It’s official, Chick Hughes is my new girl crush. The new, as talk show host, Wendy Williams would say, “friend in my head.” I have been perusing her blog for quite some time now and was honored to have her grace the virtual pages of Today’s Modern Family when she wrote, “His No Drama Mama” for us. She’s not only informative, but her combination of wit with just a hint of sarcasm keeps you plugged in and coming back for more. I like the way this chick – no pun intended – thinks! Check out my interview with her as we talk about divorce, (re)marriage and sex!
Kela: I loved your article, called Ex Marks the Spot, about break ups/divorces. In it, I quote, “Whether we ended it, or it ended us…the heart doesn’t take kindly to being smashed to pieces. Sometimes, we get over a break-up and move on…sometimes, the break-up, or divorce, moves on over us,” Do you think this is one of the reasons, women especially, have such a difficult time truly moving on after divorce/break up? And how is that feeling magnified if there are children involved?
Chick: Absolutely. Women are more emotionally centered than men. Men, being more logical, are able to see that if a relationship is over, there’s no need to dwell on it. “It’s broken…can’t be fixed…ok.” They’re better equipped to compartmentalize it and move on. Women, on the other hand, remain more emotional and, therefore, find it harder to let go…even once confirmation from a judge has been received. She may hang onto the memories…what has been…what could’ve been had they stayed together. And, of course, these feelings are magnified when there are children involved. Children are the ties that bind us. Without children, once divorced, there’s no need for further communication. However, when there are children involved, divorced couples are permanently tied together…forced to keep some semblance of a relationship going. For women who find it hard to let go, this continued relationship only manages to pour salt into an already open wound. She can’t forget him long enough to let go in a healthy manner. Of course, this isn’t the case for all divorced women. But generally speaking, yes…the heart holds on much longer than the hand.
Kela: What is your advice for people who have a difficult time letting go after the divorce/break up?
Chick: Hmm, that’s a tricky thing. A divorce/breakup is a different animal for each person…and so is the manner in which he/she chooses to let go. Difficulty in letting go is a form of denial. Denial is essentially a self-protection mechanism for the heart. When something is too difficult to digest, we deny it…and defy it. Not only do we hate to admit failure, but the thought of starting over ALONE terrifies us. After investing so much of ourselves in this one relationship, we’ve gone emotionally bankrupt. And that’s a difficult reality to swallow. Perhaps our perceptions are our biggest roadblocks. Maybe, we shouldn’t perceive failure as such a negative entity. After all, failure is the best teacher. One learns through mistakes. Taking the lessons we’ve learned and using them to build a new foundation is the only way to survive devastation. So, my advice would be to own our mistakes, take what we’ve learned, and start anew. Think of it as a remodel. And this time around, you be the architect.
Kela: I’ve heard many husbands say that they feel as if their wife (stepmom of their children) just nag all the time. As a result, I feel this is why they tend not to pay much attention to her feelings/nagging. Explain your theory regarding the science behind nagging.
Chick: I see a distinct correlation between level of nagging and level of connection in a relationship. When we’re deeply in love…stars in our eyes kind of love…women don’t seem to nag as much. Why? We don’t need to. We feel strongly connected to our partner…emotionally and sexually. Connection is a tug of war among couples. She’s pulling for emotional connection…he’s pulling for sexual connection. If one drops the rope, so does the other. The result is a lost connection. However, when connected, he’s providing her the emotional support she needs…she’s providing him the sexual support he needs. All is right with the world. Sex is his way of connecting. So, when he’s getting sex, he feels connected. He helps out willingly around the house because he wants to please her. She doesn’t have to ask him to help…much. However, when the connection is lost, neither is getting what they need. So, he retreats, stops helping out because he no longer wants to please her since she’s not “pleasing” him… (ironically, she doesn’t want to “please” him until he gives her an emotional connection…Feel the rope getting droopy? She gets resentful that he’s pulled away AND that she’s the one left holding down the fort. So, she nags…tells him what she needs done. He tunes her out. She gets more angry. He gets more distant. Until she restores the connection sexually, or he restores it emotionally, the distance will widen. As I suggest in my article “Shag the Nag” nagging seems to be nothing more than a by-product of a lost connection. Fix one, the other will follow.
Kela: Okay, Chick, let’s talk about sex! I always say that men could have sex in the middle of the Iraqi war, but women need to feel safe, emotionally connected and appreciated, almost all the time, to have sex. Why do you think this is so?
Chick: Men and women are simply hardwired differently. Women need emotional connection to have sex. Men need sex to have emotional connection. As much as we want to change that fact, it’s a useless endeavor. This wiring could possibly be evolutionary. Many, many years ago, men needed to spread their seed…no emotion needed. Women needed to bear and raise children…and became more selective with a mate. An emotional connection was perhaps an insurance policy for her that he would stick around and help with the family. Still is.
Kela: I’ve read research claiming that sex often puts you in this euphoric state. Is sex really the best medicine? Should women just give in to their need for constant emotional connection and just give him some?
Chick: During sex, the brain releases a chemical called oxytocin, which does, in fact, give us a euphoric feeling. Not only that, but it alleviates other bodily pains such as headaches, cramps, etc. This is what the “afterglow” is referring to. As much as we need an emotional connection, sometimes, we just want to get laid as much as he does. So, I would say, yes…sometimes we should throw emotion to the wind, throw our drawers to the side, and surrender to the man “within.”
Kela: In the complicated lives of the modern stepfamily, we tend to forget that we are even married sometimes. Your spouse can become “that guy/girl you have to work on a project [co-parenting the kids with the ex-spouse] instead of the person you fell in love with. What can (re)married couples do to bring back that loving feeling?
Chick: Without that loving feeling, that loveless project is doomed to wither under it’s own demise. When entering into a new relationship where kids are already present, a couple isn’t afforded the “just us” luxury. Their relationship dives directly into the deep end…a.k.a. family. They never get the chance to dip their toes in and adjust to the shallow end. Because of this, their relationship will immediately center around the kids, allowing little time for dates and romance. Dates and romance are essential to remaining connected as a couple. And connection as a couple is essential to successful parenting. If kids can spot a rift between you as a couple, they’ll use that to their advantage. And eventually whittle away an already weak ship. The only way to keep that connection alive is to nurture it…set aside the days your children are with the other parent and make it date night (or weekend)…and keep that date. No matter what!
Don’t allow the kids to sleep in your bed. After a hectic day of relentless work and bang-your-head-against-a-wall battles with children, nightly alone time in bed with your sweetie is likely the only alone time you’ll get until date night. So, protect that time. The kids have their own beds…use them. A connection must be oiled and tended to…otherwise it creeks, squeals, and comes unhinged. Don’t let life get in the way of love!