put me back together.” Without missing a beat, he looked at me and said, “You put yourself back together, I was just here observing.”

What I realized in that moment is that sometimes you have to accept the fact that certain things will never go back to how they use to be. And that’s okay – that’s the part no one ever tells you! Why do we insist on keeping this from each other? I’m divorced and that’s okay. I’ve moved on and that’s okay. I’m happy and that is more than okay.

Being divorced will forever be part of my story, I can’t go back to what my story used to be. And that’s okay. People say all the time, your story is so much better now. I don’t think of it as better, honestly I don’t compare the before and after.

My Gram always tells me life is an adventure. You learn about yourself each and every day. You’re going to hit bumps in the road, you’re going to go through phases of strength and weakness, you’re going to laugh and you’re going to cry. But in the end you’re always going to be you, and I’m guessing that’s pretty spectacular.

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and a Cliff bar, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. As a proud Dayton Flyer, and soon to be a Penn State Nittany Lion, Rachel is on a mission to change the world one pair of high heels at a time.
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