Tag Relationships

Spicing up the Romance

alienation, long termLet’s face it, having kids is a romance crusher. Time for romance shrinks dramatically. Then, when you do MAKE the time, one or both of you is often physically, cognitively, emotionally or existentially exhausted. However, if you give in to that, and don’t think of your relationship as something that requires ongoing and consistent discipline, your odds go up that you’ll be turning your coin over to a divorce attorney. Here are 30 ideas designed to create a good feeling between you (I’ll end with some caveats):

Initiatives for the person with traditional masculine interests

• Get tickets to a sporting event

• Arrange to go bowling

• Go to some sort of racing event

• Take a trip to a casino

• Go target shooting (hey, it’s the road less traveled!)

• Go fishing (yes, you can wear latex gloves if you must)happy latino couple

• Take golf lessons together

• Give him a foot rub (no, you cannot wear latex gloves)

• Learn how to make beer or wine together

• Go to a car or aviation show

Initiatives for the person with traditional feminine interests

• Write her a poem regarding either your love for her or great things about her (no, it doesn’t have to rhyme sparky)

• Take her to get her nails done

• Do her toe nails for her (be nice and slow and meticulous)

• Take a trip to the closest outlet mall to buy her something nice (only positive comments and no fretting allowed)

• Brush her hair for an hour

• Set her up in with a luxury bath while you take care of your smelly progeny–finger food, sweet aromas and gentle music are all pluses

marriage in progress• Take her to get her makeup done, letting her know that she never needs such things when it comes to you

• Arrange to go dancing and then, as Souza suggested, do so like no one is watching

• Arrange to chauffeur her and her friends for a girls night out (man, you’ll learn all kinds of stuff!)

• Hand carry her flowers to her work

Either

• Set up a picnic in the park

• Go to wineries for tastings

• Offer an hour massage

• Write and deliver a gratitude letter

• Take a regular walk around your neighborhood

• Make his/her favorite meal and serve it in a part of your residence where you wouldn’t normally share a meal. (it’s amazing how intimate a card table, a simple table cloth and a candle can make any part of any residence…as long as you medicate the children first, or turn them over to some other humans for the night…I’m kidding about the medicating your children part…or am I??)

• Go to a comedy club

• Get a babysitter and do an overnight to a nice hotel, prepping the room first yes i can(e.g., flowers, chocolates, champagne)

• Go horseback riding (what great pictures you can get!)

• Play a round of tennis or some other racquet sport

A few caveats:

• Don’t do anything nice with an expectation for a return or a certain reaction. If you do, the nice gesture could make things worse. Think of this as something good you are doing for it’s own sake, regardless of how your spouse may respond. This REALLY takes discipline and practice.

• Never act like you’re sacrificing yourself for your partner’s sake.

• Don’t act like this is a quid pro quo scenario. For instance, if you’re the one who tends to pursue sex, don’t do so after doing one of these gestures.

• Stay away from any gestures that get you into sensitive areas with your partner (e.g., you’ve complained that your partner never gives you a massage and then you offer one).

• Set a weekly date night. Lots of times you won’t feel like it or be tired. DO IT ANYWAY, most of the time that is. Anything that we do only when we feel like it, or only after life’s obligations have been met, will be half baked.

marriage counseling• If these sorts of interventions seem to worsen things and/or your relationship has gotten toxic, please seek out the services of a qualified relationship counselor. For a referral, click here.

Good luck. And remember this is hard for everyone. After all, at the point in human history when some yuck-a-buck came up with the concept of “till death do you part” people tended to die when they were in their early 30s! 😉

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The Best Marriage Advice I’ve Ever Heard

The best marriage advice I’ve ever heard didn’t come from a research study on couples, or from a book on marriage therapy or from a workshop by a marriage counseling expert. No, the single best advice I’ve ever heard came from a couple I worked with when I was practicing in Chicago in the mid nineties. This couple was not seeing me for marriage counseling but for the treatment of their nine year-old daughter, who was suffering from a severe case of depression and a moderate case of defiance.

Mood disorders, when they persist in children, tend to demoralize parents and stress marriages. The demoralization happens because the sorts of interventions that parents typically try not only don’t work but often seem to make things worse. The marital stress subsequently occurs when parents start to oversubscribe responsibility for their child’s problems onto their partner (e.g., if only you would do x or not do y maybe our child would not have these difficulties).

The couple I’m referring to experienced the demoralization but not the marital problems. After a year’s worth of treatment, which included behaviorally oriented family therapy, individual cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication (the nature of these treatments is described in my book Working Parents, Thriving Families), their daughter was no longer symptomatic. We had some extra time in our last session so I indulged a curiosity and asked: “You guys made it clear from the get-go that you have a strong marriage and are each other’s best friend. But I’m puzzled about something. Often when I’m helping parents to treat problems like your daughter’s I notice that they have periods when they feel alienated from each other, but I never saw signs of that in the two of you. Actually, you seemed to remain close throughout all phases of our work, even though there were some very rough patches.” As they nodded in agreement I asked: “What’s your secret?” To which the husband instantly answered (because they had thought and talked about this a lot): “We know the other person is not crazy.”

The couple elaborated that when the other person acts in a way that is grating they just assume that she or he has good cause. So, instead of just concluding that their partner is being a jerk, or selfish or unfair, they conclude (1) that she or he has an understandable reason for acting that way and (2) that she or he will rebound soon enough, especially if their own response involves patience and empathy instead of irritation and counterattacks.

Clearly there are multiple and important strategies that go into having a successful long term relationship (e.g., making time to have fun with each other, working on having a satisfying sex life, etc.), but I was struck by the truth of this couple’s insight and how well it was working for them. They also helped me to connect the dots and realize that this sort of way of being in a relationship captures a lot of the good outcomes that happen when communication training goes well. So, those of us in marriages that have existed since there has been dirt would do well to consider the wisdom of this couple’s insight.

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