I remember that day like it was yesterday.
The year was 1998. My grandfather had just passed away and all of us kids came out for the funeral.
My dad and my godmother were with him when he took his last breath and they had shared the news with us on the phone a couple of days before.
And there we were, standing room only, my cousin and I, the only two crying.
Tears rolling down our faces.
And I remember looking around, wondering what on earth was wrong with all these people.
This IS a really sad occasion.
He IS really gone.
Why are we the only ones that are responding in what seemed like the appropriate way to the situation?
It made me mad.
It made so mad, in fact, that I didn’t talk to any of the adults for the remainder of that trip.
I couldn’t make sense of it.
I didn’t know then what I know now.
I was only 18.
I didn’t know a single thing about how grief works.
Or that people grieve in different ways.
I had no idea that grief has stages or knew what they were.
Or how to plan for them when they come like waves and you barely have time to take another breath.
We all have our own ways of grieving the loss of a loved one.
The moment of surprise comes when you find yourself at the height of your biggest need.
And it so happens that your need isn’t met by your spouse.
Contrary to all past belief (and experience!), now when you need them the most, they are not there.
More than anything, your spouse has been there for you.
In the past, you two always found ways to comfort each other.
That’s just what you do — it’s what you’ve always done:
When one of you was sick, you’d care for each other.
When you were down to one car because you lent yours to a person in need, you supported each other.
When times got tough with little ones around, you were a team more than ever.
Even when one of you dealt with the loss of a dear one in the past, this support was still in place. We are there for each other. Unwavering. That’s the rule.
You have been there for each other — Every other time.
Now – of all times – now when you need your spouse the most, you wonder why they aren’t showing up.
Why they aren’t there for you.
And why on earth is this happening?
Why do I feel so alone?
You may have all the questions. And in place of answers, there is a void.
The timing couldn’t be any more off.
You are mining in history and remembering all the times they supported you.
When your grandma died.
When your colleague passed away from cancer.
Your spouse was there for you then – what is wrong with them now?
Now – now that it’s even closer to home, more important and more painful in so many ways — why are they so cruel?
Or cruel they seem…
And that is precisely why.
It is precisely in those moments when the loss hits too close to home – for both of you.
When you are both devastated by the news in much the same ways — when the person gone was someone dear to both of your hearts.
It is when loss is shared that you might not be able to be there for each other.
This one time.
And it happens because your loss is shared, your grief is too.
It’s what we call complicated grief.
You both are finding yourselves in the midst of the storm.
One wave after the next.
You may have had a miscarriage.
Perhaps you lost a child to a disease.
Perhaps you lost a parent or a close friend that you both knew and loved and had lots of history with.
Now it’s different.
And this is why.
It’s not that your spouse doesn’t want to support you.
It’s not that they aren’t grieving (even though that’s what it looks like sometimes).
It’s just that they grieve differently.
And the timing is likely off.
When you get hit by the wave, they might be in recovery mode.
Or they might have just gotten hit with three.
Really big ones.
They might be barely coming up for air themselves, unable to assist anyone besides themselves.
When you hit your lowest spot, they might seem disconnected from the pain.
First, you have to remember one thing.
It’s not that they are doing it on purpose.
It’s not that they mean to be hurting you, withholding support and love from you when you need it most.
It’s that they, too, are doing all they can to stay afloat.
Did that make it clear?
Second, know this – I often remind my couples — that your spouse can’t be everything to you.
I know my husband isn’t.
And — guess what?
I don’t even want him to be.
And he is a pretty great guy.
There is no other time that this applies more than when you’re in a time of grief.
This is the time you might need to look for another person to confide in.
For someone you trust to talk to about all this.
The bad and the worst and everything in between.
You both might need to find another person for support.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
Talk to your best friend.
Talk to your pastor.
Talk to your aunt.
Find a support group. A mental health professional.
It doesn’t matter – Just find someone.
So that you can take that pressure off of each other.
Third, know this:
There is nothing wrong with you.
There is nothing wrong with your spouse.
When it comes to shared grief and loss like the one you are experiencing, the rules don’t apply.
If ever this is true, it is now.
The more painful of a place it is, the more true it rings.
Even though you are in this together, the sooner you realize that it is ok to need support from elsewhere, the less hurt and resentful you will be in the end.
You don’t want to hold this against your spouse.
Not this time.
It’s not worth it.
Not ever, really –But particularly not now.
Because when the worst of the storm is over, you are still going to find each other right there, standing in the rain. And you can both be ok, together.
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.)
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!
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.