I don’t know what to make of this – It’s like my clients are talking amongst themselves.
Is there a memo going around that I never got my hands on?
Or worse yet, did someone have a hidden camera installed in my office that I am not aware of?
How is this happening?
It was one those weeks just a few weeks back. I don’t have to wreck my brain to remember that it was at least three different couples who walked in with THE exact same issue that week.
What was it, you ask?
Yep, that’s right – Transporting themselves (and/or other family members) from location A to location B. And how that caused problems.
For some of them it’s been happening for decades. For some, the annoyance was brand new.
And I am not talking about the ‘My wife drives me nuts’ kind of driving.
Just to be clear.
Nope – two wheels in the front, two wheels in the back (let’s not get too technical about it).
See for yourselves.
“He drives too fast, I am not comfortable with it. And it’s because we leave late everywhere go. Heaven forbid we would ONCE make it on time. And not have to go 20 miles over the speed limit. It’s out KIDS in the back seat, for crying out loud! Don’t you get that? And don’t even get me started on all the speeding tickets you got just in the last couple of years. It’s like the older you get, the more risky and stupid you behave.”
“Going from one common location to another, I told her when we would get there. She was on board with it. All is well. We had plenty of time. I know how to get there. And yet, the whole way down, she keeps pointing this way and that, telling me what to do: move into this lane. We’ll get there faster if you take this exit. At this time of day, lane X is unpredictable – we should have avoided this whole road to begin with. You never drive this during traffic, how would you know?”
“This is sort of an emergency, you would agree, right? We are driving the mother-in-law to the ER, she is not feeling well, she can barely breathe – Mind you, we don’t know what’s wrong. She is sitting in the back seat, literally semi-unconscious. And she (read wife) insists on driving. I am telling her, she is in the right frame of mind to drive. It’s like driving herSELF to the ER. But she doesn’t listen. Then, we take a red turn where there is a NO TURN ON RED sign. I ignore it. I know she is stressed out. I don’t say anything as she is speeding off at 75 mph on a 55 road. But then, what broke the camel’s back – She takes a left turn on a red light through two lanes of traffic. And I lose it. I offered to drive. I offered to call an ambulance. I even said we could just get a cab – but then we don’t have a way to drive back home. And then, instead of being supportive, calm and collected, I am freaking out and yelling at my wife until she drives herself and her mom to the ER, and I drive the car into the parking garage.”
With the last occurrence, before they are even done telling me what happened, I literally laugh out loud. (And of course, I let them finish.)
And, so as not to make things awkward, I tell them why.
They laugh with me.
There must have been something in the water.
What are the chances? Right???
So, we talked through it.
We looked at what was driving them 🙂 into this. And, we did a feedback wheel, like I always do in a situation like this, remembering to focus in on two things:
They did well.
There is always a solution.
You just have to be open to it and listen. And start the process by speaking up.
So for the record: NO, there is no hidden camera in my office.
It’s just life’s way of being funny sometimes.
I don’t know why, but this has been coming up over and over again lately.
To a point where I almost finish the sentence FOR them.
Seriously – have you ever had that happen?
Like, in the summer, when kids start whining, and you hear that dreaded noise that starts with “MOOOOM…”
And you know exactly what’s coming.
Kind of like that.
Only the phrase has to do with relationships – obviously.
And the phrase is the following:
But I am not doing anything wrong!
They come in all sorts of colors and flavors.
I never said I was going to be that way.
I have always been a person who exercises a lot, you knew that right when we met – it was on my profile. It’s important to me.
I need to see my friends every so often.
But going to the cabin every weekend with my friends is who I am.
You can’t ask me to do that – I don’t know how to be affectionate. That’s not who I am.
Only when I hear it, it sounds more like this:
Going to the cabin every weekend with my friends is who I am. I am not doing anything wrong.
I don’t know how to be affectionate. That’s not who I am. I am not doing anything wrong.
I have always been a person who exercises a lot. You knew that right when we met – it was in my profile. I am not doing anything wrong.
Do you see the trend?
And most often, it’s followed by: Why are you mad at me?
I have always done this, or that, or the other thing. Nobody has ever asked me to do anything else. It’s not wrong that I always want to drive. Or cook my own food (different than what everyone else is eating). I am not doing anything wrong by making this decision for myself. It’s my decision after all.
Well, guess what?
It’s not about being wrong. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with being wrong.
You may be totally right – you are not doing anything wrong by doing your exercise routine every day.
There is nothing inherently wrong with you wanting to spend time with your friends at the cabin every weekend.
There is nothing inherently wrong with you spending an hour on the phone with your mom when you get home from work.
BUT – your relationship – and everything in it – is NOT inherently about right or wrong.
It doesn’t really matter whether it’s right or wrong in your eyes.
What matters is that your spouse is asking something of you and you are ignoring that.
When they say – I would like to have dinner with you and the family – they are not saying you can’t talk to your mom.
All they are saying is: I would like to have dinner with you and for you to be present with me, instead of on the other line with your mom while we eat. I’d really like to hear about your day. I have so many things to share about mine…
When they say – I would like to have breakfast with you on Saturday – they are not saying I don’t want you to go for your bike ride that day.
All they are saying is: I would like to have one morning per week where we sleep in, be lazy, have coffee and eggs for breakfast and talk about our hopes and dreams. So maybe you can go biking earlier or later to accommodate that ask.
When they say – I’d really like to spend some time with you this weekend – maybe you and I can go somewhere we’ve never been? — They are not saying, I think you going to the cabin with your friends every weekend is wrong.
All they are saying is: I really miss you. I would love to spend some more time together not just during the week. There is this place I’d love to take you. Or for you to take me. Or maybe we can go to the cabin together but allow for some of the time to be spent just you and me?
None of this is wrong for you to do – or want to do. But if your spouse is making themselves miserable thinking, this person that I thought really cares about me seemingly doesn’t care at all – That’s something you should want to pay attention to.
Because you have a choice.
You keep doing what you have always done.
Because that’s the pattern.
That’s the rule.
You are accustomed to it and it’s easy.
And you ignore and hurt your partner in the process.
OR — you take it to heart.
You forget about what the pattern has been for you all your life.
You set aside what the easiest thing for you is.
Not because it’s really wrong.
But because you care that your spouse is upset by the situation and there is something that you can do to change that.
You don’t have to be doing anything “wrong” for you and your spouse to be pulling away from each other as a result.
Here is our challenge.
Next time you and I start thinking to ourselves, but I am really not doing anything wrong…
Forget the whole idea of what’s right and what’s wrong.
Toss it aside.
Face your spouse.
And whatever you say, start it by saying:
I don’t want to miss the mark again and continue to frustrate you. What is it that I am missing and what can I do to help you feel better right now?
Do you think you do??
Let me ask you this first:
Who says you want too much from it?
Who is it that’s asking?
Because it’s essentially irrelevant.
Wait – Did I just say it’s irrelevant?
I absolutely did.
It’s really nobody else’s business but yours.
And I am known to say quite the opposite to my couples about just about everything else.
Once you know what you want from your relationship , who is to say that you are asking too much?
Actually, never mind me asking.
It doesn’t really matter who the person is.
It could be the neighbor across the street, your best friend or family member – none of it really matters one bit.
Because of the bottom line.
Wait, what’s the bottom line?
The way I look at it, the only way that you would think you want too much from your relationship is that either
A. You are told you want too much from your relationship (from someone who isn’t willing to give more)
B. You see other relationships that just wouldn’t meet your criteria because of their lack of something or another
Am I right?
Here is why the bottom line matters.
Because the bottom line is this:
If this other person wants less out of their relationship, that’s on them.
If they are satisfied and can be happy with less, that’s just fine.
But just because that’s the case for them doesn’t mean it has to be the case for you.
And just because they are happy with less doesn’t mean you can’t expect or desire more for your own relationship.
And, like I said before, you are the only judge of that.
You are the one walking in your shoes.
You get to do this on your own.
Or with your spouse, likely.
BUT – You get to make this decision for yourself.
And then you sit with it OR you act on it.
This is real.
Real life sort of real.
That’s why we are talking about it.
So, here goes:
–Just because your sister or brother doesn’t care about their significant other’s education doesn’t mean that you can’t be looking for someone with a PhD.
–Just because your best friend is fine with her husband being out of town hunting every weekend doesn’t mean that you have to be.
–Just because your buddy at work doesn’t need occasional PDA from his wife doesn’t mean that you should lower the bar for yourself.
–Just because your parents were used to not talking for weeks after a big fight doesn’t mean that’s something you have to get accustomed to.
Do any of these resonate?
The only two people that matter in this equation is you and your spouse.
And really, when you and your spouse are not in agreement about some of these things, you are the one and the only person who has to figure that out for yourself.
Ain’t nobody coming and doin’ it.
Here’s the good news.
Once you have it figured out, then you know exactly what you are looking for.
And what you are not.
You’ve got to pay attention to this one.
Maybe you should write it down.
There is no. one. right. answer.
That also means – there is no wrong answer.
What you want and what your best friend wants may not align.
And that is just fine.
‘Cause you are not the same people.
And you are bound to want different things.
What you wanted in your relationship a decade ago – or whenever it was that you two first met – may or may NOT be what you are looking for in your relationship now.
That’s not to say that some of it can’t be the same.
Another part of it may need to shift.
Because we change, our relationships change.
And so do our expectations and desires.
What may have worked for you even a year, month or a week ago – might not work today. And if it’s not working anymore, you had better raise your hand and address it.
The better you are able to communicate that to your spouse, the more likely you are to get what you want.
The more of what you both are able to get from each other, the more real and meaningful your relationship will end up being.
So stop looking around.
Stop obsessing and overanalyzing and triple-checking.
Treat the rest of the world is as if it were non-existent.
It’s just you and your spouse.
How good can you make it?!?
(And yes, that is a Dare.)
Let me be clear about two things from the start:
Disclaimer No. 1:
I did not watch the debate when it ran live. For better or worse, I had decided against it. Having seen the ripple effects everywhere around me in the days that followed, I decided otherwise and took some time last night to watch it afterall.
So, if it seems like I am late in arriving to the party, that is why.
Disclaimer No. 2:
I am not interested in making any sort of political statements. This is also not to be seen as endorsement of either candidate. I have no desire to point fingers. I am not looking to start a discussion for or against any party.
I am just a couples therapist who couldn’t help herself but take what was delivered to her on a silver platter and make some use of it for my life and yours.
For your marriage or relationship and for mine.
No matter what side of the spectrum you are on, this applies to us all.
Here’s me to hoping that we can learn something from this.
That’s it. End of story.
So – Here we go.
These are in no particular order. [Don’t miss the BONUS item at the end – It’s my personal favorite.]
Really. Just stop doing it.
It never served anyone. Believe me.
Figure out whether it’s your time to speak or your time to listen and stick to that. When you interrupt your spouse (or anyone, for that matter), it shows disrespect.
It’s as simple as that.
Unlike the presidential campaign, your ultimate goal (and yes, I am somewhat making an assumption here) is to get along with the person you are talking to. Your spouse, your partner, your fiancé.
Am I right?
It’s to communicate with your spouse in a way that makes things better for your marriage.
So, really. Just quit it.
There is no way around it.
There is no secret message hidden in those three simple words.
Answer. The. Question.
When you are asked a question, don’t answer by saying what you think the other person thinks or believes about this or that matter.
When your spouse asks a question of you, they don’t need (or want) you to state (or start guessing) what their response would have been.
You don’t need to learn how to master the art of reading somebody else’s mind.
(Trust me, many have gone before you. Without success.)
There is no need to read between the lines.
Oh, and this. Always a good rule of thumb: If you don’t understand the question, ask the other person to clarify.
So, when someone asks you a question, answer it.
And answer it for YOURSELF.
Give your statement. Share your opinion or plan. State your reasoning.
Do it to the best of your ability.
That’s it. It’s that simple.
Because – guess what? – that is what the other person is asking for.
Whatever you do, stay away from starting your reply with “I know what you think about this…I know what you believe about that… and it’s [insert the S word]”
Even our 7-year old knows ‘stupid’ is a bad word.
Which – surprise, surprise – brings me to the next item on the list.
This seems like a no-brainer.
Or it should, anyway.
We teach our children this from the time they learn their first word until they leave the house.
And even years past that sometimes.
Yet, once we hit adulthood, somehow the rules have been altered and this became ok to do.
Using derogatory terms to address your spouse.
Utilizing vulgar language in their presence.
Using accusatory language.
It never serves anyone. Not if you want to get ahead, that is.
People have a tendency to stop listening. Sometimes they completely disengage.
And sometimes, they end up completely dismissing what you have to say when the language you use is dishonoring of who they are.
And you are the only one to blame.
If you are ever questioning something your spouse did, ask them about it.
When they answer, take their word for it. Believe what they say because of the person you know they are.
Don’t accuse them of lying just because.
Don’t accuse them of lying because you are insecure.
Don’t accuse them of lying because that’s your mode of operation.
Whatever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty”???
When did it fall on its head- when did we start saying “guilty until proven otherwise?”
Don’t make conclusions with nothing to back them up.
Your spouse deserves better than that.
This is no new thing.
You know what I am talking about – the rolling of the eyes, the heavy breathing, the smiles when you aren’t really smiling. All of that and more.
Now, while during the presidential debate this may not be that clear-cut, in your intimate relationship this will most definitely come bite you in the behind.
Notice what you do.
Pay attention to what other people say to you in response.
And if that is not your goal or intention, notice what you do with your face.
Note how loud your voice is when you speak.
And please, if there are twelve people lined up telling you one and the same thing, start listening. They can’t all be so gravely mistaken.
Think about it.
It may be that it’s you who is driving the wrong way on the interstate. Not everybody else.
And remember, you don’t have to agree on everything. In fact, most couples don’t. But, they figure out how to agree to disagree on some things.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
Same thing goes for talking over them while they are still sharing with you.
Not only do you come off as impatient.
And disrespectful. (I know, this again. It seems to come up a lot.)
Not only is it indicative that you have stopped listening to what the other person is saying.
Because, you know, you can’t listen and formulate your response at the same time.
You can’t come up with your argument – or the answer to: how am I going to defend myself? – and pretend to be listening.
Again, many have tried. And failed miserably.
And, how on point is your argument going to be when the other person hasn’t even finished their point yet?
Here’s what the message is that you are getting across when you do that:
It’s saying I don’t really care what you have to say.
It’s saying I am honestly not even listening to you anymore.
It’s saying I can’t wait for you to finish because I have better, smarter, more important things to say.
What you have to say doesn’t really matter.
Now, you and I both know that is NOT what you want to communicate to the person you most care about in this world. So, watch out for this one.
When done right, it has long-term consequences. And the potential to change the way you think about every future conversation. For the better.
This is it. It’s these 5+1 simple communication skills.
Do you see yourself anywhere in this?
Guilty as charged?
Change starts with taking notice. And then, taking a stance.
Here’s to me hoping that we can learn something from this. Trusting that we can improve the space we share with the people closest to us.
The ones that matters the most.
Know someone who would get a kick out of this before the next debate?
I’d love it if you’d share.
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.