Yesterday I made a promise. To bring even more fun into this. And you may have already gotten the idea (since I gave it away in the title).
If you and your spouse are the playful kind, these will – hopefully – get you two well on your way. Or at the least, they will be a springboard from which you can fly and reach the un-reachable. (Alright, maybe I went a little overboard there.)
Because, let’s be real. Who doesn’t like to have fun, right?
Well, here I go – Fun Date Ideas as presented to you by this couples therapist.
Take it away!
Decide on a time limit. You decide. It can be 5 minutes, 15 or 45. You are each your own team. When you go your separate ways, you are to go around the store and pick out as many books as you can get your hands on that fit any of the categories below. Once the time is up, you find some comfy space, and go through the titles, and decide who the winner is.
Categories may include but are not limited to (uh-oh! that sounds like it came from an attorney’s letter describing some need to prove your point in a case):
Seriously, plan out your next vacation together. When was the last time you two went on vacation together? Just you two? You don’t remember, do you… ?
Please don’t say honeymoon…
BUT – if you do – even more so! You’ve GOT to do this then.
Do you even know what your ideal vacation would look like? Are the two sort of collide? Or are you two the EAST & WEST kind of couple when it comes to vacations? How can you combine your preferences in one vacation and still do it together? Compare notes on where you would like to go, what you would like to do.
And then – Ta-Dah!
Find a spot (in your state, the country or on the planet) where you can do just that – and then set a date, and make a plan. Start looking for airline tickets, good places to stay, the whole nine yards…
You should both be blissfully smiling in the end.
And I mean, go all out. Take DREAM to the next level – or to the level it should be. Maybe it will require you to close your eyes for a moment and just let it all sink in.
If you could do ANYTHING…. Anything in the world….
There are no limits to this.
Seriously. Are you paying attention?
Maybe yours would include an Olympic size pool in the backyard.
Maybe you would have a vineyard right as you walk out on the back porch.
Maybe you would include a hanger and a runway for the plane you are going to fly to get to work. Who needs cars.
Maybe your kids would have a corn maze.
Or an amphitheater to gather all your family and friends for regular children’s plays…
Or a climbing wall that you would need to take a chair lift to get to.
Do you see where I am going with this? DREAM. HOUSE.
What is it going to be for you?
Pick up a pencil and draw it on a piece of paper.
(I would suggest a deadline, otherwise you may be playing with this all night and forget to go to sleep)
When you are both done, see how in the dream world you can combine the two of them together, square footage being no issue.
I guarantee you will get some good laughs out of this. And you are guaranteed to learn something about each other that you never knew.
Assuming you know how old your spouse is – I’m kidding, kind of – get out a few sticky notes. Better yet, improvise with a plain white paper that you have cut up into into small pieces). Write a number on each piece of paper that represents an age, between 1 and however old your spouse is.
(So,say you spouse is 45, you will pick numbers between 1-45. And write them down. Make sense?)
Pick out seven numbers and put them in a pile, numbers facing down. When you are done coming up with the numbers, you give your spouse your pile and they give you theirs.
So, at this point, you have in front of you blank (because the numbers you can’t see) pieces of paper that your spouse picked and wrote down.
Are you totally confused yet?
Take turns, picking out one of your pieces of paper and, – you go, they go – based on the number on it, answer the question:
What is my all time favorite memory when I was ______ (fill in the blank – 5, 17, 44 etc…)
If you don’t have an all-time favorite memory, what do you remember about that age growing up?
If you want to be more creative – come up with a question that you’ve always wanted to ask each other. Or not. And just stick to the instructions above.
This will take some time so you can see how much ground you can cover in 30 min.
Or an hour.
Alternately, if you are that couple (you know who you are) and get done SUPER fast, do come up with another question and then pick other ages to talk about.
Sky’s the limit.
If these fun date ideas are just a little over the top for you – feel free to go back to good ol’ simple date night ideas instead.
No judgement whatsoever.
One way or the other.
If you would like to get caught up on our Date Night Marathon here is what we’ve been up to real quick:
So we’ve asked (and hopefully answered) the question when did date night go out of style – you should check it out for yourself, just to make sure.
In all seriousness – See if your go-to ideas align with mine.
If you are just joining us, welcome to the DATE NIGHT MARATHON – we have been talking about date nights all week this week. I’m glad you are here. Some think that date night went out of style and if that’s you, I’d love to prove the contrary right here.
We often get into a rut, right? Always doing the same no-effort-necessary 2-3 things, over and over again. And it gets boring. Besides, it also doesn’t really give you the benefit of a date night that you are probably looking for. If you are one that gets into a routine fast and are wondering if your date night preferences would be “disqualified” or if they would stand the test – and why that would be the case – Check out this article here from yesterday. How did you do?
Now that you know what to stay away from – or at least stop doing ALL. THE. TIME – here are five simple date night ideas for you.
Feel free to spice them up a little. They are called simple for a reason.
Pick up your favorite Caribou drink and go for a walk around your favorite lake (heaven knows there is LOTS to choose from around here).
Everyone has a favorite. Or explore Google Maps, find one that you have never been to and expand your horizons together.
So you don’t have to count your steps, share what your top 3 summertime memories were growing up.
Pick one of Minnesota’s famous scenic routes and go for a drive together. Summer, winter, autumn, spring – there is magic in all of them.
While you are at it, make sure you remember that favorite CD that you both love listening to.
Also, do your research in advance, find a cute coffee shop to have tasty lunch in the destination town, and for the drive back, find a game to play.
*Extra credit for these sorts of date night ideas: If you want to put the cherry on the top, prepare (yes, make at home, don’t run through Lunds or Byerly’s and pay for it) your favorite snack mix and bring that along for the ride, for you two to share. And yes, that also includes planning ahead.
Now, these are SIMPLE – I never said they didn’t require some time and preparation 🙂
You could even go and get all the ingredients together.
Over time, take turns who picks out the recipe.
*Fun Credit for these kinds of date night ideas: If you wanted to make it even more entertaining, divide the list in half, and see who finds their items first and beats the other person to the checkout line.
Find a book that you both want to read.
After the kids are in bed, sit down on the couch together and take turns reading it out loud to each other.
If it’s not fiction, at the end of every chapter, talk about what you just read.
Tell each other what you thought. What surprised you.
What you really loved or disagree with.
Go to your favorite spot in town, order your favorite drink or appetizer.
Sit in the very back so to minimize the chances of running into a million people you know and being interrupted and bring your favorite game to play.
Think of some fun rewards for the person who wins. (Maybe the other person will make their breakfast tomorrow morning and grant what they request. Maybe you end up giving the other a foot massage or a back rub for the next three days. Maybe….:-) … you get the point).
I am well aware and realist enough to know that not all of these date ideas are going to be a great fit for everyone reading this.
Yet my hope is that when seeing these, you might be able to either spice up your perhaps once exciting, now gone boring list of things that you do together. Maybe it will spark interest and make you come up with something completely new, that you never imagined yourselves doing as a couple.
What ever you end up doing, as long as you do something, I hope you enjoy.
I dare you.
I dare you to pick just one of these – and let me know how it goes.
PS: Keep your eyes open – because tomorrow – we’ll have even more fun!
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.
Many of the children in the family had solid memories of them from different angles – When it came to their marriage, they remember that would do one thing.
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.