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14

Marital Spats – Why it’s Crucial that YOU get the Last Word!

                It is crucial to have the last word in a marital tiff.  It’s control. It’s power. We all know that the one who speaks last wins. The Last Word Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

            The following conversation really took place. I have removed the real names of the speakers. Not to protect anybody – I just didn’t have the time or space to put in the name of each and every person who has participated in a version of this dialogue.

            YOU:               You always have to have the last word.

            SPOUSE:         No I don’t – you do.

            YOU:               There you go again – just stop talking.

            SPOUSE:        No – you stop talking. You’re not making  

                                     any sense anyway.

            YOU:               Fine. I am done talking to you.

            SPOUSE:        Good, because I’m sick of hearing you talk.

YOU:               See? You always have to say just one more thing.

                          You can’t stand  not having the last word.

            SPOUSE:        No, you’re the one who has to say just one more

                                     thing.

                                                And so it goes.

You want to win this spat? Do you want to ensure that yours are the last words – the words that end the argument? Here are two options:

Say “I’m sorry” or “You’re right.”

Either choice is very likely to end the conversation. Either choice is likely to result in two winners.

Know any other argument enders? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

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11

Date Your Mate – For Free! (Part 2)

So how is the mate-dating going? Did you try out any of the free options in last month’s Date Your Mate article? Or any of the great ideas shared in the comment section? Well, whether you’re a slow-starter and looking for more options bigstock-romantic-dinner-date-5704986before you get rolling or a savvy dater who already exhausted last month’s suggestions, here are more ideas to follow the advice of experts and date your mate – for free!

  • Local Photography/Art Shows. If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated than a hotel’s (one day only!) starving artist’s sale or meandering around Sam’s hitting all the free samples, this option might be for you. You can locate shows by checking the art section in your local newspaper, putting yourself on the mailing list for local galleries, inquiring with someone in the art or photography departments at nearby colleges and universities, as well as internet searches. Often such shows have light refreshments and complimentary wine (bonus!).
  • Learn something new together. There are so many possibilities here that you could stay dated-up for a year just by checking out a few.

All Things Food – call gourmet food or cookware stores to see what scheduled demonstrations are coming up. Or check out videos from your local library. Oh sure – the food you cook has a cost to it, but you were going to eat anyway – it might as well be that impressive dish with the new ingredient you just learned about!

Crafts/Projects – I see the guys wincing as scrapbooking images loom large. And hobby stores are a good place to check out free classes. But did you know hardware stores often offer free classes/demonstrations in things like tiling,building a deck or sandbox, using new tools and gardening ideas? Now is that a dream date or what??

Languages – Whether you check out selections from your library video section or tape classes from educational TV, this is an option that has you meeting on a regular basis, bonding over homework, and motivating you to save up for the ultimate date to the land that speaks your new language!

And more – If you are interested in topics like history, culture, or politics, check with higher educational institutions for free lectures and seminars that are open to the public. Libraries often offer classes on topics that come up in daily life. From couponing (yes, that is now a verb) to financial issues to social media tutorials (you can be FaceBook friends with benefits!) there is something to snag the interest of everyone.

  • A twist on stay-at-home-movie night. You know that favorite show you have? The one you both like? The one you look forward to watching all week? Don’t watch it. At least not at the regularly scheduled time. Record it for three weeks. Three long weeks. Set the date for the marathon view. The deprivation heightens the anticipation. (Anybody who ever gave up sweets for Lent or “to make weight” for their sport knows what I’m talking about here.) The designated time finally arrives. You’re snuggled in with cheap snacks, phones off and three hours of viewing pleasure. Ahhh, sweet relief!

C’mon – admit it: you’re starting to actually get enthusiastic about date night! And we’ve just scratched the surface of cost-effective ways to have fun outings with your mate. Let’s meet back here next month with part three of this Date Your Mate series. Meanwhile, please keep those great free(ish) date ideas coming in the comment section below!

20

SHREW-B-GONE – The Product That Can Change Your Marriage

I have invented a great product. If you buy this concept, you can revolutionize your marriage. You can turn a bickering household into a haven of peace. You will find yourself on the highroad of life.

Imagine this: he is putting away clean dishes and he asks where something goes.  I have several response options:

(1) Thanks for helping – it goes in the second drawer.

(2) I appreciate you asking instead of shoving it somewhere – it goes in the second drawer.

(3) (delivered after a sigh that would make a martyr feel like a whiner) It goes in the same place it has gone for the eleven years that we have lived in this house – in the second drawer.

In the old days, I would have used option three without a thought – in spite of the fact that it took twice as long (three times as long if you count the sigh) bigstock-Woman-Taking-Inhaler-12036983to deliver as the other two choices.  Now, before answering, I grab my Shrew-Be-Gone inhaler and suck deeply.  This innovative product forces logical thinking into the brain and sorts through options so quickly that the listener isn’t aware of a hesitation.  While inhaling from the apparatus questions like ‘Which response is more likely to result in him helping again?’ and ‘Which response is more likely to result in him not shoving the butter dish under the counter with the cooking trays?’ are processed in nanoseconds.

Now, women, I hear you saying: “OK – I admit it – this is a product that I could use. But do you have something for him?

You bet – the new and improved Snark-Off.

This simple patch sticks to any smooth portion of the body. It enables the wearer to answer questions the first time they’re asked – thus avoiding the raised voice on the third repeat question and the snarled “I heard you the first two times.”

In addition, it releases a response-time expander. This allows the mate to answer such questions as ‘What do you want for dinner?’ or ‘Where would you like to go?’ with more thoughtful answers. Something other than the standard ‘I don’t know’ or the famous ‘You pick’ – which we all know is pretend- consideration for the other and the equivalent of ‘I can’t be bothered putting any thought into it.’

Both products include an invisible adapter so they can be used by either gender.

Try one for 30 days and if it doesn’t change the atmosphere in your home I will give you a 100% refund of what you actually paid me for this product. Try both, and I’ll double that offer.

Do you have an invention to transform the dynamic between spouses? Pitch your product in the comment section below.

 

20

Date Your Mate – For Free!

Part 1

            We’ve all heard it – if you want a better marriage, make time for you and your mate. Have a date night – once a week. Or at least monthly. Go. Do it. Date. There are lots of good reasons. Psychologists are telling you to do bigstock-romantic-dinner-date-5704986it.  Counselors, pastors, wise family members and authors are telling you to do it. But is anybody telling you how during those times when the month lasts longer than your paycheck?

OK – so maybe somebody mentioned something about going to the park, taking a bike ride or stashing the kids at a neighbor’s to have a movie night at home. Not bad options. But let’s get a little more creative.  Following are ways to date your mate for very little cost. (I know it says “free” in the title – that was to get your attention. It would be more accurate to say “free-ish” – but I’m pretty sure that’s not a real word.)

  • Do you both like to read? When was the last time you were at the library? Head on over with a fun challenge. If you both like the same genre, split up for a designated time and each find three books that you would both like. Meet back, share, rate them 1-5, and then trade ratings. Pick out the best match and check out a copy for each of you. Don’t talk about the book until a predetermined time. The anticipation of waiting to connect to finally discuss it sets you up nicely for the next date!
  • If you both like to read but have different tastes, the challenge would be to find three titles that the other would like. Meet back and trade your finds. Rate the books (you’re on your honor here) 1 to 5 with 5 being “Perfect fit!” on down to 1 being “Have you met me before today?” Have a predetermined date-extending prize for the best rating total. Maybe something like the winner gets to pick the snack (frozen yogurt versus hot pretzel?) or loser makes dinner.
  • Being a factory-loving-fool, I can find an outing wherever I go by checking out what is manufactured at my destination. Cereal in Battle Creek, Michigan, New Balance Tennis shoes in Maine, Kodak cameras in New York (that one was a little dry), muumuus and Dole pineapple in Hawaii, a brewery in Missouri (now we’re talking!) to name a few. If you’re a fan of ‘How It’s Made,’ factory tours are for you. There are websites with national lists, but there are many options that won’t show up there. Google your state and the words “factory tours,” too.

In addition, call factories’ human resource departments and talk to people you know who work in manufacturing. Sometimes factories that don’t have public tours will allow employees to show someone around. When my husband worked at General Motors he was allowed to schedule times to conduct private tours (seeing a whole car assembled was fascinating!).  A client took me around the Coke plant. Visitors we met at a mutual friend’s arranged a private tour at the Pepperidge Farm plant when we visited family in Florida. Not only do you learn something new, but there are often samples.  Although the GM factory didn’t allow us to take their product home, the food places had edible samples, the tennis shoes had discounts, and the brewery had repeat tourists!

  • Fairs and festivals abound. I googled the word “festival” with the name of 6 small to medium cities within a 45 minute drive of me and every one of them had an annual event that included theme related contests, entertainment, arts and crafts, and fun food items. There was Fried Onion Burger Day (boasting the world’s largest onion burger – we’re talking big), Pepperfest, Watermelon festival (free watermelon and a seed-spitting contest), Medieval Fair, Jazz and Blues Festival and – I might be giving away my location with this one – a Noodling Festival.

And that wasn’t even every town within a 45 minute radius. Imagine if I had more time to look and added another 15 minutes to the allotted drive time – I could have monthly spousal dates booked up for the rest of the year. This category is why I had to qualify ‘free’ with a ‘low cost’ option. You will want to bring at least $7.00 to try one of the tasty treats available at these functions. I mean, who wants to go to Fried Onion Burger Day and leave burgerless? Or go to the Medieval Fair without noshing on a turkey leg the size of Rhode Island?

Take time to have a fun outing with your spouse – to do something different while enjoying each other. Now that you know it’s (almost) free, there’s no excuse not to!

 

Next month I will post Part 2 of this Date Your Mate series. Meanwhile, if you have a suggestion for a way to date the one you used to date for free(ish), please let us know in the comment section below.

15

5 Ways to Make Your Mate Feel Great

Raisins are so gross I have to put on gloves to touch them. That’s why, when my husband spots freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies that I have made Raisinswith my own little (gloved) hands, he knows it’s all about him. Not because I had a hankering for cookies, not because I wanted a spoonful of cookie dough (ugh – raisin dust contamination), not because I enjoy the act of baking. The whole batch is his to do with as he wants with no worries about who will get the last cookie.  And it makes him smile. Which makes me smile.

An ideal way to make our mates feel great is to give them a gift/a moment/a time that is all about them – with no ulterior agenda. Here are five suggestions:

  1. Thoughtful food. Turn routine grocery shopping into a quest to find that favorite item your spouse hasn’t had in ages – even though you’re not crazy about it. You know – the blast-from-the-past Good & Plentys or that pomegranate that you need to clear an afternoon to get the fruit out of. Or make a dish the way your mate likes it – strogganoff with mushrooms in it; pot pie with carrots in it; ham casserole with peas in it.  (Note: It’s not cheating if you leave the pieces of mushroom and carrots large enough to pick out of your own dish if you do so discreetly – but good luck with the peas.)
  2. A customized outing. Surprise your mate with tickets for that special movie they want to see. But wait – that’s not the gift part. The part that says “this is all about you” is when you proffer the tickets with no accompanying snarky remark, you sit through the movie without looking at your watch pointedly while sighing loudly, and you refrain from ever using it as leverage [i.e. “I went to that movie with you on (insert month, day, and minute) so you owe me (insert selfish desire)].
  3. Show you are thinking of them when they’re not there. Cut something out of the paper to bring home because they would think it’s interesting. Call just to tell them something funny you heard on the radio that you think they’d get a kick out of.  Text that you just wanted to say again how good dinner was last night – the strogganoff with the mushrooms in it was delicious!
  4. Notes.  Tuck them in a lunch bag, briefcase, underwear drawer, make-up bag. Prop them on a steering wheel, bed pillow, or computer keyboard. Now I’m not talking about practical notes like “Trash goes out tonight” – I’m talking whimsical notes like “You’ve got a great smile” or “Looking forward to seeing you at home.” Something that you know, even though you can’t see them, put a smile on their face. (Note: The terms ‘whimsical’ and ‘corny’ may be used interchangeably.)
  5. Frame it. That special thing – the one that you mentioned several times they should get rid of. The t-shirt from 6th grade camp. The program from a favorite play. The album cover that has been album-less for twelve years. For 3-D objects such as sports balls, lucky shoes, and her first doll, use a shadowbox or Plexiglas cube to display. These precious items can often be found at the bottom of drawers, the back of closets, and other places where they have been safe from your purge instincts.

Well, those are my 5 suggestions to make your mate feel great. Tell us about yours. Have you given or received in a way that was clear it was all about the other? Have a great idea for doing so? Share the wealth! (But keep it clean – my Mother reads this!)

10

STOP THE WEDDING! 4 Questions to ask Before You Say “I Do”

Actually, these questions should be asked before you even say “I might.” Once the invitations have been sent out and a deposit has been made on the reception hall, it becomes more difficult to get honest discourse about expectations after marriage. By the time the flowers have been ordered and the gifts start arriving, the blissful couple focuses all attention on THE BIG DAY and the “happily-ever-after” is left to fend for itself. The earlier in the relationship that realistic expectations are discussed, the more likely that bad matches will be weeded out – leaving the parties to find someone whose marital philosophy is closer to their own. These 4 questions should be asked before wedding plans are discussed.

  1. Do you want children? I can hear you rolling your eyes and thinking it’s a no-brainer to ask a prospective mate that question. If it is, there must be a lot of people out there withMetal people no brains. I’m amazed at the number of people who either don’t ask or gloss over this question prior to marriage. He assumes marrying means a dog and 2.5 kids. She assumes because they met in college it is a given that their priority is developing their careers. Don’t assume. (I’ll skip the tired saying about people who assume – but that doesn’t mean it’s not true!) And speaking of assuming, don’t assume that “I don’t want kids”  means “I can be talked into it after we’ve been married a year.” I believe it was Maya Angelo that said “When people tell you who they are, believe them.” Good advice, Maya.
  2. Cash or credit? Divorce courts are full of people whose financial incompatibility led to irreconcilable differences. Few of us can buy a house outright, so some financing is probably not unexpected. What causes the rifts is not having an understanding of the other’s financial philosophy. Do we have credit cards? If so, what can they be used for? Do we charge the expenses of a vacation or Christmas gifts, or do we save up until we can afford to make the purchases? Somebody who has a strong pay-as-you go ethic may be seduced into the spontaneity that credit card purchases allow. But will the glow of the last vacation sun be enough to diminish resentment that grows when bills start mounting?
  3. Yours, mine, or ours? Do we have separate funds and split the bills, a joint fund where all income gets tossed in, or some combination thereof? If the bills are split and circumstances change – job loss, illness, unexpected pregnancy – how is that handled? Think about this prior to a crisis and discuss options. Realize that if the agreement is that he is responsible for the electric bill and fails to pay, she is sitting in the dark, too. If she is responsible for the mortgage and doesn’t pay, he is just as homeless.
  4. Where will we spend the holidays? If both extended families are local and one traditionally celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas Day and no other holidays are observed, you may be among the very few that have stress-free holidays. However, if your folks are in Georgia and your spouse’s are in Indiana, you need to chat – before the holiday season relevant to your families. There’s no need to bring family in on the discussion and make announcements regarding division of time for the next 5 years, but expectations about how things will go should be discussed with options explored. If your future spouse only entertains one option – the major holiday always spent with his or her family because (fill in the blank here: it’s always been that way, my mother would be crushed if we didn’t, it’s my favorite holiday and that’s how I want to spend it . . .) you need to understand that this attitude will not be limited to where holidays are spent. Do you want to marry someone who is not ready to move from ‘me’ to ‘we’?

The best time to tackle these topics is in the getting-to-know-you dating period when learning about jumbo philosophical life-style differences aren’t traumatic. Differences are what make relationships interesting – most people aren’t looking for an opposite-gender clone. But some differences can be so divisive that, if not approached with realistic expectations, can turn an “I do” into a “Wish I didn’t.”

25

10 Ways to Get to Divorce Court Without Beating Your Spouse or Having an Affair

          divorce scrabble  With divorce rates hovering over the 50% mark, do we really need instruction on how to get to divorce court?  Apparently, finding that path is not a problem.  The problem is that many do not knowingly choose the path – they wake up one day and find themselves on it.  As a family law attorney, I hear the question: “How did this happen?”  regularly.  I hear it from clients, from my law students, and from total strangers at social gatherings as soon as they find out my profession.

We all know about the obvious routes to divorce court:  affairs and domestic abuse. These very serious matters are the “Big Two.”  But what about the large percentage of marriages that end up in divorce where there was no abuse, and there was no third party? How does one get to divorce court without one of the Big Two happening?  Following are some suggestions.

1.   Make sure that you separate funds and call it “your money” and “my money.”  Divide up the bills so that one is responsible for the mortgage and the other is responsible for the electric bill, phone bill and other utilities.  Keep track of who pays how much for groceries.  This will create plenty of opportunities to argue about such things as which of you is doing your fair share, which of you is more responsible, how many lights are left on, who eats the most, and a myriad of other divisive topics.

A more unified approach gets people thinking in terms of “we” and “us” instead of “me” and “you”  – but it leaves no clear-cut culprit to cast blame on if there is any financial problem. And if SHE doesn’t pay the electric bill, surely his portion of the living space won’t be as dark as hers – because, after all, SHE was the one responsible! If HE doesn’t pay the mortgage, surely the bank will allow HER to continue living in the house after foreclosure.

2.    Spend hours on the computer – preferably in a chat room of sorts.  Make sure you are seated in that position when your spouse gets home from work.  As a matter of fact, it is even more productive to ask the spouse who just came home to whip up something for dinner and bring it to you.

This suggestion is not referring to dating chat rooms (which could lead to one of the Big Two).  The reference is to any kind of chat room that becomes more important to you than showing interest in your spouse, getting necessary projects accomplished, reading to your children, and those other things touted by pro-family whiners.

3.    Live like you want to live – and hide the bills from your spouse.  This task can be accomplished in numerous ways – just be creative.  For instance, always leave new purchases in the trunk until you have made sure that your spouse isn’t in the house.  Ease new purchases into place and lie about how they were acquired if your spouse spots them (“This old thing?  I found it in the attic”).  Juggle the bills and only pay minimum amounts on the credit cards. Don’t worry about how you will eventually explain to your spouse why your car disappeared from the driveway when it gets repossessed – premature worry will take the fun out of enjoying the stuff you have right now.

4.     Make sure you start out your marriage with as much stuff as your parents have.  This is something that you and your spouse can do together.  However, it may take longer for this route to cause problems because there is not the sneaky deception that goes with suggestion number three.  But it is still a good way to create serious financial difficulties, and it allows you to live in a state of stress as you try to decide which bills to pay.

Don’t let it deter you that your parents worked for years to accumulate the things they own.  Why shouldn’t you have them right from the start?  After all, you became accustomed to living in a house that had such amenities.  Besides, what would the neighbors think if you didn’t have that shiny new car you can’t afford in your driveway in front of the house that you can’t afford?

5.       Have secrets with your children that you keep from your spouse.  What better way for the children to think you are cool?  You and the kids can team up against “the bad guy” in the house.  Don’t give a thought to the fact that the children will someday move out and the relationship between you and your spouse may be severely damaged by the long-term deceptions.  It’s all worth it because your kids will like you better than they like your spouse.  Ignore the risk that they may not respect your authority or look to you for wise counsel.  Any such risk is offset by the possibility that they will probably like you enough to share all the details of their first sexual encounter or alcohol binge.

6.      Have an opposite gender platonic friend and discuss your marital problems with the person – make sure you quote that person often during arguments with your spouse.  Disregard any complaints that your spouse voices about you spending time with that person.  After all, maintaining your freedom and independence within the marriage is much more important than showing loving concern for your spouse’s feelings.  To prove how independent and insensitive you can be, quote the friend’s viewpoints about how healthy it is to have friends of the opposite gender to give you perspective about your spouse’s feelings.  This approach creates much more drama than simply listening to your spouse directly.

7.     NEVER say “I’m sorry” or “I’m wrong.”  Both of those expressions might allow your spouse to feel good about himself – even provide moments of feeling slightly superior.  Block such good feelings at all costs because being right is everything.  Ignore the fact that always “being” right may result in long-term loneliness – being right is its own reward!

8.    Always make sure there is at least one person present when you point out your spouse’s flaws.  There is no sense discussing something about your mate in a loving, non-combative way when you could just as easily wait until you have an audience.  Your spouse’s embarrassment might lead to an argument which would avail you of more opportunities to publicly display your quick-wit at his or her expense.  Try not to get distracted by a slumping of the shoulders or a defeated, hurt expression on your spouse’s face – remember, the goal here is to set up witnesses to your observations in case you need to later say:  “I told you so.”

9.    Any time your spouse mentions his job or favorite hobby, change the topic immediately.  If you delay changing the topic and actually ask a question or encourage him to speak more about the job or hobby, he may think that you are somewhat interested.  Which could lead to him talking about his interests again in the future.  Which would mean less time talking about your interests.   If your spouse has the audacity to try and change the topic back to his own interest, you can accuse him of being insensitive.   Of course, you should wait to make that accusation until there is at least one other person present (refer back to suggestion number 8).

10.     If your spouse seems depressed, explain to her that she has no right to feel that way.  Point out all the reasons that she should be grateful.  Totally discount her feelings.  Let her know that you were not put on this earth to coddle her.  Be self-righteous.  Make sure that she is aware of each and every hardship you ever endured and how you too could be down if you were weak enough to permit such inadequacies. If you allow her to know that her feelings are valid and ask how you can help, she might expect understanding and hugs on a regular basis.

See?  There doesn’t have to be high drama to get to divorce court.  Each day is full of opportunities to be insensitive and trample on the feelings of the person that you once professed to love above all others.  Each little rift is an opportunity to show how right you are.  If you are willing to fully exploit each of these opportunities, you too could be well along the route to divorce court – without ever deliberately choosing that path.

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