Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Reading Between The Lines

I'm becoming more aware that I have an extremely defensive nature. You've all witnessed it here on this blog. I initially chalked up my hostile reactions to well-intentioned comments as a normal response to the sometimes seemingly overwhelming tide of people talking trash about me on the internet. But, there aren't really large numbers of people talking about little, old me. In fact, those instances are blessedly few and far between but when it happens it really sucks and makes you feel like lashing out at someone, anyone, in defense of yourself or your family. Yes, I realize I put it out there and, for the most part, the rewards have far exceeded the backlash but still. You try reading about people making fun of you, your marriage and yes, even your kids and see how mellow you are when someone calls you out, even gently, on your own blog.

For the most part I don't read the stuff but every now and again I'll get a huge rush of internet traffic and when I investigate the source inevitably I find some kind of weird hater website that features a bunch of losers (it's the only word I can think of to describe people who spend their days on a website created solely to make fun of other people) snarking about bloggers. I've never responded on those sites so maybe I take it out on you guys sometimes in the comments.

Thing is, I'm realizing I'm not just defensive on the internet. I'm defensive all the time. I'll note conversations I have on the phone with my mom in which I contradict everything she says like it's my job. And then there's my marriage. Sometimes it feels like both Serge and I are so defensive our marriage has devolved into this ridiculous score-keeping.

Me: Henry's diaper is dirty, your turn.

Him: No, I changed two poops this morning, it's your turn.

Me: Are you kidding me? I was up twice in the night with him.

Him: Are you going to cook dinner?

Me: I cooked last night.

Him: So? I cooked two nights in a row before that.

Sometimes it feels like these kinds of exchanges are the only conversations we have all day. All week. We're together too much/we need to go out together more. Which is it? Both, I guess. We need more time apart during the day to day monotony and more time together at night on the town.

This video was not the first video we made for He Said/She Said this week. The first video we made felt too personal and we chose not to share it just now when even we aren't sure how we're really feeling...

I don't know what I'm trying to tell you other than rocky road ain't just an ice cream flavor. I'm having a hard time articulating what is happening as I am acutely aware that sharing personal information on the internet is a tricky thing and takes a thick skin which is something I'm not sure I have anymore. But I'm also not ashamed of having a tough time within my marriage and so while I realize some things are private matters I also see the merit of talking/writing through the thing with the hope of learning or realizing something I wouldn't have had I kept it all inside.

Serge, as usual, is doing a much better job articulating the state of our union or his state of mind, anyway.

The Stress of Love: On Fatherhood, Sadness and New Tomorrows.

Fool In The Garden of Love, Part I.

Reader Comments (46)

Marriage is a rocky road, no doubt.

The defensive thing is really a tough one to overcome. It seems such a smart thing to be defensive, after all, you are trying to protect yourself, right? The question is, from what? You might have needed to be defensive at some point, as a kid, in high school, etc. It served a survival purpose then. But does it still? What positive thing do you get out of being defensive now?

I don't mean by saying that that you don't have anything positive about it. I think you do get something from it, it helps you somehow. But it might also be that it hurts you more than it helps. That is the big question with any habit or way of behaving. Even if it was once a valuable survival skill, is it still?

You know, that's a brilliant comment. I developed sarcasm and defensiveness as a survival skill to while growing up but it certainly isn't serving me very well any more. But I guess being my true, unvarnished self just feels so vulnerable.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

These posts are written by a blogger that has always reminded me a little bit of you. I feel like you really are at a crossroad. If you have already passed it you cant be that far from it but its time for you and Serge to make some decisions. Obv continuing the way things are would leave you both feeling the way you do now or worse. Start going through the motions of making things better and hopefully it will become natural. Make yourself do things you dont want to do for your marriage. You dont want to change the babies dirty diapers but if you dont you know something bad will happen. You dont need a looking glass to see if you dont change your marriage's "dirty diapers" something can happen there to. Marriage is a roller coaster and just b/c you feel this way now doesnt mean you will feel this way forever (duh) but dont act like there is nothing the two of you can do about...not saying either of you are.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I rarely comment but I was moved by your words. I've read your blog, and Serge's for a while, including the story of how you met. The passion you two felt for life, and each other, blew me away. The mundane routine of everyday life and the energy it takes to raise two small kids takes its always does. But I guess I want to say that I hope you both keep trying. What I've learned about marriage over the years is that I need to nurture it, even when, especially when, I don't feel like it. I need to pick my battles. That, in spite of my need for space and not liking to be smothered, physical intimacy, not just sex, but touching in general, is important. Even when I sometimes don't feel like it. Someone once said to me that even when he doesn't like his wife, when his feelings for her just aren't there, he "acts" as if he does and the feelings always follow. It may take a while, but they follow. I've found this to be true. I know these things may sound trite when your marriage feels strange and lost but I've found them to be helpful and I hope you do, too. Sometimes there are obstacles in a marriage that cannot be overcome, but sometimes, those obstacles are much smaller than we make them. Anyway, that's my two cents worth. Hope I didn't cross a line. And by the way, I thoroughly enjoy both of your blogs...the writing, the humor and the honesty. Sending positive thoughts your way.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelinda

I have that problem, although I'm a little older than you and have had the time and opportunity maybe a little sooner to work on it some. I am not religious or particularly spiritual, but one of the things that helped me more than anything else was that several years ago, I read Stephen Mitchell's short, poetic translation of the Tao te Ching all the way through every day for about a year. I looked at it an an act of meditation. It takes about an hour so you may have to break it up a little more--maybe read the whole thing over a few days, catch as catch can, then read specific sections daily. It's a lot about settling yourself and realizing that most shit just doesn't matter, which sounds like something you already know but it's more complex than that. A lot of the ideas are so foreign to the super-individualist American way of thinking about ourselves that it was really an interesting process to see myself from that perspective and gradually come around to it. I didn't become some new age zen master or anything, but I became dramatically less angry, and my husband and people around me noticed how differently and calmly I started handling things. That's been more than 15 years ago, and it still affects the way I live my life. I revisit it from time to time when I feel myself getting too amped up too often.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristy

I find that there is a very fine line between being defensive and defending yourself. I don't want to be defensive, but I also don't want to be a door mat, you know? Everyday I struggle with this, and I have no answer.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

@Natalie - Good point. Most of the time, when responding to commenters here I feel like I'm defending myself and that is then misperceived as being defensive. I'm often surprised when people call me defensive so, yeah, it's something I'm struggling with.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

With regard to you and Serge ... honestly, it seems like there's just too much "there" there. You guys are together, virtually all of the time, living in a small town that doesn't seem to have all that many distractions. Couple (no pun intended) the "together 24/7" thing with the latitude to noodle around in your own head way too much ... and yeah, it appears to be a recipe for friction and dissatisfaction and boredom and drinking or eating too much and a nagging itch you just can't seem to scratch. It's like being stranded on a desert isle together, but without the benefit of the palm trees, sunshine, and warm azure ocean.

I'll repeat - much more succinctly this time, i promise! - what I suggested in my previous epic comment: Get out of the house and find something non-family related to do and think about! My initial suggestion was for one of you to find part-time or full-time work, but you could also volunteer for a cause that you're passionate about. Or find out if there are any opportunities near your home (maybe at a community college?) for someone to teach a composition course or an adult literacy class, an evening or two a week.

Or hell, tack up a sign at your local library and start a weekly or monthly book club. Or organize a poetry slam.

Just find something to get you thinking outside of your own head, and interacting with, and relating to, others. And thinking about things other than what to make for dinner tonight, how to get yourself and your kids through the next interminable number of hours until bedtime, or how insane you will be if you have to spend one more night listening to that freaking box fan. It will stretch your "brain muscles", give you and Serge (and the kids!) more to talk about, and (in the case of working) lessen the financial aspects of your woes.

Yes, things like date nights are a great idea in concert with other changes, but I honestly think that you've both fallen into a rabbit hole of just not having enough "outside world" in your lives to give your family life some context and perspective. You just both seem so damn unhappy with the way things are going now, And if you shake things up with a new game plan and *that* doesn't work, then there's nothing that says that you can't move on to try Plan C, Plan D ... but trying new approaches to making things better seems to be a key here, since the current approach doesn't seem to be working out so well for either of you right now.

Wishing you peace and happily-ever-afters as you navigate through this path.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRuth

Monica, being vulnerable means you are open to being harmed, just like riding a bike on a busy street you are vulnerable to being hit by a car, right? So, in you blogging, let's say you don't defend but acquiesce instead. What if you said, you know, you might be right. Or even more dangerous, you ARE right. That would make you vulnerable to what? Being exploited somehow? being taken advantage of? or something else?

What if you did that same thing in your daily life. What if you said, yea, it could be my turn with the dishes, I don't remember and you did the dishes, instead of arguing about whose turn it is. What would you be worried about in that scenario? Probably being taken advantage of, right? So to avoid any possibility of being taken advantage of, you reject anything that even seems to approach it. Sort of like the demilitarized zone in a conflict. You stay so far away because the mere chance you might be shot at, even though there are miles between you and the actual enemy.

Who is the enemy, anyway? I mean, you don't need to defend yourself unless you are thinking someone is trying to hurt you, right?

Blogging about your life for a living requires a very thick skin You absolutely cannot allow yourself to care about what people say about you or your family because you cannot control or affect what is thought or said. Although I think you're pretty good at it, I don't think you have the skin for pesonal blogging, nor do I believe that you really want to develop that skin (who would for fucks sake?) because it's not really you. I think you have to make some decisions about how you want to, or actually can, live your life. You seem to go in cycles of accepting the noise about you, letting something get to you, getting super defensive, lashing out, shitstorm ensues, exhaustion, post this this one, calm, rinse and repeat. That's not healthy and it will affect your family if it hasn't already. Some people are just not meant to blog for a living. Because your family livlihood is completely dependant upon blogging income you don't have the luxury of just walking away like you did when it was a hobby. You need to make sure you have options so that if you really have to walk away, you can. Good luck.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMC

As I was chatting with my therapist, one session, she made a comment about herself. She said that her life started to become better/easier once she accepted the fact that: LIFE IS HARD.

I understand your defensivenes... long ago, when I was reading all of your stuff you had put on your site, you wrote about being the 'tough girl'; that would be me, as well. I get it.

Peace and love to you and Serge-- you fucking deserve it.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

It seems the internet is the new high school cafeteria. No one can be vulnerable without expecting to be shamed and everyone has to defend their point of view, their words and their images, without pause.

This is the nature of performing in this space now. I hold out hope that this will change.

You need your defensive nature to survive in this working space for now and it will be a tough tango indeed to keep it from spilling into the life you lead that doesn't involve keyboards and content.

With all of that being said, there is some real beauty in the textual interchanges between yourself and your husband that reveal a vulnerability and a creativity that bond you two together. With your lush imaginations and the stress of your everyday lives, it would be easy to retreat into the idea that there is something more romantic or more soul-fulfilling that what you have already built. There is not. The real heart of the matter will be digging in to rediscover what will become of your partnership if you continue to evolve, strive, create, spat and age together. Starting something creative in the "real" world as a partnership (loved Ruth's idea) to engage on a more personal level (with each other and your audience) could really be something that would nurture you both.

Monica, we're just all on the outside, looking in and watching. What is our story? What is the path we should follow? We keep watching as we navigate and even if we can't walk together, it's nice to know that there are others out there struggling with the fact that the real stuff of life is sticky. Sometimes this feeling of being unsure causes the self we think of as lovely, beautiful and patient into that thing in the kitchen that huffs and puffs, rolls her eyes and casts sideways leers at the person who could reassure her, if she asks, that everything is gonna work out just fine.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkatherine

Monica, I believe I know the site to which you are referring, and I think chalking it up to "a site full of losers" is pretty unbalanced. Yes, the site has its fair share of critics, but if you look past the snark and really see what they're trying to say (about you, about other bloggers), then you'd be able to see the constructive criticism, as well. A lot of the posters over there actually like you, but you're bent on only seeing the negative. A lot of their criticisms are constructive about how they'd like to see you change. To sum them up as "losers" is putting blinders on and refusing to find the constructive amidst the rest of the criticism. Just my two cents. I really like your blog and reading your words, but I also think there are some valid points made on the other site about how you can improve.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I came to comment, but I see the very first person said basically what I wanted to: Do not assume you have a defensive nature...that is, that you came out of the womb that way. It seems to me that between living under the iron fist of the Mormon Church, being poor and thus feeling different/inadequate, and having a bunch of brothers picking on you constantly (and that's just the stuff I know because you've shared it!) you would have no choice but build up a HUGE set of defenses in order to survive. And, Monica, EVERYONE who makes it to adulthood had to figure out how to survive the particular traumas of their childhood--it's known as the adaptive self (also in inner child work, the teenager) But you totally got it when you said now those mechanisms you used to survive are failing you, and worse maybe, harming you and your adult relationships. When I tell you that to have these awarenesses at your relatively young age will save you SO much pain and struggle and misery later on...I mean, I just can't tell you enough--you're saving your own emotional life by recognizing all of it and it is HARD to do. Please know what a big deal it is and be gentle with yourself as you go because It takes real courage to face and then change yourself in the fundamental ways you're talking about...All I can urge you is not to go it alone, which would for some of the same aforementioned childhood reasons naturally be your instinct. If you can work with a therapist on these issues I think you'll be amazed how much you can grow (and I don't mean that or any of this remotely condescendingly; I've just been through it myself so I feel passionately about it) And, I do think sharing this particular journey may help a lot of other people who see shades of themselves in you. Sending you lots of encouragement and support.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterE.

You inspired me to draw and write my blog post on this idea today.

It seems to me that you both need some alone time; from each other and together but from the kids. At this point in your kids life it is hard, which makes marriage harder, and the four of you being together 24/7 is not always healthy.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaffron

@Jessica - I'm not blindly calling everyone on that site "losers" because they don't like me. There's a lot not to like about me so I get it... to a degree. While there are some valid points over there I don't see the merit in sitting around judging other people in an unkind, snarky tone. It's just a weird way to want to spend your time... And yes, the general tone of that blog is negative and snarky. What's the point? To make people feel bad. The positive, intelligent comments are definitely in the minority. I know of several bloggers, really good people, who have had some really rough nights because of that blog so yes, I still use the term "losers" and feel pretty solid about it. I don't know the woman who runs it but hosting a place for people to slag other people ain't cool with me, period and being responsible for hurting other people in the name of "constructive criticism" - if that's what you're calling the horrible shit that goes down on that blog - is just lame. Last time I checked there was an award nomination for bloggers you can't stand. Is that the constructive criticism to which you are referring?

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

Monica this post could be about me! I use sarcasm and can be totally defensive over the silliest things. Like you these are left over survival skills that are not serving me well at all right now. What scares me the most is seeing my bigger girls (11 & 8) talking to each other in such a defensive way and using sarcasm way too often. That has been huge for me in trying to stop. It is so hard. I hate being vulnerable, truly feel naked when I let go.

I think a lot of the comments so far have been great, lots of insight and some great suggestions. Realizing you have this issue is huge and trying to do something about it is scary. We all want to better people and feel safe. loved, even cherished.

Raising small kids is exhausting work and it is easy to ignore everything else in order to keep up, it became a great place for me to hide for years.

I guess I just wanted to say I do get this and can completely relate and it doesn't make you a bad person or damaged goods, just someone who wants to make her world a better place for herself, her husband and kids.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Some of the best advice I ever received is to say this over and over to myself: What other people think of me is none of my business.

It took me a long time to understand and put this into practice, but it literally changed my life. I can't imagine how hard it is to not go to those sites and see what people are snarking about but maybe you need to hold yourself back. Why go and look at what the "losers" have to say about you when you know it will just upset you?

I am not justifying it all by any means, BUT, once you are known/loved enough to have people writing about you in a forumn, you have pretty much hit "blogger celebrity" status. It's easy to comment about another blog and maybe say some not so nice things because you don't know them personally and they have like 1000+ readers. It's the equivalent of celebrity magazines/websites---which I am not justifying this behaivor, I just think it shouldn't be so shocking that people are talking about you. You are internet famous! Don't go and read that crap!

I digress...WOPTOMINOMB! (what other people think of me is none of my business)

p.s. I really love your blog and your honesty...and your videos.....and I think you 2 guys are f'ing funny as shiz.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterValerie

I agree with the others who say your defensiveness was needed as a child, but isn't now. I second the suggestion of therapy. Having grown up in similar circumstances as you, I can relate to the place you are in now.

I've been there, and I had my coping mechanisms and unfortunately it took a devastating turn of events (mostly caused by my own naivety and stubbornness) for me to really wake up to what needed to be done. It was really fucking hard and I completely understand why some people choose to never face their fears. You are talented and cool and it would suck for you to waste a lot of time being miserable. You don't deserve that.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLuzy

Keep being defensive with the internet world. I just read some recent weird stuff people wrote about you and your family and I feel defensive for you! I hate them.

Get Serge back up on stage for some music therapy.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStarsky


I LOVE your blog. I LOVE reading every little thing you and Serge write. I check your blog constantly checking for new updates. With that being said....Get the hell of the internet and spend time with Serge. If you're looking for opinions, here's some of mine. You two spend waaayyy too much time together. Everyone needs a little piece of the world just for themsleves. Then plan "special" time for just the two of you. I get it that your kids are the world to you. Mine were too, now they are in their 30's and live 1000 miles away from me. It's just me and my husband now...We live together, work together, have the same days off as each other and make a lot of concessions to each other..."How important is it?" Saves us from fighting. I make alone time for "me." or else I'd go crazy. He doesn't seem to suffer from this, but realizes that I need it and that it has nothing to do with him.

"Defensive" Yeah, I understand. Everytime you feel defensive, look behind it to see what is really going on. I know I have to, and usually find that there is another emotion being stroked in the background. If you explain yourselve further and someone calls you defensive. That's their problem not yours....I like that you will interact with us and further explain or elaborate on your thoughts. Don't feel like you have to get the last word in...haha...There are some looney's out here and I know you know that! Also, not eveyone will "like" what? That's what makes this world an interesting place.

Rambling done....Please take care of yourself, Serge and the children. But make yourself come first or else you won't have anything left for them. Hugs to you.....

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

ps: Here's something else you may find interesting...before I did all the intense emotional work on myself to which I have (no doubt annoyingly and endlessly) referred I found myself much more drawn to and bound up in conflict, though I wasn't actually aware that I had any control over it. That is, from relationships w/family members to boyfriends to people in comments sections on the internets...I felt righteous and determined to fight my case, whatever it was. But what I recognized later was that mixed in with the toxic feelings surrounding said conflicts there was an unmistakeable rush of adrenaline in going to the mat with these people...and I sucked that weird rush up like a drug. Once I did all that me work I found this amazing bonus which was...I just no longer, naturally, was drawn to that kind of conflict-it wan't even conscious much of the time (though sometimes I do have to remind myself not to engage--it takes practice). And as Secrety as you may find it, I no longer seemed to be attracting drama/conflict and the people who bring it into my life. It's a huge relief...but I do have to gut-check a lot for the adrenaline feeling--if it's there when I'm tempted to go toe to toe with someone, even by email, I stop and remember it's mostly my ego wanting to be right. I indulge that ego as little as I can... I guess what I'm saying is you may, if you work on this stuff, eventually find you truly no longer care about those hate sites, or are at all curious about Caroline, or feel like one-upping Serge/your mom etc.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterE.

Dear E,
Glad I wasn't the only one who used to do that. I always say if there was nothing going on I was bored. I used to create conflict......God help me. Now I say "boring is good."

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

Oh I so can relate on what feels like constant competition between myself and my husband. I am just as guilty of it as he is, but it doesn't make it any less exhausting. And I don't know how to fix it because I don't know when or why it started. It is even worse right now since I am pregnant and feel like I should get...what? A break? An extra "point"? Who knows. But yeah, thanks for voicing that, it helps to know we aren't the only ones who do it you know?

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKerry

@Valerie - I love this. And it's so true! For some reason, because it's about me or my family I sometimes feel like I need to wade into the madness in order to defend my family. Perhaps because nobody would even know who my kids are if it wasn't for me and this blog... But really it is none of my business and why do I care? They don't know me.

@E - I was just saying this to Serge the other day. I'm not even really writing what I want to write anymore... I'm blogging about blogging instead of just writing about little snippets of my day and the reason I'm doing that is because I'm reading too much shit on the internet and subconsciously or overtly responding to that crap. I've been way to caught up in drama and conflict for the longest time and I'm trying to step back, step away and just do my thing. Yet it's weird how addicted you can be to toxic shit and not even be aware of it, you know?

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

I do know, Oh, Monica, I really do. I just think the roots--for me at least--of what motivated that drama-draw were so deep that as much as I wanted at a certain point to stop, as much as I recognized intellectually that I was unhappy, I couldn't and didn't for years until I addressed and really worked through the stuff from my childhood. And I think I said this once before after the fire, if the thought of doing that scares you (as it did me) just know that at least one no longer has to spend years & years in Freudian analysis (which if you look at the likes of woody Allen doesn't really work all that well anyway) to tackle this stuff. There are amazing new(er) therapies that work much more quickly and arguably more deeply...but in my experience and in the experience of those people who I've witnessed most transform their lives, you really do have to dig in with either a professional and/or a support group....I know you guys did couples for a while...and i think that can be incredible but I'd love you to have your own person/time too...

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterE.

Monica, I just recently found your blog & really appreciate your honesty and self-reflection. Most people can't admit flaws to themselves, let alone to the rest of the cyberverse. Husbands, kids, blogging, haters? It was never going to be easy, and from what little I know of you easy isn't what you signed up for in the first place - like all seekers, I'm guessing you want a life fully lived.

Being a wife and a parent means joy, elation, hardship, hurt, laughter, trust, mistrust, frustration, poopy diapers, scraped knees, Kodak moments, sleepless nights, pizza, beer, nachos, toys everywhere, getting defensive, being utterly vulnerable, and making mistakes. It's the entire spectrum of experience, and speaking for myself, I wouldn't trade this wild roller coaster for anything - even the tough bits. My life is one fantastic and continuous mistake, and I'm lucky to learn from it & share it with those I love every day.

When the shit hits the fan, just remember: love is the foundation of every meaningful relationship you have. I guess we've all gotta fall sometimes so we can learn to pick ourselves back up, reconnect, and keep on doing our best. I'm confident you'll keep doing just that, and thanks for being brave enough to talk about your struggles openly. You certainly have my respect.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMo Weinhardt

I so feel you and Serge. My husband and I have a similar love story, lifestyles from before kids were similar and now after kids I see so many things that are similar. We loved soo much and how did we get here? We love our children soo much and yet the marriage has gone to the backburner for raising our children, working full time jobs and everyday life. All the stupid little daily stuff adds up and the wall that has been put up between us one little peice at a time is now so high I sometimes wonder if we will ever get over it. I love reading both your guy's stuff. I pray both our marragies survive and one day thrive again.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTR

you are where you are and just about the only thing you can really do is take it from (t)here...
you can wonder how you got here, what went wrong, how it could've been better... and you may thrill a lot of readers while you do that (btw, thank you for the thrill)... but, when it comes down to it, all you can really do is take it from (t)here...
we are all prisoners of our own choices, our own short-sighted desires and our own resistance to change... it's really due to our inability to understand... we can agree on that much, right? that we understand that we cannot understand...
so yes, your story is everybody's story to the degree to which anyone can realize that...

but the reality is that we change... and what you looked for five years ago is passé ... if you would truly part ways with serge, you would not look for another serge... you would look for somebody who would have all of his positive traits plus ones that would counter his negative ones... that's because you have changed... because you have experienced so much more... so say you find this super-serge guy... guess what... to some extent, and please allow me to make this clear for the benefit of your readers, to some extent, five years from now you could make a similar assessment with a similar result...

there is always something missing, there is always something better... but, if the basics are covered, the difference is not that much bigger... if serge has met your most important criteria/needs and if he still has the potential to do that... and if he has not crossed the lines that should not be crossed, according to your values... then looking for super-serge would be foolish... because serge is already super-serge... your life has already been best and it already has the potential to be best...

so take it from (t)here... follow your heart... it's a cliche, but it's true... it's obvious that you struggle with the current arrangement... the actors seem to be the right ones, but the roles need altered a bit...
you hate blogging for money... unless you are able to make money from blogging the way you feel to blog, you cannot be happy...
your whole life is crowded in your immediate proximity... there is no clear distinction across work, marriage, parenting and fun... it's a smorgasbord, and as good as the individual ingredients may be, when mixed together all the time, the same taste becomes too much to handle... force some uncomfortable structure in your life... hire a nanny... write away form everything and everybody else... set an uncomfortable goal... think twice about a third child right away (ok... i may be pushing it... but, you get my point...)...

we all change... but don't allow yourself to change into what the outside needs from you... instead, change yourself into what you want to be(come)... and the outside will follow... allow yourself to be your true self... the mother, the lover, the writer, the breadwinner... they all scream and fight inside you to take the lead... let them win... just make sure you show them how to do it one at a time...

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

I've been reading your blog for two years now, and I never comment on anyone's, but I feel as though in part I've taken a voyeuristic pleasure in your exposure of your love story and your troubles, in part because you and Serge have exposed so much of yourselves. And I just want to urge both of you to stop now. Not because it's wrong or bad to write about your marriage, but because you really and truly don't want to write yourselves into a divorce. That can happen, the way it can be a mistake for people to go to marriage counseling and then give voice to hostilities and upsets that can never be taken back. If you followed my advice, I would really miss reading all about you. But I think you should take what I'm saying under advisement.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Hi Monica,

I am also writing this response without having back-read blogs I have missed or reading others comments, so I may be missing part of your story, but I feel compelled to comment anyway.

Here is the deal: I check in with your blog/babble every few weeks because I love how raw and open you and Serge are with your writing and emotions. Sometimes I think you two are a bit too overanalytical because you have made a career of blogging your day to day life. This may make the actual LIVING part harder because you are trying to reflect at the same time it's happening. You need a little space to sit with your feelings a while, ya know? .

Marriage is full of peaks and valleys. Dont give up- ever. There are going to be a lot of bad days. They will pass. Good days will come again; you two are in the trenches right now. Kids will get a little bigger and you will begin to breathe easier and feel better. Just try every day to do one NICE thing or say one NICE thing. Bite your tounge when you want to snap. Treat your spouse as politely as you would a coworker. Sounds dumb and will feel forced at first, but if you BOTH do it, every day, eventually it will make you feel better just by being nice. You two are on the same team! Write that down and post it on the fridge.

Boom- no therapy needed. Just a little less introspection and a little more LIVING in the moment with kindness.

Best wishes for you and Serge for the future.

(Sorry if this came off preachy)

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMel

I just re-read the comments and I realized Ive repeated everything everyone already said. Take the helpful bits and discard the crap from all of us. Best of luck to you both. Dont give up on your marriage!

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMel

If parents have a loving relationship and take care of themselves, there is plenty of love to trickle down for the kids.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercynthia coffey

I have no advice, but only to wish you well and hope you get back on solid ground. The Monica i know isn't defensive; she's smart, confident, and not afraid to make a point in hopes it will make others think. I hope you will find a way to ignore the nasty things said about you and remember those who know you are deeply in love with the Bielankos.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

It's really hard to change when we've grown up with it as a coping mechanism. I have a quick temper. I'm defensive almost immediately if I even sense a hint of criticism. I stick up for myself and for the people I love.

I say just own it.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCassie

One of the greatest things I have realized about myself at 35 years old is that I'm AVERAGE AND BORING! Most of us are. Trying to stick it to "the man" while proving what a free spirited, creative, woman I am just got too exhausting. it was too exhausting for me to think about why my biological dad left us, or if he was the reason why I acted the way I did, or analyze this about myself, or analyze that about myself, or I'm mad about this, or I'm mad about that. I was just tired of it, and I stopped. Do you know what a relief it is to put all that away?? Who fucking cares at this point!

I'm now just a nice lady with a kid and a husband. I don't give a crap if people think I'm real or fake, or interesting, or beautiful. I've stopped always trying to be "real" because the more real you try to be, the more of a schitck it becomes because you are overthinking it and then the real-ness has left the building.

My one year old daughter is the fun, cool, interesting chick. I am happy to pass the baton to her.

You need to stop writing like we are reading if you want to get out of this funk. Although i know that is hard. When I journal I still imagine someone is going to find it and read it and think "MY GOD! SHE IS BRILLIANT!" So I don't have any advice on how to do that, but i think your earlier writing leaned more towards that style.

We are all the stars of our own movies in our heads, and I think once you are able to press STOP and turn off the movie, life really becomes fun.
And I miss your funny stories.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa

Funny the way it is ... I was talking about my marriage in much the same way, although our child (I adopted his bio daughter as a pre-teen) is now 19, so we don't have the kids all the time.

He and I were talking about us the other day and I explained how I've come to an understanding for what has kept us together ... the bottom line is I love him - who he is, how he thinks, etc.

But EVERY day, EVERY damn day, I run through the gamut of emotions. I feel love, hate, love, annoyance, passion, no passion. The passion seems to be there at times when it doesn't serve us well. And at rest we're too tired for passion.

As you all know, marriage is work, you just have to decide if you want to keep that job. And you and Serge seem well suited for the long haul. But only you can decide that. We don't really know you. But I can tell you this - I see that most of us like you for who you both appear to be. And that's often enough.

Good Luck!

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam2

P.S. I use sarcasm as a defense mechanism too. I'm also trying to overcome that. I think it's a common thread.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam2

I have nothing to say other than I hope you and Serge work your way through this. I want a happy ending for you guys, and Violet and Henry too.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Monica, I can't stand snark, it's demeaning, mean-spirited and hurtful. It's put out into the world under the guise of humor, and at times it can be, but in the end the person who practices snark ends up being bitter, angry and resentful, not funny and sarcastic like he or she started out as. It is judgment without compassion and it sucks. I have made the choice to avoid TV shows that focus on that, like Fashion Police and The Soup. They are at times funny, and I like evaluating design and fashion styles in particular, but I can't abide Joan Rivers and her terrible meanness towards people.
We become what we pay attention to and practice, and I don't want to be that.

Every marriage I know has had some tough times once the second baby arrives. You are no longer just revelling in the joy of the first one and how amazing the baby is and how lucky you are. No. Now you are two childcare workers, with no pay and no sleep. It's tough but you can get through it. Accept life has changed and enjoy the moments. Get some help in and get some sleep for god's sakes. You both sound exhausted.
Ask family to come and help.
Go away and take a holiday.
Get some therapy together.
Don't score points, it's doesn't help anyone.
Set some boundaries about whose job is what. eg. Im on kids tonight, you're on dinner and clean up.
Don't let the exhaustion win. Don't let it make decisions. Stick it out kids. You're love story is worth it.

It does get better - Parent of a ten and fifteen year old.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Oh,god, I can so relate. Children damn near destroyed my marriage, and it's only now, a LONG time later, that we are rediscovering who "we" are. It's hard, and it's painful, and it can be really ugly. But I am so, so glad that we stayed together, even during the years that we were far more like roommates than spouses. Because eventually the endless drag of young children ebbs, and left in the tide are the shreds of your marriage, and if you work hard, you can rebuild it. And it's worth it.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElle

You know this is completely normal and anyone who disputes that is probably lying to themselves. One thing my mama told me about marriage is you have to follow through on the commitment when you don't "feel" the love. It's an investment in yourself and your children. Whether you feel the passion right now is not as important as following through on the commitment. You realize now it's a hard path so sometimes you have to take the elevator instead of the stairs. Maybe I'm not making total sense because I surely don't have any secret for a successful marriage. But I do know in the 17 plus years of my marriage, it hasn't been all love and passion. It's been hard work and many hills to climb. Change things up a bit and see if you can find the strength to move on and work through this. Don't allow the "feeling" or lack of to make a decision for you. This is temporary.

April 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam

A year ago I was making myself miserable having those fights with my husband, and started asking why. Why did I act like he was implying that I NEVER do laundry, and he ALWAYS does? Why did I immediately get into fighting stance? I realized it was one of two things. 1) I felt guilty about it because I KNEW it was my turn and I'd been taking advantage of him a little. Or, more commonly, 2) When he said, "Hon, could you please take the dog out?" I heard, "GOD! You never do anything here and I have to do everything!" That's not what he said, and it's not what he meant.

What was really happening is that I was feeling undervalued and insecure. At the time, we had a lot of house and financial stress, and my husband was depressed and unhappy with his job on top of that. I've learned that in times of stress or depression, my husband retreats into himself and can be very distracted and distant. I felt that although I too was going through a hard time, I didn't have enough support from him because he couldn't see past his own feelings. So I was feeling insecure because I wasn't really getting enough love or attention from him, in a direct way. When he would say something to me that felt in any way critical or irritated, I overreacted, because I felt overburdened as it was. And I resented that.

I was fighting to keep my own ground in the relationship. I was fighting to maintain equal footing where I could, and I resented any implication that I was contributing less than he was in some way. These fights about household stuff are easier and more tangible than the real fights. Those would sound something like, "You're depressed and neglecting me and that triggers my fear of abandonment" or "You're stressed and taking it out on me and that triggers my fear of being abused." Or with the internet, "You're saying untrue and hurtful things about me and if I don't respond, I will feel judged, violated, vulnerable, weak."

If you can dig deep and find out what your big picture fears and insecurities are, you will be so far on your way to solving at least your side of the problem when it comes to the defensiveness. You can't solve the Internet's problems, because, whoa. You can't solve Serge's problems, and it will seem unfair if he doesn't also modify his behavior right away. But at least in my case, I found that my husband didn't "take" more than his share once I "allowed" it by choosing not to argue about turns and whatnot. Instead, I started by apologizing for the way I'd been acting, and explained my big picture anxieties. We didn't fix it all right away, but we both started being more respectful of each other and appreciative of the things we each do without having to ask the other. I mean, that crap is like 90% of life! Choosing not to fight about it can remove that much stress from your daily life and marriage.

April 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie Ann

Im sorry, but stop and think! You guys are so blessed! I've been silently reading your blog for a year or more. You are both awesome writers, you are blessed with an incredible love story, you have been blessed with two beautiful children, you've survived horrible experiences ( the fire); but, you are an awesome family, you love each other, you are stronger than you give yourselves credit for, please don't let small issues get in the way of keeping you guys together as a loving, thriving, and happy family. The tough times seem like nothing when you compare them to all the beautiful little smiles, hugs, kisses, and loving looks that you all share as a family.

Love you guys!
Hang in there!

April 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

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