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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!)

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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