Emotional Alchemy

You're not a wizard.

I know, hashtag sadface. 

Let me explain. 

How often have you taken shit from people and turned it into gold? Not literal shit (ew) but figurative. I'm talking about being ignored. Blown off. Being yelled at. Criticism. Passive aggressive attacks. Lies. 

How often has someone treated you poorly and you transformed it into love? 

That's not always a bad thing, sometimes the people closest to us make mistakes and hurt us and we choose to forgive them. God only knows we screw up, too. In fact I think reacting with love when you're handed garbage is a tremendously important skill. It makes for a much better outcome when we approach hostility with kindness than hostility with hostility. It doesn't escalate into higher eschelons of shit. It's shit containment. 

But, are there times when we shouldn't transmute emotional trash into solid gold?

Hell yes. Here's why. 

Sometimes our well-intended ability to deal with others negativity robs the other party of responsibility. What that means is that we become the managers of their shit behavior; they have no consequences. If your friend or partner treats you poorly and they're always met with 'no problem's' or 'i know you didn't mean to's', where's the motivation for them to change? You'd hope that if they cared enough about you they'd want to change, but if you're also downplaying your emotions when they hurt you they probably have no idea how badly you feel. 

I think as women we become emotional managers because we feel responsible for ev-e-ry-thing, including other people's feelings. But sister, it's not your job to fix him when he's ignored you for the 178th time. You don't have to tell him it's all good or that you 'understand' when he's hurt you. He screwed up. Let him fix it. Don't set the table for repairation after he threw all the dishes on the floor. Let him freaking clean it up. 

We safety-net the shit out of consequences for people, especially when it comes to protecting them from OUR FEELINGS. This is crazy so hold on to your butts; when people hurt us we don't want to make them feel bad by letting them know they caused us pain. Our instinct is to value our feelings so little and others so highly that we have a hard time vocalizing our hurt, even to the ones that hurt us. 

That's messed up. 

Its messed up to tolerate the intolerable. To say it's ok for someone to treat you bad. To be worried that asserting yourself and your feelings will hurt THEIR feelings, when they're the ones dishing out hurt in the first place! 

One of the #1 indicators of a great friendship or relationship is the ability to say 'hey that hurt me' and for the other person to apologize. And not only to apologize but to actively try to change the behavior. The only way we can achieve that is by being direct about our feelings and asserting ourselves when needed, because *shocker* our feelings are super important. When someone we care about hurts us we don't always need to turn it into gold, sometimes we need to hold that mirror up and say 'hey, buddy, that sucked'.  

If they're anyone worth keeping they'll apologize and try to avoid it in the future. 

If they don't? Make sure you've been direct about how painful it is, but if you've said it ten million times you need to question how much this person really cares.  

It's not our job to manage other grown up's shitty behavior, god only knows we have enough responsibility with our kids. One of the benchmarks for healthy human development is one's ability to empathize, see hurt where they've caused it, and apologize. 

If he's not apologizing, sister, start walking. It starts with you. Please love yourself enough that when people mess you around you can stand up for yourself. You don't need everyone's love and approval, you need yours, and maybe a few others that legitimately give a shit. 

Stop turning garbage into gold. Let them clean up their own damn messes. You're worth enough to warrant a few 'sorries' and definitely enough to have your feelings respected.

Hang up your wizard hat and save that shit for Halloween. 

 

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You're An Asshole

You probably think that’s a bit much. Like OK Meg maybe I drive a bit aggressively, but asshole? Come on man that’s got me all triggered.

Not only are you an asshole, but I bet you are almost every day and I can prove it. Spoiler alert, so am I.

Disagree? Let me tell you a little story.

A while back there was a woman sitting in McDonald’s, zoned out staring at her phone. Lost in the endless scrolling, totally tuned out to the fact that her kid was in full disruptive mode harassing people. And I mean harassing. Climbing on benches and talking to everyone, asking annoying questions, throwing McNugget’s in the air. This chick just sat there clueless and the whole restaurant stared with their judgey eyes.

We’ve all seen that mom at the park or in the store. We purse our lips and clutch our pearls and post some stupid shit about technology ruining lives (even though we’re all guilty).

Now what if I told you that the reason that mom tuned out was that she was worried she was bleeding through her pad. What if I told you she was nervous about standing up because it might run down her leg.

What if I told you that she wasn’t sure how to take her young son into the bathroom because he’d ask questions about what he saw.

What if I told you that young mother was in the process of miscarrying a baby.

What if I told you that mama was me.

My son was four years old at the time and we had gone to a city four hours away to get an ultrasound. I was about 12 weeks along, or should have been I guess.

My husband was working away but he came down for the appointment. I remember sitting in that room with the big screen on the wall, waiting to see that silhouette. Tiny feet. Baby hands.

That little pulsing heartbeat.

I remember being so excited to tell my kid check it out! That’s your baby brother or sister on the screen! Sweet right? Isn’t that awesome?

I remember the ultrasound technician not making eye contact with me.

I remember looking up and not seeing anything that looked like a baby.

I remember a little blob that floated motionless. Silent.

The room was silent.

I said ‘that isn’t right, is it?’. And ‘no’, she shook her head, ‘it wasn’t’.

Leaving the office felt like a bad dream. It felt like floating or watching someone else’s life. Like the freaking twilight zone. I stood in the elevator as my four year old asked questions about why the baby didn’t move. In the back of my mind I heard my husband explain to him that sometimes babies don’t quite develop like they should. They don’t always make it. That’s how nature works son, maybe we’ll have better luck next time.

The texts came from friends and family.

‘How was the appointment?’

Telling everyone about what happened rivaled the actual loss for the shittiest part of this experience. Made doubly awful by the fact that we’d announced our pregnancy on social media and now had to explain to all those people why we wouldn’t be bringing a baby home. Anyone who’s experienced a loss can tell you that in a fucked up way you feel like you’ve failed and let everyone down. Expecting a baby is a family affair and they were all so goddamn excited. And now what. Now what? You have to tell them and disappoint them and hear pity in their voices and see sadness in their eyes.

My husband went back to work that night. What the hell I was supposed to do now.

They don’t give you a pamphlet when your baby dies.

They don’t sit you down and tell you that you will bleed more than you thought humanly possible. 

They don’t tell you that the pain will feel like childbirth. That you will have contractions and ‘expel’ the fetus. They don’t tell you that you will feel dizzy and sick and lightheaded and worry that you might die.

I remember sitting in the bathroom worrying that I’d get blood stains on my sisters white tile grout.

The morning after I lost that baby I had to drive four hours home with my son by myself.

That’s when I pulled into McDonald’s, sat down on a bench, and tried to keep it together just long enough to buy a Happy Meal and get to the bathroom.  

The people that saw me that day saw me on the worst day of my life.

When you go out in public and a woman seems distracted. Or a person looks frustrated. Try to remember that might be the lowest point in their lives, too.

Maybe that lady wore pajamas to the store because her husband just died.

Maybe that guy cut you off in traffic because he just took his kid off life support.

Maybe you aren’t the center of the goddamn universe, and how their actions affect you is completely overshadowed by whatever they’re dealing with at that moment.  

Be. Freaking. Kind.

You have no idea what kind of shit people are going through, and some of it is unimaginable. Some of it would take your breath away. Have you ever wondered why a person is homeless or why they look a hot mess? Can you imagine losing your entire family or getting your ass kicked by someone you love? Losing your house in a fire or being the sole survivor of a car accident?

The tragedy and overwhelming circumstances of this world know no bounds, there are human beings out there just trying to survive. So please, please be kind. It’s something I never really understood until I did, and that day I was made aware of just how profoundly lacking in compassion we are.

Remember that, when you’re out in the world.

Remember that when you’re talking shit about someone you call a friend. Remember it when you gossip. Remember it when you aren’t a nice person and you know damn well you should be.

I shake my head when I see anti-bullying campaigns and memes about how mean kids are. Not because I don’t agree with those things but because they learn that behavior from us.

We are a society of assholes.

Just pick up a People magazine or watch reality TV. We are ruthless with our criticism and have the audacity to act surprised when kids mimic our behavior.

Shame on us.

If we want to raise kids that aren’t bullies we need to damn well start at home. We need to stop talking shit about our friends and Googling pictures of celebrity’s ass dimples.

You want to raise nice kids? Stop affiliating yourself with people who don’t care. Stop being a person that doesn’t care. If you wouldn’t want it said about you then you sure don’t get to say it about anyone else. Don’t laugh at other peoples expense. Stop tolerating the intolerable. Don’t judge people when you’re out in public.

Be fiercely loyal. Be unfaltering compassionate.

Be. Freaking. Kind.

First to yourself. Then to others.

Maybe then the world won’t feel like such a messed up place.

I Have It All - So Why Am I Unhappy?

I want to share something with you that was so profound, and so important for my growth and development as a person that I felt not only compelled to write about it; I felt obligated.

That message is the stunning realization that as a society we have it so, so wrong about relationships. About gender roles. About happiness. And we are all just so incredibly lost in these lives we are supposed to find fulfilling when in truth they are anything but. We have this notion that men and women and completely different creatures, I mean sure we have some differences but the truth is we are more alike than we are different and the idea that we're so vastly mismatched is not an observation based on truth, it's what we've been taught.

We've been taught that men are emotionally repressed sex machines, but they aren't. We've been taught that women are self sacrificing innocent nurturers, but we aren't. Sure some would fall into that category, but all of us? Men aren't naturally emotionally stunted they are TAUGHT TO BE. Women aren't naturally sexually repressed we are TAUGHT TO BE. The truth is that men and women have similar sexual desires. Do you really believe that behind all their talk, all men want from women is purely sexual satisfaction? Do you really believe that women don't look at men and sometimes think HEY, I'D LIKE TO HOP ON THAT DICK? Of course they do. The difference is men are taught that vocalizing sexual needs is normal and women are taught that it is dishonorable. The needs and tendencies are the same but how we EXPRESS them is different. Do you see what's happening there?

The same can be said for men's emotional needs. How many times do you think a little boy or man needs to be told he's a pussy for crying before he stops doing it all together? How many times does he need to be told you don't look at a woman for an emotionally satisfying experience you look at her for a sexually satisfying one? We are telling boys and girls these things about our natures that simply aren't true. And it's killing our relationships.

We've created roles in which we THINK men seek sex and women seek commitment. But some men aren't sex crazy and some women are terrified of commitment. So we trudge along in these fabricated roles from dating right up until marriage and afterwards. We have the wedding and the kids and do all the RIGHT THINGS and say all the RIGHT THINGS and repress all the RIGHT THINGS and then what? Are we now somehow perfectly satisfied with our lives? Absolutely not. The opposite in fact. Many of us in our late 20s and 30s are sitting here wondering why. the fuck. am i not happy.

I have the wife/husband/partner. I have the home. The kids. The job.

And yet I feel alone. And miserable.

You feel alone because no one really knows you. You've been so busy pretending and taking on roles and wearing a mask that not a single person in this world knows what makes you truly happy. And the profoundly sad part? You don't even know what makes you happy. You did everything you were taught would bring you happiness and yet here you are forlorn and isolated.

So you do what you can to fill the void. Set little goals. Lose weight. Make more money. Get a new job. But it doesn't help. You still feel empty. So you look to your partner. Well he must be the problem because I've tried everything and it didn't work. So we hyper-focus on their shortcomings and become relentless and critical in our observations. Before you know it we come to the conclusion that YES, it is in fact my partner because I feel distant from him. He doesn't 'get' me. He doesn't know how to meet my needs.

Well here's a cosmic slap in the face for you. YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO MEET YOUR NEEDS EITHER. And you're right, neither does he. You think that 'meeting his needs' means fulfilling your role as a wife but let me tell you your husband probably doesn't give a single shit about that role. He doesn't care if you cook every meal or keep the house tidy, maybe all he wants is a compliment and a hug and an hour with you in the evenings. So why do we waste all our time in roles that don't really fulfill anyone? Does it benefit the woman to be with a man who's cold and emotionally distant and reluctant to help out? The stereotypical provide-for-the-family-check-out-other-women schtick? It doesn't serve anyone.

So why are we still doing it? Why are we wasting our time in roles and behaviors that are not only unhelpful but detrimental in our relationships?

The thing is, if we accept we don't know what truly makes us happy we have to take responsibility for the fact that your partner doesn't satisfy you because you are unable to articulate your needs. Then it becomes a you problem and not a him/her problem. Not everyone wants that responsibility. We think there should be this magical person who just intimately knows what we want and how to give it to us.

That is complete and utter bullshit.

Our satisfaction in a relationship stems from one thing and one thing only, our ability to clearly articulate exactly what we need. If we selected partners not based on looks or money or status but solely on their ability to satisfy us emotionally I'm telling ya the divorce rate would fall rapidly. But we don't pick partners that way do we? We pick them based on our masks. Our roles. And how well we see their ability to play their role.

So we need to tell people what really makes us happy. How does that work exactly? It goes a little something like this. You recognize that you want your partner to contribute to household chores. Totally reasonable request. But it's not about the damn chores. What does it say when they don't help out? What feeling do you get when they do? Not helping out with chores might make you feel unloved and unimportant and unworthy of your partners attention. If, instead of bitching about the garbage, you just said to your partner 'when I ask you to give me a hand and you don't do it it makes me feel unloved and unwanted' how different would that conversation be?

And if they ignore your requests, the first thing you need to do is find out if your meeting THEIR requests. Too often as women we fall into this trap where we ask them to help but we feel they should just naturally want to help out, so not only are we not really asking for what we need we are reluctant to ask in the first place. But maybe your partners hesitance is multifaceted. Maybe he sees the garbage as just the garbage and not what it really means to you so he's bewildered when you get upset. And maybe, just maybe, even though we are supposed to be emotional masters, we aren't meeting their needs either. Maybe he's a bit resentful too. Maybe last night all he wanted was a few minutes of your time and you treated him like a piece of furniture. Maybe he feels like he's lost his purpose because women are now in this state of overfunctioning mother wife-ness that hurts almost everyone. Maybe he's resistant to you because instead of a partner you feel like his caregiver, a role he doesn't want and frankly you don't want either.

I know all the women right now are like HEY WHOA. If I don't mother him and control him and boss him around then nothing will ever get done.

Well let me tell ya, it will. Maybe if you focused on meeting his emotional needs and shut the fuck up about the rest, he would just do things for you because he wanted to. Maybe if you gave him the space to feel wanted and desired and he got all warm and fuzzy inside he would wash the dishes with a smile on his face. And you know what? If you don't trust that he's capable enough of doing the most menial mundane shit to some degree of satisfaction then LEAVE HIM. He is clearly an incompetent idiot and you'd be better served with someone more intelligent. Stop berating this poor dumb creature and let him crawl back under the rock from whence he came.

But I'm here to tell you that if the only thing you focus on in your relationship is satisfying your partners emotional need, the rest will come naturally. Sure there will be disagreements and bumps, but how much more willing are you to compromise and comply when you're, well, happy? If instead of men harassing us about sex all the damn time they just said they really feel loved when we compliment how hard they work and rub their shoulders, how easy would that be? And they'd feel great about themselves and help you out with those asshole kids at bedtime. AND THEN YOU'D WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH HIM WITHOUT HIM ASKING. And then you'd both feel great. And all of a sudden you're a fucking team. Because you started to focus on what matters.

Dropping the mask and the role requires us to do soul searching that we've never done before. What truly makes our hearts sing? What is the one thing that you need in this life to make you feel amazing?

For me it was discovering that more than anything in this world I want to feel understood. I love the feeling of telling a story or feeling and someone saying 'hey me too'! That 'two peas in a pod' effect. And what that requires from my partner is empathy, active listening, and an effort to at least show minimal interest in the things that I love.

There. Now when I tell that to my partner how much easier is it for me to get that need met? Now that's the only thing he needs to worry about because when you give me that I will give you the world. And so will your partner. When you do the things that matter to them the most they will in turn do the things that matter to you the most. And that doesn't mean dishes and blowjobs it means making you feel loved and appreciated, but that might be through dishes and blowjobs, if that makes sense.

Human connection is THE thing we're seeking. It's all the things. It's everything. So stop focusing on cars and houses and status and roles because the only thing that will bring you a sense of real deep satisfaction is a loving connection with another human being. And maybe you'll pull out the stops and do the work and learn to take off the mask and articulate your needs and you'll find that your partner isn't receptive. Isn't willing to grow. Won't learn to speak the language. And even when you try to find out their needs and lead by example it just doesn't work. Maybe then it's time to move on and find someone that is legitimately interested in giving you exactly what you need in this life. But now instead of stumbling your way sorting through a sea of partners and magically expecting to find 'the one' that just gets it and knows exactly how to meet your needs, you'll accept that your partners ability to do so largely depends on you.

That's why relationships wax and wane with time. In the beginning we're so enamored and in love that we do things for each other, we overlook the bad and focus on the good. As time goes on we stop trying, and most importantly we don't know how to ask for what we want and we don't know how to tell our partners how to give it to us. We spin our wheels as wives and husbands and partners and parents because we feel like if we fill that role enough that IT WILL BE ENOUGH. But it isn't. Because the roles don't mean shit. The only thing that matters is the ability to look at another human being and feel completely understood and accepted for who you really are.

So drop the roles and the mask. You don't like being a stereotypical wife or husband? Stop it right now. Do some digging to find that feeling and that need that just makes your heart explode. That will take time and effort, but I'm telling you it is so so so worth it. Involve your partner in the conversation. Learn who they really are. Be open about your likes and dislikes without the filters of what men and women should and shouldn't like, because the reason we're told we're so different is because if we all just communicated directly and were truly satisfied in our relationships we'd stop using THINGS to make us feel better. We wouldn't buy shoes to make us feel great because we'd already feel great, and feel great knowing happiness doesn't come from shoes. Not only would we not buy the shoes we would stop buying into the idea that women need to change every part of their appearances to get love from a man. Imagine that impact. Think about the myriad industries that are built entirely on female insecurity and the idea that we should seek love through our appearances.  Because let me tell you a secret, men care way less about our appearances than we're taught they do. 

The gender roles we're taught serve society by dividing us, by making us so busy squabbling over laundry that we go out and buy a dress to make ourselves feel better. Because men don't 'get' women right? And women don't understand men, isn't that true? It isn't true. We aren't that different. We aren't from different planets. We have certain nuances and personalities differ and we're all individuals but we all want the same damn thing, and that's to be loved and to love. It's the only thing that brings true satisfaction from our lives. And the potential for love doesn't exist with every person, there will be those that we don't have enough in common with or that aren't emotionally available, so try your best but don't waste your time. Find a person who speaks the language and that's interested in getting in touch with themselves, mix it with a few common interests and intriguing differences, a mutual attraction, and you'll have a recipe for a great relationship because you finally know how to ask for one and how to give one.

The only thing holding us back from the happiness we seek is our ability to recognize our own shortcomings. If you're married and unhappy and you think a new partner might be the answer, maybe it will be, but if you don't change your actions and behavior you will repeat the same cycle with the new person. If you're single and you are hopelessly looking for 'the one' just stop. 'The one' could be a great person, but becomes 'the one' when you give him or her the tools to satisfy your needs. It all depends on you.

We give in to this notion that 'the right person' should just know us inside and out so when we're unhappy we blame the person. Or we blame ourselves by thinking 'I should just be happy as an individual' and your unhappiness comes from not loving yourself. Well maybe. But your it's perfectly ok to need someone in your life and to have expectations for them, what isn't ok is the expectation they should just inherently know what we need and how to give it to us. That's like throwing darts at a dartboard in the dark. And now you know why so many relationships fail. We choose partners based on false pretenses thinking they will make us happy (a monstrous expectation), and when they don't, instead of accepting responsibility and looking within, we point the finger at the partner and move on to the next one. But guess what? Then it happens with the next person too.

So just stop. Right now. Find out what you need, tell your partner, put in the effort and the time, and if it doesn't work? Move on. Stop pretending to be his mom and he'll stop pretending to be some macho douchebag and just be your damn selves and do your best to love and appreciate who they really are.

Be compassionate for others and fearless in your vulnerability and stop repressing, suppressing, and pretending. When you do, you have this feeling of finally getting it, finally understanding the 'why' behind your unhappiness and your struggle to find it. The key has always been there you just didn't know how to use it, but now you do.

So unlock your potential to love and be loved and rest easy knowing that we all, women and men, want exactly the same thing.

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5 Signs Facebook Has Corrupted You (And What to do About It)

#selfies all day long.

#selfies all day long.

I've been very active on social media for years, I've even used Facebook to launch a business and was quite successful at it. In the beginning I felt I was thriving; I was getting traction in the fitness world, I was posting and blogging and vlogging up a very lucrative storm. I spent years developing a following and platform I was extremely proud of, but the more time I spent focused on my online presence, the more I felt my personal life was deteriorating.

Actually that's not fair to say, because although I wish I could take credit for the figurative slap in the face, I can't. Out of frustration, one day my husband told me he'd had enough. Had enough of not being able to look at me without the presence of a phone or laptop. Tired of asking me questions while my attention was elsewhere. Tired of me spending more time talking to people outside of the house rather than in. 

I protested. After all this was my business. A business that brought in an income. Facebook is engineered in such a way that if you aren't posting at least 5-6 times a day your visibility, and your cash flow, suffer dramatically, so how could I slow down? I couldn't let go of what I'd built. Then I realized it wasn't just the business that motivated me, it was the validation. It was knowing that if I was feeling down or insecure I could post a picture or phrase and instantly have people tell me how much they liked it. Loved it. That they loved ME and my face and my words and that was POWERFUL.

I'd also come to discover that I had social media related anxiety. If I went too long without checking notifications or responding to messages I would get extremely anxious. I couldn't break free from it, it was like a tether that I couldn't untie. I remember being on vacation looking for wifi to download emails and check Facebook messages and realizing that, woah, I'm not running a business here, it's running me.

Facebook had corrupted me. It made me value the opinions of strangers over those of my family. It gave me a false sense of ego, that I was somebody and that people cared about what I had to say.  

What I was experiencing is exactly what Facebook is engineered to do. It uses our very strong motivations to connect and to seek validation and gives us 24/7 access to fill that void.

Here are 5 signs you've also been corrupted:

1. You see life in terms of 'posts'. Hey I should take a pic of that and post it. I changed my hair I can't wait to put this online. My kid said something hilarious, I bet my Facebook friends would think so too.  

2. You get anxious if you haven't checked Facebook for a while. For example, you're on a long drive and are unable to use your phone. As soon as the vehicle stops you check social media immediately to relieve your anxiety. 

3. Social media has the power to ruin your day. Been in an argument online? Does it bother you enough that it puts you in a bad mood? Do you obsess over it? It's because you care too much about people that aren't really in your life. 

4. You find yourself hating the Internet and the people in it, but you're unable to stop interacting with them.  

5. You're jealous of people without Facebook accounts. You fantasize about being able to do that and to disconnect yourself. 

And that's the crux of it right there. If you deleted your Facebook account, NOTHING WOULD HAPPEN. No one would care. No one would notice. Because it isn't real life, it's an online life. One that you might have made a few connections in or maybe even a few friendships, but without Facebook those true friends will still be there. As with anything, Facebook has a powerful duality because you can, in fact, do wonderful things and develop worthwhile relationships. I'm not recommending you delete Facebook, or implying that the connections you've made aren't real, I'm telling you that there needs to be a balance.

Here's how to achieve that balance:

1. Only check messages or notifications. If it directly applies to you, respond, but leave it at that. 

2. If you see something that angers you, KEEP SCROLLING. You and I both know that no good will come from arguing online. Hide it from your newsfeed if you need to. 

3. Set a schedule. For example, only 5 minutes at a time, and only if your kids are sleeping. 

4. Turn off all push notifications. Don't let Facebook interrupt your day, wait to check everything until you actually have time to do so. 

5. Engage in positive conversations. Remember those good online relationships? Talk to THOSE people. Post on their wall with a compliment. Spread joy. Embody what you'd like to see online.  

Social media should be a positive contributer; a good thing in your life. If it's increasing your anxiety or you find yourself caring a bit too much about online interactions, it might be time to take a step back. Set boundaries and take days off from your newsfeed, see if it makes an impact. It's made a positive impact in mine. I make a bit less money and post a lot less content, but my life and relationships have improved significantly, and that's a price I'd pay ten times over. 

5 Fun Date Nights (No Babysitter Needed!)

Before kids. Ah the good old days... are gone and dead.  

Before kids. Ah the good old days... are gone and dead.  

When you're busy and you have kids, date night seems basically impossible. It requires SO MUCH PLANNING. Babysitters. Who's driving? You drank last time! We can't be home too late! $460 later you might have a moderately decent time, but date night can be easy and fun (and cheap) again with these awesome ideas. 

1. Video game night: two great choices for couples are MarioKart (duh) and my personal favorite, Diablo 3. Buy some junk food and beer, and game your little hearts out after the monsters are asleep. 

2. Pantry wars: feed the kids their favorite chicken fingers for dinner and wait until they're in bed to make a meal for yourselves. Pick 3-4 things from the fridge and pantry and challenge each other to make dinner Chopped style! Judge your dishes, loser cleans the kitchen! 

3. Outdoor wine pairing: buy a nice bottle of wine and find an appetizer to pair it with (frozen taquitos don't count). After the kids go to bed, put your appies together and sit on the porch or deck. Display your booze pairing prowess to your partner and enjoy!

4. Games night: pick your favorite board game or card game, bust out the fancy snacks (Chicago popcorn helloooooo) and get ready for a little competition. Our favorites are cribbage, Monopoly Millionaire (try not to get divorced), and Yahtzee. We also love Jenga but it's a little loud if you have sleeping brats. Errrr angels.

5. Massage movie night: a sexier take on the old standby. Pick a movie, and take turns sitting behind your partner for a nice shoulder rub. Hand and foot massages are equally awesome, and there are ummm more sensual options too. Pro tip: if your TV is in an area where your kids might be a cockblock, opt for watching on a laptop or tablet in your room.