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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Given that we had just passed the Season of Gratitude and were headed into the Season of Giving, I set out on an adventure to find what other gifts (other than the ones wrapped in fancy paper under a tree) we might be able to offer to those we love and care about deeply.
Couples do things for each other, they get fancy presents, spend time researching what the new thing is that made it to the top-10-gifts of the year. I am a big proponent of things that don’t come all prettied up with a bow on top that happen with more frequency rather than one big shiny something.
So over the course of the month of December, on my Business Facebook Page (link) I collected and came up with the list that I am presenting to you below. If you are ever in need of an idea for a gift, be it the middle of the Holiday Season or not, this should give you an idea or two.
Here you go. And, you’re welcome 🙂
Bogott Counseling’s own ’24 Days of Giving Challenge’.
What would yours have looked like?
Day 1 – Dec 1: The gift of breakfast in bed. Make it something you know they love.
Day 2: The gift of a kind word. From a stranger – or – from your spouse – Which one has more weight? I bet you can figure that one out in no time.
Day 3: The gift of a lovely new friend all because you shoveled a driveway together. A stranger is only a stranger until you know their name.
Day 4: The simple gift of a bed made in the morning. Particularly when done by a certain [single digit]-year old without having to ask.
Day 5: The gift of new & beautiful beginnings (who said you can’t learn how to make something new at our age?) and the gift of a smile on the face of a child that may or may not have partially resulted from said new beginning…
Day 6: The gift of a Christmas Market tradition (from far-away homeland) brought to your table. Right here. Right now.
Day 6: The gift of a true weekend. Turning my laptop on for the first time at 9pm on Sunday night since shutting it off at the office on Friday at four.
Day 7: The gift of a memory – building (over & over again) a tower of human bodies on the couch in our living room, including the little giggly ones bursting into laughter as they were either pretending to sleep, falling off the cliff or making a slide. Laughing so hard, all of our tummies hurt after half an hour – so much so we had to stop.
Day 8: The gift of silence & a quiet morning. Because our children (or anybody that regularly sleeps in our household for that matter) do not generally wake up before I wake them up at 7:30 or 8am. I know.
Day 8: The gift of a spontaneous movie night with little friends topped off with the gift of a special treat from a faraway land, brought and shared by said little friends and their lovely mom and dad.
Day 8: The gift that is the smell of this wonder (again) filling up the house to the point that one is tempted to pretend step out (to check mail, to take out garbage, one item at a time, or whatever it takes…) only so that one can walk back in and inhale. And this time it wasn’t my hands that had all the flour on them.
Day 9: The gift of doing rounds on each side for what seemed like 2 minutes at a time after a LEG day yesterday. Sweat everywhere. (Lindsay, this is for you: If I can’t walk up the stairs to my office, I’llgive you a call and ask for a lift. Literally.)
Day 9: The gift of mandatory playtime. Because your sister is the social butterfly with two birthday parties in one day. And she gets mommy and daddy all to herself.
Day 10: The gift of real mail. And birthdays to celebrate. And friends who remember to do what it takes to put that smile on our faces.
Day 11: The gift of a smile on someone else’s face & the gift of the people who put it there. (Read: Disney on Ice and Skipping School for the whole family)
Day 11: The gift of awe. Compliments of a certain sister-in-law.
Day 13: The gift of spending the day celebrating the Season in community. This was our contribution. Along with ham, mashed potatoes & cinnamon rolls. Turned out pretty well if I may say so myself even though I skipped the orange.
Day 14: The gift of mandatory snuggles prescribed by the thermometer. AKA, The gift of PTO. If only the numbers weren’t so high.
Day 14: The gift of one-on-one conversations. And apple cider. Because you can’t do much of that while you are out of breath next door (at the gym).
Day 15: The gift of a solid cup of coffee when you forget to make your own at home. This morning, it was as if they were all waiting for me. No waiting time, no delay.
Day 15: The gift of an unexpected surprise or a visitor. And you made it happen.
Day 16: The gift of music. Classical (and/or Christmas at this time of year) music is always a hit in our vehicles. And this one – you CAN wrap it up if you’d like.
Day 17: The gift of a warm meal, received or delivered. Best when shared.
Day 17: The gift of beauty. Whether it is a bouquet of flowers, the view of a family of ducks on a lake, the noise of a creek near a cabin in the woods far away or the sight of luggage all packed and ready to go the night before the trip — Whatever it is for you and your spouse: Give. Enjoy. Repeat.
Day 18: The gift of a favorite reading spot. When combined with your favorite drink delivered right to you, in my world, not much else tops that.
Day 18: The gift of the white little delivery trucks bringing things to our doors six days a week. And the work that they do in the office even when some people are not very nice at all.
Day 19: The gift of a great performance proven clearly by your kids having trouble wiping the smiles off their faces.
Day 20: (can you believe it?) The gift of reconnecting with friends from a far-away place. Always a treat. Friends become family.
Day 21: The gift of wise words. You may have seen this one. And I get the privilege of seeing this in action in my office every day. The process of fixing – there is a reason they call it work.
Day 22: The gift of a holiday treat. Both ready and in process. And those delivered with love by our neighbors. On both sides. Our neighbors are better than your neighbors.
Day 23: The gift of a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup. Because 3/4 of our household have seen the unwell side of things.
Day 23: The gift of modern medicine & science in general. The ability to bring high fevers to something more manageable with style. Celebrating the scientists among us today.
Day 24: The gift of modern entertainment. OR When Netflix saves the day because your baby is home sick with a fever and unable to go anywhere on Christmas Eve OR Mandatory snuggle time the night before Christmas.
To view a complete list of the images and videos that went along with these updates, please find us on Facebook and check them out there. I look forward to connecting with you there!
For those of you in need of marriage counseling in Minneapolis, the easiest way to contact us is HERE. We’ll talk to you soon!
I don’t get thirsty. Ever, really. Have you ever met someone like that?
I am one of those people that, unless I have just worked out for 30 minutes (minimum) and have sweat dripping down my forehead, or have spent an entire day outdoors in the Texas summer heat, I do not feel thirsty. It runs in the family. My mom is the same way. But –
Everyone knows that.
What that means for my daily life is this. To prevent countless headaches and the misery that comes along with that, I have gotten into the habit of giving myself a schedule. I don’t write anything down – it all just happens in my head. Sort of like a mental checklist. Because I drink coffee (and I love it too much to give it up completely), I strive towards drinking 2-3 liters of water per day. I try to have 1 liter of water down by noon, another one by mid-afternoon (around 4pm) and the last one in by bedtime. I have a water bottle that’s 1L to help keep track of the progress.
I noticed that if I don’t do that, if I don’t give myself a deadline of sorts to complete these activities by (even though I don’t know if you can count drinking h2o as an activity) I will easily go a day or two without drinking anything but a cup or two of coffee each day. You can imagine the demise that I am in at the end of that , grabbing the largest dose of ibuprofen possible, often accompanied by my checking out for a couple of hours as I am in bed, unable to do anything at all.
And life gets busy. So if it’s not a mental checklist sort of deal, I WILL forget – I guarantee it. Because I get distracted. Because there are many things going on at the same time and if I don’t stop and listen to that internal tick-tock in my head, it’s just plain not going to happen.
Why am I bringing all this up?
Well, over the years, I have had many clients walk in who believe that their ‘natural state’, so to speak, is nothing to be tampered with. That the way they are wired is just the way they are wired and that’s that. There is nothing they can do about it. Not only do they tell me that as their marriage therapist, they tell their spouse the very same thing.
What do I mean? Someone may tell me that they don’t possess the gift of hospitality or kindness. What that means is this: It doesn’t ever really occur to them (EVER) that they should bring flowers or stop by the grocery store on their way.
Or, others may tell me that they are not wired to think about the fact that the windows in the house need to be washed a couple times a year, or that their spouse might enjoy a check-in phone call during the day or a dinner outing once in a while.
Or, that they just don’t have the cells in their body that reminds them that their husband’s or wife’s birthday is coming up and they should think of getting a gift or sorts, or planning a special dinner. Some have gone so far as to say they can’t even be held responsible for remembering that it is their spouse’s birthday. Because their brain doesn’t work that way.
When it comes to this, as with many other things in life, there is no one size fits all sort of advice.
If your husband or wife does not, in all seriousness, care about any of these things, you are, in fact, off the hook. But do know that there IS something that they do care about and if you haven’t figured out what that is, I would urge you to find that out. ASAP.
Chances are, they may have told you about it once or twice in the past. Whether it happened in the recent past or long-gone past, I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter. But I would bet that it came out – somehow, one day. Sometimes, in my marriage counseling sessions, I will have couples go back down the memory lane and connect the dots.
Because EVERYONE cares about SOMETHING. Everyone’s got something they find important and worth their while. But then again, you probably didn’t need someone doing marriage counseling to be telling you this.
And because it’s worth their while, you had better make it worth yours.
And yes, it is for you to figure out. And yes, if you don’t know the answer you are not going to be able to pay attention to those things and do your homework. You are probably also missing out on all sorts of ways to make it a winning day for you as an individual as well as a winning day for you as a couple.
You might have to ask them. So what? You are supposed to talk to each other anyway, right? Make sure you take good notes as you are getting your answer. Remember that you have THE EXPERT sitting right across from you (Or next to you if you are sitting together on a couch).
Depending on what answer you get, maybe that means you are going to make yourself a reminder a month prior to his/her birthday, two weeks before and then again a day or two before.
WhatEVER you have to do (if that is important to your spouse), you do it. Get a friend to help you remember. Schedule an email to yourself with instructions on what to do. Really and truly, there is no excuse that any spouse should ever forget a birthday.
If it’s a little something unexpected every once in a while, be proactive and make a calendar in advance. Maybe you pick a random day every month at the beginning of the year (HINT), put it on your calendar (one that you don’t share) and then surprise the other person with something sweet. Literally or figuratively. Make a plan.
If planning regular dates is something that you don’t automatically think about, do the same thing. Make a plan, make the time, get it on the calendar and make it happen. They won’t EVER just appear on there on their own. Trust me.
Know this: In this day and age, most couples don’t just ACCIDENTALLY stumble upon a perfect day/week/month/year – just like in the movies. Not only that – most couples also don’t stumble upon “The Guide to a Perfect Married Couple Day”. Despite what the film industry still depicts in many ways, leaving many deceived, things don’t just happen in marriage just the same way that they don’t just happen in life. Even when you think about the ways that we depict marriage counseling, period.
That’s your answer to the myth of the perfect day in marriage.
You & I make them happen. If you have ever succeeded at this you will agree with me: More often than not, when they do happen and they turn out well, they are well thought through in advance and prepared with care and love. And maybe sometimes you get lucky. But that’s the exception, not the rule.
So – let’s do our homework, shall we? You and I both.
And have some water while you are at it.
Tick, tock, tick, tock…
It’s been quite a while now that there has been an ongoing debate about QUALITY TIME with our children (and other people we love and care about).
To be honest, I am a little bothered by it. Because of the assumption that comes along with it. The assumption that if we spend QUALITY time with our kids (or spouses, or other family members), somehow that makes up for the difference – in terms of the little time you spend with them. The assumption being that QUALITY is, in fact, better than QUANTITY.
In other words, perhaps for a parent who travels a lot or works out of their downtown office 80 hours a week [this number is an approximation], it is alright to do so as long as this parent will promise the family an amazing Saturday once a month. Going to valley fair. Or shopping. Or whatever it might be that your family enjoys oh-so-very-much.
And I see this debate entering into the realm of marriage. I might be unable to be present with my spouse but then thinking – I will make it up to him/her by taking them on a special trip once a year. Or, using the good ol’ – we have kids now, this is a different time in our marriage, we don’t have time for dates. We’ll do that when we are done with this (AKA raising our toddlers, driving teens to sports practices or ____________ – fill in the blank whatever applies in your household).
As if you could eat once a week and call it good.
Or sleep once a month and say that’s sufficient.
This discussion of Quality vs. Quantity comes up quite often in my couples counseling sessions. I have to remind people that if you stop tending to each other now, 18 years from now you won’t even recognize each other.
That makes me think of something that used to happen at our house. Our youngest, now almost four years old, (then 2 or 3) used to play ‘party’ all the time. We entertain quite often, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. At the age of two or three, she would often bring her fluffy friends and dolls, set them up in the middle of the kitchen floor. She would use her little kid plastic plates and silverware and make sure that all her little friends had all they needed. In the middle of the kitchen floor. As if there wasn’t enough space elsewhere.
It would drive me crazy. Here I was, trying to make food, dealing with knives and hot pots and pan or the oven on occasion – trying to make dinner for our actual family. All the while I am expected to jump around on our tile floor, as if playing hop-scotch – making sure that I wasn’t going to step on something and slip or spill some of the imaginary milk that had been poured into the tiny little cups on the floor.
It wasn’t until I realized what she was doing that it finally stopped bugging me. She wanted to be with me. She didn’t care that I was busy doing what I needed to do. She didn’t care that my hands were covered in grease or smelled like garlic. She didn’t care that I didn’t sit down on the floor with her to engage her fully.
She just wanted to sit and be in my presence.
Now that she is older, she will just say the words: I want you. When she is upset about something, or when she first wakes up in the morning, she will find me. Tearful or tear-free, she will just say that. Those three simple words. And we find a way together to fill up her love tank.
It only makes sense to me: We cannot expect to be absentee spouses all year and have our lack of engagement erased from the past only to try to make up the difference in a week or two of all-inclusive, overly-abundant heavenly experiences. Quality time with your spouse is just fine and dandy as long as it is paired up with quantity. As long as the two go hand-in-hand.
It is YOU they want.
Both your spouse and your kids. Whatever that looks like for each of your family members, just be present.