Date ideas are not as easy to come by as I thought.
I used to think that couples had no issues coming up with things to do together. That was until a few years back when I realized that, time and time and time again (yes, I did mean to write that three times), couples would hit this wall and not be able to think of anything to do together.
When I saw this pattern repeatedly, I would continue to have all sorts of conversations with couples about things they can do together on a regular basis to make sure that they don’t grow into strangers.
If you think this only happens to the newlyweds, think again.
If you think this only happens to people who seemingly have no creative juices flowing through their bodies, think again. (I found that so often they’ve used them up at work, leaving them with no ability to come up with some solid date ideas at the end of their day on their own.)
And if you think that this only happens to couples who have been together forEVER, think again.
We all have these date ideas that are sort of our go-to when the question arises – “It’s date night tonight. What should we do?”
Now, there is nothing wrong with any of the activities above in and of themselves, except that if that’s what you do every time you think of having a date night with your spouse, it’s not really spending time together in a way that I’d like to see you spending time together.
My point number 1
As for item No.1, you are welcome to watch movies together so long as it’s not the only thing you do, every time you are trying to connect.
Because when you stare at a screen (even if you may be staring at it together), you are not actually engaging with each other.
Other than, perhaps, bumping into each others’ hand in the pop-corn bowl or feeling your spouse’s arm around your shoulder.
My point Number Two
Same goes for 2 and 5.
Feel free to work together, each on your own computers or on the same computer but do me a favor – don’t call it a date night.
I know sometimes life happens, things happen at work, and the ideal schedule goes out the window and you have to get some things done.
That’s fine. And sure, is it nicer than both of you sitting in your respective offices when it’s 9:30 at night? By all means. But don’t fool yourselves into thinking that by doing so, you will keep growing closer together.
My point number three
The one with family (No.3) is tricky.
You want to have time with your extended family members, you want your parents to know their grandchildren, but again, that cannot be the sum of all you do together.
Family time can be great.
And is necessary. I’m all for it.
Plus, I would generally never advise against it but you have got to find times to just do something – the two of you.
Date night is meant to allow you two to connect on a level that you can’t over text message or email.
When you two can be present to each other in a way that’s impossible when you have to run around, bringing food to the table, making sure everyone else is comfortable and having a good time, or heaven forbid, you still need to finish the dessert because you ran out of time.
My point number four
The last one, doing a double date, sort of falls into the same bucket as the one with having family over for dinner.
Unless these are really close friends and you can have deep conversations around the table without holding back, double dates are good for a light evening out.
They are great for meeting new friends.
But again – contrary to their name – they do not qualify for a date night.
Because you still have to look out for two extra people, and make sure they are having a good time.
You have to talk about things that will include them somehow (unless you don’t mind being rude), not allowing for the topics you and your spouse would want to dig into at all.
And one last time – keeping up with your circle of friends or creating a new social circle is fabulous. But you will (most of the time) not be able to have it work in your favor as a couple on a date night.
Now that you know what, essentially, not to do, tomorrow I will bring you 5 simple and yet meaningful Date night ideas for you to try.
Let’s talk about date night but let me tell you a story first.
I went to a family reunion some weeks back and overheard a conversation about the grandparents, one of which had passed. A lot was said about the kind of people that they were, what they did for their children and grandchildren, setting them up for success, creating a legacy to last for years to come.
Walk down the dirt road to the lake, about half a mile, and get an ice-cream cone.
They did it.
Every Sunday night.
Just the two of them. Like clock-work.
They would leave what they were doing, they would clean up after dinner, and go on their ice-cream run.
Or, better yet, per my initial question here – when did date night go out of style?
If your response to the question above was “duh, at least twenty years ago “, I challenge you to reconsider.
If you asked yourself – “Wait, who said date night went out of style?” – I am somewhat relieved.
And if you cringed as you saw the question, let me tell you that you are in the right place. I also want to be really clear and say – if you don’t like the word ‘date night’, and I know some of you don’t for a variety of reasons- call it what you will. Make up your own word for all I care.
And when I use that term, here is what I am referring to: time alone together.
One-on-one time with the person you walked down the aisle with while someone else introduced you as the newest Mr. & Mrs something or other.
Face to face interactions.
We talk about spending one-on-one with just about everyone else in our lives, including our pets almost, but we forget where it all started. Yes, it started with this relationship you had with your spouse.
When was the last time you had a date night with your spouse?
I routinely ask this question of all my couples.
I get a whole variety of responses. Sometimes it’s been months, years even. Sometimes they can’t even remember – Literally – all they remember is that they went on a date night when their kids were little. And now those kids are almost in high school, picking out their own outfits and going to the mall with their friends.
It’s the beginning of the school year. I know you came up with all sorts of excuses over the summer months. And some are valid points – you only get to see family on family reunions in August. You can only go camping when the weather is nice. The boat will be in the garage the rest of the year.
As you are looking ahead at what your kids are doing throughout the rest of the year, making adjustments to your work schedules, or coming up with new rules so that this school year can go well- this is the perfect time to do this. There is no time like the present to get back into the habit of seeing each other besides just seeing each others’ names on the text messaging or inbox screens.
Make an agreement on the frequency. Make an agreement on who plans which date. Talk about options for a sitter if you need one. Contact several of them and see if they can commit to something right off the bat. Make it a non-negotiable part of your schedule and your life. Relationship specialist Terry Real who I have the honor to know used to remind us couples therapists all the time when he said something to the effect of: “Three times a year – his birthday, her birthday and the anniversary – that ain’t gonna cut it.”
Figure out something that works. Every week. Every other week. Once a month. Anything. But do it.
And then — it’s simple.
So when someone calls and invites you over to a bonfire or a wine party, you will be able to look at your schedule and honestly say: “Thank you, but we already made plans and are busy that night.” You can’t hire someone to do this for you. A lot of other things you can.
That may sound a little harsh. But – That is exactly what I mean. Time together with your spouse has the potential to make or break your marriage. I have seen it and maybe you have seen it too.
If you don’t want to become a stranger in your own home, go on date nights with your spouse. If you don’t want to end up with a roommate situation, living next to each other but not with each other, make time for your spouse and you. If you don’t want to end up in that place where you no longer know what to say to one another other than words to coordinate your children’s schedules, have this conversation this week.
Take it from me: If YOU don’t make your marriage a priority, someone or something else will come in and fill that spot, like it or not. I guarantee it.
Make sure you figure out a way to walk down the road and get your ice-cream cone, vanilla or chocolate – you choose.
If it hasn’t come through – date night did by no means go out of style. If anything, of all the times that it needed to be in style, it is NOW.
Relationship? What relationship? Well, I am talking about the relationship that you have with your spouse, your significant other, your lover, boyfriend or fiancé – whichever one applies for you.
Let me guess.
When you look around, it seems like everyone’s got it figured out.
From what you can tell, anyway.
Nobody seems to be losing any sleep over their relationship, right?
Don’t let them fool you.
If I must, I am going to be the one and pop your bubble to say – don’t judge a book by its cover.
But, you say, how do people figure it out and I can’t?
It may be time that you stop asking yourself that question – once and for all.
And I want to help you figure out the answer.
Right here, right now.
Because, guess what?
Who is to decide what you want from your relationship?
You got it.
And nobody else but you.
And the answer matters a great deal.
Sometimes, it’s easiest to look around you, look at the past (both yours and other people’s) and start by simply writing a list.
A list of what? – you ask.
A list of things, both good and bad, semi-good and semi-bad – that you have seen happen that you knew were going to have to make the cut or others that needed to stay as far away as possible.
You are going to have to sit down, turn everything off (or put on some music that helps you be at peace and concentrate) and think about it for a moment or two.
Or spend a whole Saturday afternoon processing this.
Think about it.
You are going to have to take some time to evaluate what you learned in life.
And then start jotting things down.
Because there is NOBODY else that can provide you with that list as it applies for you.
Maybe you divide your page in two – and do the good old-fashioned pros and cons list.
I find that the easiest place to start with a lot of things (like when I was looking for a new office) is to start with the list of things you know you don’t want.
For me, that was easy:
And that’s just the start. I could go on. But you get the point.
So, it’s your turn.
Go ahead and start with that.
What are those things for you?
Sometimes, we figure out what we want best by realizing and figuring out what it is that we do not want.
You already know what your first two or three are, don’t you…???
Write them down.
And then, keep writing. If you hit a wall, put it down, and come back to it in a day or two.
Once you have that part figured out, turn the page over and see what that means about what you actually want in your relationship.
Now it’s time you write those things down.
Do it. I dare you.
The secret is this: Once you know that, you know exactly where and what to look for.
And do so shamelessly.
And let me tell you one other thing.
There is nobody walking the planet earth that can figure this out for you. (or did I say this already?)
You are the one and only person who has to figure this out on their own. The success of your present (and/or future) relationship depends on it.
So, get to work.
Because who you spend the rest of your life with matters greatly.
And how you do will too.
Last week, I don’t even know what night it was, I spent the evening binge watching (I know, please don’t judge) a whole bunch of Ted Talks dealing with relationships or therapy in one way or another. And I came out really finding a few gems that I cannot but share with you all.
Because they are so worth the investment of time (and no, not JUST for a marriage therapist like myself!).
This first one, and I have to share this one first because – well – it made me laugh. Who doesn’t like a good laugh, right?
[NOTE: If you would like to skip ahead to the VIDEO discussed here, scroll down & you’ll see it.]
And really it made me think of this one question: When was the last time that you and your spouse laughed at something out loud? Or spent a few hearty minutes laughing at something together? And I don’t mean the LOL that you comment with when reading someone else’s status update. I mean, real, raw laughter that made your face hurt afterward. That kind.
Can you remember a time? (I will leave you with that for a second.)
We talk about serious things all day. When we are at work. When we coordinate things with other co-workers, bosses, neighbors, family, friends, parents of our children’s friends – we talk seriously almost all day long. And sometimes, it gets on our nerves without even realizing that’s what’s going on.
When you can say something with a smile on your face, it is BOUND to make a better impression than when you say the exact same thing with a frown. Nobody will argue with that. So, onto humor and marriage advice we go.
You may or may not realize that one of the most repeated marriage advice one gets from couples married four or five decades or longer is: Have (and keep) a sense of humor. Don’t believe me? If your grandparents are still living and married 50 some years – ask them. You’ll see.
It’s no surprise, really. Laughter is such a powerful connector that it’s only surprising that we (read: All married couples/all humans really) don’t take it more seriously. [Now, that’s a funny play on words :-)]
And I will say — There are definitely things that should NOT be laughed about/laughed at. For. Sure. BUT – the rest of the time – we should take advantage of this phenomenon to a greater degree.
We are used to discussing marriage issues and we almost put on a different face, as if we had to be wearing a mask. When ways of talking about your relationship can be light, it’s so much easier to listen to. And when it’s easier to listen to, it’s also easier to respond with generosity.
And often it takes the edge off. It allows for more room to breathe. Because the issue at hand is no longer so awfully heavy. Because your spouse doesn’t lose all the spark in their eyes when he/she starts to talk. They can laugh at it – they can make a joke. You can remember a joke together and laugh at it together. You can make a joke out of something that maybe neither one of you has the power to change.
Anyway – enough talk on my part. Listen for yourself. We talk too often about marriage and relationships in a serious way. Maybe not TOO often, but definitely MORE often than not.
Do yourselves a favor and watch this piece of funny marriage advice. And – if you are not a research fan, brace yourself 🙂
Alright – What did you think?
I already explained why having laughter is good for you. Both individually AND as a couple. Have you shared this video with your spouse yet (assuming you think it was worth watching, of course)?
Do you laugh at yourself every once in a while? Can you ever laugh at yourselves together? Even as couples are preparing for (or have just survived) their weddings, right? Something’s just GOT not to go according to plan. In the big scheme of things – Who cares, right? But then again, I am notorious for having realist/borderline pessimist tendencies more often than not. For better or worse, at least I can laugh at myself, right? 😉
PS: Remember what McCarthy said about the Oscars and take this piece of funny marriage advice to heart. I am certainly going to.
Let’s talk about money, shall we?
With tax day just behind us, it only seems appropriate to connect around this topic. Particularly because it is, after all, the No. 1 topic that couples avoid talking about. What did you think it was? If asked the question, most people think that the most avoided topic in marriage is, of course, sex. That’s not the case.
Even if you have been married just a year or two, I want you to talk and think about money. And I want you to do so because it’s significant that you both know where you stand on the question of finances. I also want you to be aware that quantity doesn’t matter at all. And, as long as you live, the question of money will be one to come up again and again, sometimes with warning and other times with none.
People have all kinds of ideas about how money should be handled, whether or not it should be talked about at all. We walk into our relationships expecting for things to just fall into place in some sort of magic way, and when that doesn’t happen, we end up disappointed at best, frustrated at worst.
Did you or did you not witness any discussions around money in your family growing up? What was the general result? Was it a conversation you wanted to participate in and (perhaps) learn from or was it instead an endeavor that you wanted to run away from at all cost?
Whose role was it to make financial decisions? Were your parents on the same page about things most of the time or never? Do you talk about it? Do you never talk about it? Can only one person bring it up? IS it a taboo?
This list is not exhaustive. Please know that. I bring these questions up because it is as a direct result of these (and numerous other questions) around the topic of money that you and I have come to believe what we believe about the value of money & the communications around it. Therefore, I advise you as a couple to sit down, on a regular basis, and talk about this.
Yes, it’s true- it doesn’t matter whether you have money coming out your ears, or whether you are struggling short- or long-term financially, the amount of money that you have (or don’t have) at your disposal will not predict how successful you will be in terms of dealing with it. Whether you are trying to go at it alone or with a partner or spouse – it’s all the same.
So, don’t be fooled to think that because you don’t have a lot of money (or have a ton of it), this point doesn’t concern you. Because it concerns EVERYONE. I am not kidding.
Some would say that the happiest people have much less money than the people we would expect to be happiest. So, beware.
When you first met, it was talking about who pays for dinner. Remember those days? Maybe you took a few trips together – did you divide it up equally? Did one of you pay for everything?
When you got engaged, it was about who pays for the wedding. Who makes decisions about who pays for the wedding. And let’s not forget the honeymoon.
When you had your first child, you had to figure out who stays home and for how long and who stays in the work-force full-time. You had to figure out how childcare would be covered – do you have family in town? Do you want to be creative with your childcare needs? Do you have flexibility at all in any of this?
After that, it’s school – do we send the little ones to public school? Private school? What difference does it make? Once you get through that, it’s college. Your kids’ travel. Your own travel. And sprinkle all the little discussions about things like taxes, weekly/monthly spending, preferences, vacations, gifts, clothing, property, investments, toys (big or small) – It literally NEVER ends.
You get what I am saying. The topic of money in marriage is not going anywhere. As long as you are in relationship with another person, money will be a part of it in one way or another.
The way I look at it, if you haven’t started talking about money, it would be well worth your while. And if the first conversation doesn’t go so well, know that it’s pretty common. Practice makes perfect. And the more you know, the better you can figure this money piece our together – and the better for you both.
Because, in the end, don’t you both want to get along better? Be more open about things in life that matter? Be on the same side/team and act accordingly?
I knew it.
If you have ever been a friend to someone who needed to hear some honest truth, you’ll know what I am talking about. You wracked your brain about how to say it. You did your homework (maybe by talking to an expert, maybe by talking to someone in their family, and maybe by just reading a book or finding a few articles online) so that you could support your point of view.
You put a lot of energy into finding JUST THE RIGHT words. You thought about the occasion. You might have even thought about an ideal location for the conversation. And last, but not least, you tried to figure out the timing. And based on your calculations, you did the best of all of these combined and then you went with it.
That day, at that particular place, and at this specific time. You said to them what you thought they so desperately needed to hear. You wanted to the real friend. Right?
And your words totally fell on deaf ears.
Then you tried again. Because you were convinced they needed to hear you. No luck, again. Maybe you gave it another try or two, only to realize that this isn’t going anywhere. You didn’t know how you messed up – you tried changing your approach, maybe changing your tone, maybe prefacing it with something else.
And then, on an ordinary Monday, several months down the road, as you were walking around the mall, you ran into a common acquaintance of yours who at the end of your time together said that exact same thing, almost verbatim – and your friend looks at you with eyes wide open, mouth slightly ajar, and it hits them.
You – you sit there in disbelief, thinking – that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for months!
This same thing may have happened to you with a teenager. Or a 3-year old. Or your aging parent or grandparent who is no longer able to care for him/herself and needed to start considering other options so that, at the least they didn’t have to drive on a daily basis. And then it was the new nurse who they’ve never met before who figured out the magic combination of words (seemingly) to get through. Even though we know there wasn’t any magic and the words really didn’t matter. The timing did.
So, you may have tried to communicate something to your spouse. And you may have had the exact same experience that I described above. Why? Because – Timing is everything. And, as it turns out, I am not the only one who seems to think so.
Have you ever tried to offer marriage advice to someone else? Have you ever tried offering ANY advice to another person when they weren’t ready to receive it? Giving marriage advice is tricky -and I will be the first one to tell you that. Particularly if you are their friend or family. If you missed my previous article on the topic, read it here: Getting Relationship Advice from Friends & Family)
If your spouse is nowhere near being ready to listen and admit that — first of all — there is even something wrong with your relationship, this will also ring true. And given that you both are adults – and I emphasize this in my office quite often – I can’t make you talk about something that you don’t want to talk about. And guess what – neither can you. You can’t make them talk about something they don’t want to talk about as much as you can’t make them do something they don’t want to do. (If you and I were talking about your kids, that would be a completely different story.)
Now, sometimes that may just be PART of the big picture – some small-ish fight or incident that happened years ago, or a traumatic injury that happened to one of your during your childhood years. Or a part of my question that you prefer not to answer.
And that’s alright. I would rather wait a week or two for you (or both of you) to get comfortable with that idea, than push it on you at the wrong time and get no result. Because that’s what tends to happen when the timing is not right. You get nowhere.
IF I think that it’s something we eventually will need to get back to – I will say so. And I will also invite you to uncover that at some point in the future.
But – when I pick up on one in the couple not REALLY being ready to jump in with both feet and readily enter the process of therapy – And to tell you the truth, that happens quite often during our initial phone consultation – chances are that if we were to start counseling, it wouldn’t go very far. Because most of what would happen would fall on deaf ears. It would not produce the outcome that the other person in the relationship was hoping for.
You have to be able to admit that there is a problem and that you need, and more importantly even, WANT, help.
Relationship advice is not easy to come by. If you have ever been in a situation where you needed some, and heaven knows that most of us have at one point or another, you know this to be true. It only makes sense, the people that you want to help you would (generally speaking) hide behind a tree trunk or make themselves invisible. Why is that? Why is getting relationship advice from the people who we think should have our best interest in mind so difficult?
There are several different layers to the problem.
The beginning of it all is just that. You don’t know how to bring it up. Maybe you remember the last time this happened. You were on a walk with your best friend, and every time you’d start doing another circle around the lake, you’d take that breath, determined that you’d start, only to breathe out through your mouth and keep walking in silence. Can I say something? What is she/he going to think about me? What WILL this mean
It’s difficult to start having those conversation because it means that you are going to have to be vulnerable. You are going to have to admit to a few things. Sometimes, the sole idea of having to admit that you are having relationship problems to begin with is nerve-wracking enough, let along asking that person if they have any advice for you. What does that mean about me? Why CAN’T I figure it out?
Needless to say, it’s a delicate topic any way you look at it.
What do I mean when I say special alliance? Your friends and family have an alliance with you in that they want their desires and wants for you to align with yours. And when I say you, that directly or indirectly includes the relationship you are in – AKA the person you chose to be with. Consciously or subconsciously, our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers (insert other family members if you need to) have our best interest in mind. And, the closer the bond between you and your family member, the more pronounced this alliance is. That makes complete sense.
If you have ever tried this, it will have looked something like this. One day you tell your best friend or sister that you are really in love with this person. They agree. You smile. They smile. It’s a good day. “So good to see you happy.” The next day, you come back and say you are never wanting to see this person again (due to something that transpired, of course). They tell you, good. Whatever you want. They don’t deserve you anyway, forgetting all that happened yesterday and the lovely that he/she was.
Your family members/friends are swaying along with you and lining up to exactly match where you are at any particular moment in time, as if on a teeter-totter. They don’t want to cause any ripples to appear. Causing discord is the last thing on their agenda.
Receiving relationship advice within the parameters of a therapeutic relationship therefore is free of all of the above. Plus, it frees your family and friends to be just that – Family and Friends. And it allows you to stretch & grow in a space that’s designed to do precisely that – stretch & grow.
If you are wondering how counseling with me works and you live in or around the Minneapolis area, look up this article I wrote about how marriage counseling works. If you have any questions, please CONTACT ME HERE. I
Plan. your holidays. NOW.
Yes, I am talking about December 2016. And yes, this is the 1st of February – you are NOT going crazy. Your watch (or should I say phone) is right.
It probably almost sounds crazy, right? Why would anyone in their right mind be telling you to already plan for December 2016? That’s too much even for the overachiever. I mean, ok – You plan three, six months in advance – but not a YEAR ahead! We don’t even know where we will be then…
Others of you will say – and I can hear you already – It’s just been a month since we survived these last holidays – why would we want to hash it out again? I don’t want to keep arguing about all of that any more than we already have…
Well, you are right. It’s recent. And maybe it’s a little earlier than you have been used to – BUT – see for yourself – here are three reasons why you should plan your holidays 2016 now.
You just went through it. It’s only been a month and a few short days. Everything that happened (or didn’t happen) is still in the recent memory folder of your brain. That means you don’t have to dig down I don’t know how deep to get to the good stuff. That means you still remember (and very well so) when you were happy. You also remember when you were not. How different events or things made you feel is still close within your memory’s reach.
You have clear ideas about what was really good and turned out excellent. You might also have some ideas about things/events/people that were missing. The reasons that this year’s holiday season was hard are right at your fingertips.
Now do you see what I am saying?? And you can talk about it because it isn’t 5 years ago. Where you are both digging up dirt that has long been watered, and dug up and messed with a million times over since. Now, instead, it’s still a fresh memory. You can easily recall what happened and when, how and why it wasn’t so great (or if it was, then what made it great).
It’s also been a month since all of it happened and you are way more likely not to be as emotionally charged as you were the day of. And by golly, you and I know that you tried talking about it then but – with no surprise – it blew up in your faces. With a few weeks in between the actual events and the conversation, you are both more likely to have a kind and loving approach to the conversation at hand about the events passed.
It’s hard (or, do I dare say impossible?) to have any sort of conversation when you are trying to pull three dishes out of the oven, put away the kids’ toys that have miraculously piled up in the middle of the dining room while last minute hanging up clean hand towels in the bathroom and trying to respond to the door bell and opening the door – ‘cause – of course, the guests were walking in. That’s a lot. Not just a lot to pile all into one sentence (because that it is too) but more importantly so, in reality even more so.
Now that you have taken care of the ‘fire’ in the kitchen, you are not upset like you were in the moment right then and there, you are able to look at the holidays as a whole with a more calmness in your voice and heart. So, do it.
This one may seem a little matter-of-fact – but I am going to say it out loud anyway. Based on the points above – here is my conclusion for you. Were there things that worked and worked great over the holidays for you as a couple? Were there things that you both can raise a glass to and say in unison:
Congratulations, we did it! – Then – Do more of that.
Make a plan to keep that same system in place, use the same schedule, utilize the same resources to make what worked great awesome again. Because you want to both see a smile on each other’s face instead of a frown, that’s easy.
Now, you probably know what’s coming next. IF there were things or events or times over the holidays that didn’t quite work so well, don’t do it. Make an adjustment. Make a new plan. Try something different. This is your chance to talk about doing something else or just doing it differently so that it works better for you both as individuals and as a couple.
Ok, so I lied – I got one more. It’s a short one though, don’t worry – Think of it as a bonus:
Remember that with marriage, everything is a learning curve. If you ignore all of what I said above and then next year comes and all of what happened this year happens again and you are going to want to get all bent out of shape because it happened AGAIN or something failed to happen again – Remember this:
You can’t expect anything to change if you don’t do anything about it in advance. It’s that simple. You have got to bring it up. You have got to be willing to have a conversation with your spouse and make sure that this year’s holidays are an improvement to last year’s. Nobody can do this for you.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy Shmalentine’s day.
I don’t like Valentine’s day.
Can you tell?
If you are surprised, or appalled even, that’s alright.
I don’t mind.
Just hear me out.
There is a reason I say that – I promise.
(And if you are reading this, saying to yourself, ‘ooo, I don’t either’ – I’d love to know if we align.)
First of all, I say that because I find the holiday WAY too commercialized.
I don’t appreciate all the lines in every restaurant or nook you go in (if you can even get in), I don’t really love the extra price tag on every possible item you would buy the week or two before V day.
And I like spending money on things that matter – I guess I just don’t like being told that THIS is the day I ought to do so.
And beyond that, most importantly, I really don’t like the idea of LOVE being on the forefront of a couple’s mind that particular day.
Because there is an underlying understanding that you do this thing once a year (whatever IT is: buy flowers, get a card, maybe write a card, get dinner in, go eat out, go see a show….) and you’re covered.
Not just once a year you don’t.
Not just because someone else decided that’s when you have to do so.
Terry Real taught me this great line that I use in my office all the time when discussing the idea of dating your spouse.
You may have heard the short of it before: Keep dating your spouse.
Terry’s version of it sounds something like this:
“Three dates a year – His BD, Her BD and your anniversary – ain’t gonna cut it.”
My clients have to do their work to remind me to include Valentine’s day as the fourth occasion that should be on every couple’s radar.
But, depending on who you are and who your spouse is, that day/date may not make it to your list of must-celebrate-occasions.
Now, if you are NOT like me, and you care about Valentine’s day – which, by the way, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that —
What do you enjoy?
Do you have one in mind?
Now, once you formulate it in your head – is this public knowledge or is it just something you hide inside your head and make it part of a hide-and-seek game for your partner to play (whether they are up for games or not)?
In other words, have you shared with each other what your expectations are?
Are you still trying to play your cards just right, with seemingly no success?
If you have trouble coming up with what you would like, think of a time in the past (with this partner or an ex) when you were ecstatic about the outcome of V day.
When everything went JUST as you hoped, dreamed and desired.
Where you wouldn’t have changed a thing.
What are your ideas for this year?
What did you do last year?
Who planned it?
Was it a combined effort or does one of you surprise the other?
Is (or was) Valentine’s day a day to remember in a good or bad way?
What do YOU like to commemorate the occasion?
Do you each have your preferences or are you easy as long as something happens?
Do you like to contribute to this or are you one to sit back and let the other person take over?
Maybe this is your first V Day together – how high are you gonna set the bar?
And I don’t mean that in a mean way – it’s just plain asking where you both stand on the issue and what would you each like to see. Whatever you do, celebrate Valentine’s day with love.
And you may find out that you aren’t all that into this particular day of the year.
And, you may find out otherwise.
You know how I said earlier that I don’t like Valentine’s day?
(And I know I am not the only one) I think this is what it boils down to:
If we are celebrating our love for each other – and last time I checked, that’s what was behind the entire V-Day enterprise – I think it should be Valentine’s day at least once a week.
And you might even agree.
In fact, I may go so far as to say it should really be a daily habit that after a while becomes the new normal.
I am all about special occasions.
I am all about making special days work.
Just figure out if this is a good one for both of you.
And then – make it a good one.
You have less than a week.
PS: Happy Valentine’s Day!
You might have seen one of these. On the front of a hallmark card or maybe in someone’s News feed, a tribute of sorts to their husband or their we(to be) or one on their birthday, anniversary or just a day like every other.
You know what I am talking about, right?
It’s a laundry list of sorts of subjects and adjectives that is to describe your boyfriend/fiancé/husband (or the female version thereof) in every way possible. It’s the praise with gratitude combined when put in one single paragraph and then making it public in black and white.
Maybe it looked something like this:
On this day that is our anniversary (or fill in your day of choice), what would I do without this person who is my spouse, the love of my life, the man of my dreams, my best friend, my lover, my confidant, soulmate, the apple of my eye, my family, my companion, protector, playmate, mentor, advisor, my partner in crime, the best cook, the helper, the… and the list goes on.
This may be a conglomeration of many such written statements and slightly exaggerated, too. I hear you.
But you get the point.
Now back to my title – and this is where that confusion on your face will start melting away.
If I actually said he WAS all that, wouldn’t that by default be saying that I don’t need anyone else?
And I can’t say that for the mere fact that it’s just not true at all.
Because I do. (And guess what? You do, too.)
And if you the one that’s shaking their head in disagreement right about now, you may be one of the two couples on the planet that this does work for. Who don’t need anyone else besides just each other.
I need other people in my life apart from my spouse. Your spouse, the one person that he/she is, cannot fill all the holes in your bucket.
For starters, I still need my family. He can’t and never will replace them and who they are to me, and how I relate to them. He can’t take the role that they play in my life and be who they are to me. No matter how hard he’d try. The relationship you and I have with our various family members is unlike any other relationship on earth. And there is no messing with that (in my opinion). Your spouse better know that -AND – since there is no competition – there is no reason to have a race.
Secondly, I need my BFF & just girlfriends in general because my husband will never be a woman, will never act like a woman and will never think like a woman. My girlfriends have a gift of being those things to me that my husband cannot be. Not because he wouldn’t want to (necessarily) but because he can’t undo how he has been wired. And for that, I need them.
How I relate to my girlfriends is completely different than how I deal with or talk to my husband. And that’s just fine and dandy; it just means that I can’t expect him to take on the role of my girlfriends because he would, most likely, fail. And he may try even – bless his heart. But the bottom line is, he can’t be them. (just as much as they can’t be him, right?)
I still (every now and then) need a business coach or a confidant, or a playmate, or a mentor or even a partner in crime – particularly when it’s something I am doing for my spouse that needs to be done in secret.
I know that sometimes, all this comes out of an underlying need or expectation that we need our spouses to be everything for us. Yet, I often end up reminding the people in my counseling office that, last I checked, most of us didn’t marry a superman (or superwoman).
And, looking at the flip side – better yet (or should I say, more importantly?), most of us also aren’t one (superman or superwoman, that is). I don’t know how to fly, do you?
Check your expectations, realize that the fantasy was never meant for human consumption (supermen do only live on TV screens), and as you offer each other a heaping pile of compassion, do maximize the power of the tribe you’ve built around yourselves.
And if you don’t have one, take your first baby step today.
I already told you that my husband isn’t all that. I would love for you to be able to join me in saying:
Nor do I want (or need) him/her to be.