How To Get What You Deserve

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on May 28, 2008
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trish ryan book.

I had been reading Trish’s Dishes — Trish Ryan’s blog — for a few months before her memoir, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, came out. When I was picked at random to receive an advance publicity copy, I was thrilled. After all, Trish’s blog is always entertaining, and her protracted quest for a spiritual home reminded me of my own.

When I sat down with her book, though, I was still wary. My own spiritual journey had led me away from my Roman Catholic upbringing, while Trish’s had led her to salvation through Jesus. I was blown away by her memoir, however, and ended up immediately ordering two more copies to use as mom’s-day gifts for my mom and mom-in-law.

I’ll be posting an interview with Trish at a later date. For now, though, I wanted to mention one of the lessons Trish learns as she delves into Christianity…something she mentioned — and which resonated with me — at her NYC reading last week.

In speaking of the message God had for her when He first appeared in her life, Trish mentioned the lesson of not throwing pearls before swine. In short: Realize your worth, and for the love of god, act accordingly.

For Trish, this meant not giving every good-for-nothing who crossed her path a chance at mucking up her life. But the “pearls before swine” lesson can be applied to just about any aspect of life. I’ve found several areas in my own life where it took me perhaps a bit longer than it should have to learn this lesson:

Love: Trish found herself caught in an abusive marriage, which she eventually escaped from by going into hiding. I myself once allowed myself to become embroiled in such a relationship, one that was emotionally, verbally, and sexually abusive. Dealing with the aftermath of this relationship only made me stronger, but I can’t help being angry at myself for not knowing better than to let something like this happen to me. In short, if someone is not treating you the way you deserve to be treated (lovingly and fabulously), then this is not the person for you. You cannot save a person. You cannot change a person. Being in such a relationship taught me to raise my standards, considering things such as education, thoughtfulness, bad recreational habits, and more when looking for that deal-breaker.

Career: Many people look at their jobs merely as a way to pay the bills. I look to my career for something more: a means of creative and professional fulfillment, and sometimes even fun, not to mention a huge part of my self-identity. When my job was making me miserable, I owed it to myself to take the risks necessary to find career fulfillment elsewhere. Now, I struggle with actually putting a price on what my time and talents are worth. I’m still in my first year of full-time freelancing, and am just now finding out that I’ve been screwing myself over when setting my rates. It’s tough to ask for more money when you’re on a larger staff. In some ways, it’s even tougher to ask for more money when you’re your own boss. It shows a certain level of belief in yourself to ask for what you deserve.

Health: Many people lament their lack of time for things such as working out or cooking. I’m guilty of the same thing. When it comes down to it, though, it’s necessary to make yourself the higher priority. Things such as home-cooked meals and regular workout sessions need to be scheduled into your life, in much the same way you schedule in business meetings and happy hours and choir rehearsals. Such reprioritizing will only benefit you and your health in the long run. At the moment, I have dedicated myself to attending weekly hoop classes, but once a week is not enough. I also find myself living off of ramen and Pizza Hut, which is admittedly horrifying. Don’t follow my lead, for the love of god. Put your physical and mental health above all else. You deserve it.


How to Make Love Last, Even When He Refuses to Rinse His Dirty Dishes

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on December 10, 2007
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first dance.

I’ve always been a bit of a commitment-phobe (understatement). I’ve given each and every one of my past boyfriends hell, none moreso than my husband. I’m stubborn, solitary, and independent, and entrusting my heart to another has always been somewhat of a stretch.

As a result, I’ve read an estimated one trillion relationship how-tos. Out of those trillion or so books, my favorite couple therapists/authors have been Barry McCarthy and John Gottman.

McCarthy is a marital and sex therapist based in D.C., and I read his Getting it Right the First Time, so that I wouldn’t have to someday read Getting it Right This Time.

Gottman is a professor of psychology and the co-founder and co-director of the Gottman Institute. Of his many books, I own Why Marriages Succeed or Fail and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

I’ve tried to follow the tips in their books as consistently as possible and, as a result, my life with my husband has never reverted to The Way Things Were When We First Moved In Together:

  • If you don’t respect each other, there’s going to be a problem. Remember the person you fell in love with, warts and all, and you’ll be able to accept both their strengths and their weaknesses for many years to come. It may help to reminisce about the beginning of your relationship, before it occurred to you how annoying it is to have a girlfriend who eats cookies in bed.
    • This means that you should not demean your partner, especially in front of others. Even if you think it’s clear that you’re just teasing.
    • And acknowledge the fabulous things they do or accomplish.
  • Hold on to those positive feelings. Aim to maintain a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative couple feelings and experiences. This way, the tough times will never be so overwhelming that they shake the very foundations of your relationship.
  • Your Way Is the Right Way, But You Can Still Humor Him. Just kidding. The truth is, the both of you were most likely raised in wildly different ways, so you probably have differing ideas of right and wrong (the right way to load the dishwasher…the right way to make the bed…). As you enter into this relationship. realize that you can create new traditions and new concepts of what exactly it means to do things the “right” way.
  • Polish Up Your In-the-Ring Technique. Having a good relationship doesn’t mean not fighting; it means fighting the right way. Instead of blaming your partner for your negative feelings, take responsibility for them. And then attempt to have a rational discussion about them, that does not involve slamming doors, blaming, walking out, etc.
  • Avoid the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These would be Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.
  • Present a united front. Some conflicts will seem insurmountable. Don’t take this as a sign that you should take your complaints to an outside party. This will only serve to undermine your relationship.

All of these books contain a multitude of couple exercises that you can complete with your partner, that are sure to provoke many enlightening conversations. If you’d prefer to purchase a workbook, filled with nothing but exercises, I’ve found that the one I received at pre-cana is good for those who are both religious and non-religious. I’m sure there are a number of options out there, but the one I have is this. Sometimes, we sit in bed and do one of the worksheets together, because we’re huge dorks. I mean, it’s either that or boggle.