Reading Together

Is there anywhere more comforting than your bed? It’s the place of sleep, sex, and solitude. There’s nowhere cozier and more distant from the world’s insanity than the shelter of blankets and pillows you come back to night after night. Relationship and sleep experts regularly caution against bringing anything else in. No phones. No TVs. No work. Just calm, undistracted rest and romance. Your bed is the place you come back to every night after a long day. And where you can fully let your guard down. Stress and distraction shouldn’t be allowed in.

But there may be one more thing to do in bed that’s conducive to both a good night’s rest and intimacy with your mate: reading together. Yeah, reading. The benefits of books are well established—whether it’s to counter our increasingly goldfish attention spans or to feel a little more inspired and knowledgeable. Reading in bed before you call it a night is like a calming cup of tea for the psyche. When you crack open a book with someone else—with your significant other—it’s even more enjoyable and beneficial.

IMG_0899

Reading together in bed may not sound like the most obvious or exhilarating thing to do. It wasn’t always part of our relationship, but it has been for a while now. At first, we mostly read separate books. That was a great start—a much better way of winding down at night than other disjointed and distracted things we were doing. We would stop every few pages to talk about the interesting factoids or unexpected turns of the plot in our respective books.

Getting that enjoyable little hit of learning something new, asking eagerly to hear what happened next in their novel, or laughing in disbelief how randomly things we read connected with something that happened that day. Reading side by side in the comfort of your bed is a bit like binging shows on the couch, but with more nourishing engagement for your brains than passively watching, and without the sleep-depriving effects of a screen.

Over time, we’ve discovered that it’s even more enjoyable to go through the same book together. One of us will read out loud to the other. Or we’ll hold the pages in-between us so we can silently read along and stop for tangents or wait for the other to catch up. It’s mostly been novels lately—falling asleep imaging what characters might do next and where we see our lives in the stories. But we’ve read through plenty of nonfiction books on communicating, emotions, travel, and history and politics (though sometimes those have been a little dark or depressing for bed).

It’s a unique and wonderful feeling to share stories and ideas with the person you love most. There’s a kind of restorative psychological intimacy that reading together in bed produces—adding layers of closeness and pleasure to what sex and sleep do. Whether you’re lost in some book on mindfulness while they’re in the thick of a fantasy novel, or you’re taking turns reading the same book out loud, you’re engaging your minds in a way that makes them more intricately and satisfyingly connected. It’s a bridge that takes you out of the day’s stresses and absurdities and into each other. It’s much better than being hypnotized by the glow of your phones—barely aware of one other.

Your bed is a place to be vulnerable and calm. After all the day’s ups and downs, you get to lower your defenses and alert systems and hyperactivity to sink into the covers and just be. No demands, no bustle, no fires to put out. It’s all the more comforting when you share your bed with your true love (as long as they don’t snore or take up the whole damn thing—but that’s another post). You get to just be, together. That sacred space of warmth, solitude, and intimacy are beautifully deepened when you open a book together before curling up to go into dreamland.

Making Long-Distance Suck Less

Being long-distance sucks. We’ve been together for over 16 years, and for most of it we have been lucky to spend at least part of each day together. With some recent life changes, we’ve been doing the past month apart, and it’s not a lot of fun. When you don’t get to see the person you love more than anyone for several days in a row, it’s like a part of you is missing. That’s who you share a bed with. Cook with. Hike with. Crash on the couch and watch Netflix with. Whisper secrets with. Who you feel a sense of belonging and acceptance with.

The longer you’re together, the more your emotions and quirks and goals become intricately interwoven. Your bodies are used to each other. You know a lot about how they think and the way the two of you like to spend free time together. When you’re with someone long enough, you even start to look like one another—which is bit strange and romantic at the same time. Being long-distance yanks and pulls at those threads. Your hand waits to hold theirs, but there’s only a phantom feeling of interlocking fingers. Perhaps one day humans will be able to reach through a FaceTime to touch and kiss. Or travel anywhere in just a matter of minutes—making long-distance relationships a thing of the past.

IMG_0377

In the meantime, there are some things that make long-distance manageable and tolerable (in-between the times you break down in tears). It’s not surprising that communication is the key. But people don’t always know what good communication looks like or how much harder you have to work at it when you can’t look your significant other in the eye and give them a hug when all else fails.

Having regular times for FaceTime or Skype can make a huge difference. At least you can see each other’s faces that way. You can also show off where you’re at or what you’re up to—the living room in your shared home, grabbing a drink at a spot you usually go to together or roaming the streets downtown. Each of your daily routines, while you’re apart, will be somewhat mysterious or unknown. But you can be intentional about sharing how your day went and show some of the things you did. That definitely keeps you closer to each other.

Those are the kinds of things you can do through the wonderful possibilities of the Internet. Messages or gifts through the mail can be fun and appreciated, too. Something as simple as a card with a handwritten note has been a welcome surprise when we send them to each other. You can go all out and send a cool local treat (candy, jam, or wine, maybe?), a new item for their wardrobe, a journal, or whatever else would be most meaningful between the two of you.

Through it all, it’s important to be extra patient with each other. You might go most of a day without talking or texting at all. When you reconvene over the phone, there’s a lot to catch up on. You can end up trying to talk about everything at once and not have a real back-and-forth conversation. Or you might step on their toes by overzealously telling them what to do when they have things perfectly under control. When you have a true, loving relationship, the two of you are interdependent—not dependent. You’re better together (that’s why you’re in a relationship!). But neither of you is completely paralyzed without the other. They can make it without you. When they want your thoughts about what to do or they need encouragement to make it through a tough situation, they’ll probably make it clear to you. Give them space to talk about what they want to talk about. Listen a lot and take things in. Then sometime later you can say a little about what you think about it—and what you’ve been up to yourself.

There’s no science to long-distance. It takes practice and trying things out and patience. Some couples are great at it and others have a really hard time.

When you can figure out how the two of you are going to talk and send things back-and-forth in a uniquely you kind of way, it all goes a lot smoother. You can keep living life together from miles away—however partial that may be compared to what you would do if you were both in the same place. Long-distance can suck a little less.

Why Deciding What to Eat is One of the Hardest Decisions You’ll Make in Your Relationship

Love is hard. Being in a romantic relationship takes effort and intention. If you’re just going through the motions things are going to fizzle out eventually.

True love takes empathy. Selflessness. Spontaneity. And countless other qualities that require you to make another person’s interests and well-being as important or even more important than your own.

When two people try to become one together, there are lots of ways things can go wrong. Most of the entanglements that begin with overflowing infatuation fail to learn how to love for the long haul. The blinding dopamine in a relationship’s first steps weakens, and the reality of learning to navigate life together through the normal, everyday stuff comes into focus. Occasional–and occasionally epic–fights creep in.

One argument you might not expect to have is about what to eat together, but it could be the most important disagreement you have. When it comes time for lunch or dinner, or fulfilling a late-night craving, if you’re with your significant other you’re probably going to at least try to figure out something that will satisfy both of you.

You think about things you both love. What you’re in the mood for and what they might want right now. What’s close. What kind of meal fits the moment: leisurely, expensive restaurant, fast-casual takeout, or something in-between. You narrow it down to a confident selection that will impress your soulmate…and then they reject it quickly and complete. You say: OK, what would you like to have, then?–trying to keep cool about the fact that you put a lot of thought into a loving, fitting choice and they hated it. They say: I don’t know. Thanks, super helpful.

You see, given enough time, you will have eaten at many of the restaurants where you live. You’ll have ordered most of the takeout or delivery you can get nearby. You won’t always be in the mood to try and blow your significant other away with your culinary skills preparing something homemade from a trendy cookbook. You won’t always have the finances or the time to have the chow you might really want at a given mealtime. And that’s just you. Your soulmate is going through their own cycle of tastes, expectations, disposable income, available time, and energy left to expend.

Deciding what to eat for a meal together becomes the epitome of the relationship as a whole. When the explosiveness of the new starts to turn into the steady-burning fire of the long-term, you have to continually learn and deepen your understanding of how to put the other person first. To be patient and listen. To be honest, communicative, and faithful. To work together towards a resolution that makes you happy–both individually and together.

Sometimes your wants and desires for a relationship are completely different than or even conflicting with your significant other’s–whether it’s about getting ice cream on the way home or the city you want to move to and whether or not you want to have kids together someday. If you can’t do it with the small stuff like meals, and use deciding what to eat as a crucible for deepening your relationship, you’ll never be able to do it with the big things.

We always agree on Coffee

We always agree on Coffee

So next time you’re able to have lunch or dinner together, stop for a moment and remind yourself that this is not only an opportunity to have something delicious with the person you care about most in world–it’s an opportunity to show them how much you care and enjoy the fruits of making your relationship stronger.

What are you two having for dinner?

Johnnyswim

If there’s an indisputable argument that true love is a real thing it’s probably the band Johnnyswim performing on stage. When we were fortunate enough to see them at the Troubadour in Los Angeles just over a week ago, the opening band—one of their close friends—jokingly suggested their chemistry is “just a ruse.” But from the moment the young married couple Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez take the stage, it’s obvious that the two are unconditionally, joyfully in love with one another. And it’s infectious.

IMG_0086

Through every song of their show, they dance flirtatiously with each other and send warm gazes across the stage. They’ve written all of the lyrics together, and the words are interwoven with their history, the strength that their relationship has provided, and the hope of what may come in a future shared together. In between tracks they tease each other about idiosyncrasies, talk about what it’s like to be both artists and soulmates, and recount some of the creative battles they’ve faced together. We were intrigued to find out that one of our favorite tracks, “Diamonds,” was written as a suck-it song to a former friend turned naysayer who thought that their musical aspirations would never succeed. He gave Abner a quarter and told him to call him when the music career failed and devolved into homelessness.

Some years later, they’re touring across the country, have performed on The Late Show and The Tonight Show, and in the cozy, historic space of the Troubadour, felt like a band inches away from breaking into the mainstream (if they want to). They also recently had a son, and that new life seems to have only added to the electricity and devotion they share together. They did a small set of acoustic songs that they would sing together while their newborn was still in the womb, and it was touching and adorable.

All of the chemistry simply heightens what is clearly an immensely talented group of musicians—not just Amanda and Abner, but also the instrumentalists alongside them. It’s difficult to pinpoint a genre for the music they play, and that adds to the uniqueness and the musicality. There’s folk, some Latin influence from Abner’s Cuban roots (he sneaks in some Spanish lyrics once in awhile), some twang from the years they called Nashville home, and even some pop and hip-hop beats on occasion. They closed with a mashup of one of their songs and Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends.” It was awesome.

Altogether, we were grateful to be able to go to one of their live shows. Eric had only heard a few of their songs going into it, and he’s been playing their albums over and over ever since. The songs are great to wake up to, or to curl up on the couch to, or even to fall asleep to. And they’re best shared with someone you love.

It’s hard to find artists so genuinely dedicated to their craft that they keep pressing on through the obstacles of naysayers, the challenges of being in a relationship and being musicians on tour together, and not letting any of those struggles get you down. In a lot of ways they reminded us of us. Not because we’re super talented musicians, but because we feel that same kind of love in our own marriage and it has kept us strong through all of the peaks and valleys of life. True love isn’t some mythical, absurd thing; it is possible to find someone who makes you a better version of yourself and with whom you can create beautiful things together. And it’s possible to open up and share that love and hopefulness with other people in ways that makes them feel inspired—reminded that the world isn’t only a place of heartache and cynicism. No matter your situation, there are diamonds there waiting to “rise out the dust.” Johnnyswim are a wonderful reminder of that, and flat out amazing performers.