I’m always intrigued by the BEST and WORST lists that abound this time of year. What worked over the past 365 days and what didn’t. What made us smile and what made us cry. What we ran to the movies to see and what we ran from. What new toys were hits and what were misses. It’s like a mega award show with hundreds of custom-made categories to fit each author’s list. What a great way to review the year!
So here, in no particular order, are my offerings for the BEST of 12 categories from the 2014 blog posts. (You’re on your own for a WORST list!)
Courthouse Behaviors That Could Cost You Your Family Law Case. Everybody knows they have to behave in the courtroom – just in case the judge is watching. What they often don’t take into consideration is who else is watching – and where they can be seen!
Marriage Chuckles wins if you’re taking into account the whole post, but here’s the single cartoon that got the most snickers this year. My caption? “Why you should make eye contact when your spouse speaks to you.”
Dear Brides-and-Grooms-to-Be: Just Because You Said “YES” Doesn’t Mean You Should Say “I DO.“ There are definitely times that an engaged couple shouldn’t get married – even if the invitations have been sent out and the flowers have been ordered.
How to Get Couple Friends (and why you need to). No matter how many great friends and family members you have, if you’re married you still need couple friends. They enhance your marriage in several meaningful ways. Here’s the who, what, when, where and why of it – starring Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel.
Easter – It’s NOT Just For Bunnies Anymore. A collection of rabbit-ear-wearing-animal pictures guaranteed to make you say: “Awwwwww – that is so cute.” And for the toughest of you who will not allow yourself to say such things out loud, I’ll bet you a dozen donuts you can’t help thinking it!
Marriage, Ladies’ Home Journal and the Simple Things That Matter. I was delighted to have a little featured spot in the July issue of Ladies’ Home Journal this year. And humbled by its focus versus my expectation.
5 Ways to Spook Your Spouse! It got a little creepy. But I thought the title gave fair warning of what one could expect!
Is Your Marriage Like the Tree of Forty Fruits? Hopefully it is. And the tree itself – pictured with its projected blooms – is an awesome creation.
Marriage – 73 Years of Wisdom. Barbara “Cutie” Cooper knows a little something about marriage – as well she should after being married for 73 years! Sample a nugget or two of wisdom shared from her book.
Losing a Pet – a Universal Hurt. After 13 years, I had to say good-bye to the only dog I’d ever had. Many of you can understand this universal hurt. You may, like me, smile at the thought of the good times you had with your beloved pet – through misty eyes.
How to Get His Ex to Hate You and What Children Want Their Divorced Parents to Know About the Holidays. Divorce is hard enough on children without the added stress of being in the middle of the game-playing that some adults engage in. Whether the destructive behavior is intentional or not, the devastating effect is the same for the children. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
FIRST HONORABLE MENTION: I was delighted recently when a young man whose opinion I value told me how wonderful my blog was. He said there was one particular post he really enjoyed. He searched his mind to remember what it was. I waited patiently for him to recall what profound bit of wisdom I had imparted that had touched him so. “Oh yeah,” he said slapping his forehead. “I remember. It was the one about toilet paper.” Excuse me??! In response to my surprised reaction he explained that I write a lot of stuff for girls, and the toilet paper one was more his kind of thing. And so, winner of the BEST NON-GIRL TOPIC goes to Random Acts of Toilet Paper.
For those disappointed that this year-end post includes no discussion about New year’s Resolutions, please see 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Couples (without the word “weight” in them!)
1. Pay down someone’s layaway. School counselors are a good resource for finding families who could use a helping holiday hand.
2. Bring a little Christmas cheer to someone who can’t get out and about. Take a mini tree and ornaments over to light up a corner. Whether they are alone, or family won’t arrive until the holidays, contribute to the happy glow.
3. Offer to babysit for that single parent or couple who are limited on funds so they can shop without the kids in tow.
4. Helping out with local food baskets? How about sticking in a card game if you know the recipient can use it and/or has children? They are compact and add a little entertainment to the mix! Skip-bo is a good one because two (or more) people can play, the cards are easy on the eyes, and you can find it at discount stores, drug stores, and games stores for under $10.
5. Send that neighbor on a tight budget an anonymous Christmas card containing a gift card to a nearby grocery store.
6. Bring your (well-behaved!) dog to a local nursing home. Of course you want to check with the appropriate person at the facility first to set up a good time and find out about any restrictions they might have. But it is well-established that animals can both lift the spirits of those who are down and calm down those who are agitated. Often seniors in nursing homes don’t have much opportunity to love on a pet – and many miss their own. When you see how much joy such a simple gesture can bring, you may want to extend your visits beyond the holiday season!
7. Offer to wrap gifts and/or hide them at your house for parents with inquisitive children who have little private time. My husband and I did this for years when we had next-door neighbors with little ones. We didn’t have family of our own locally and we fell into the tradition of hauling the gifts over to their house on Christmas Eve after the kids had gone to bed. After, we’d sit with the parents while sipping a Christmas drink, soft Christmas carols playing in the background, and enjoyed a wonderful chat. It led to a cherished friendship and lovely memories.
8. Donate blood. Donations are often down during the holidays due, in part, to all the added commitments that regular donors have. It’s a life-saving gift that costs you nothing but time. (And, for some, getting over the ewwwww factor of a needle being involved. But just remember – you get cookies afterward!)
9. Volunteer to walk the dog one day a week (or more?) for that elderly neighbor who has a mobility challenge. This is even more helpful on icy days.
10. Wrap up some small gifts (a box of chocolate, a fold-up umbrella, a mini flashlight), carry them with you, and give them spontaneously to strangers you pass that seem harried, stressed out or depressed with a smiling “Merry Christmas” (or the greeting for the holiday you are celebrating). WARNING: The joy of spontaneous gift-giving can become addictive!
Have a great idea for a holiday good deed or been the recipient of one? Tell us about it!
Going to bed angry goes against what we have been told, taught, and maybe even promised our spouse before marriage. Is, sometimes, going to bed angry healthier for your relationship than staying up until the matter is resolved? On the side of the debate that says “Go ahead – sleep on it,” here are three reasons to go to bed angry.
1. The argument is escalating. If each spouse gets more entrenched in their own position and no progress is being made, sometimes things get louder and increasingly heated the more each tries to force their perspective on the other. If it were daytime, one or the other might stomp off to another room to cool down before addressing – or deciding to blow off – the original reason that anger resulted from a given topic. Going to bed, backs turned to the other, might be the nighttime version of that.
2. Tiredness adds to irrational response. Being overtired and responding to each other in a cranky manner may have been what got the argument started in the first place. The more tired one gets, the more likely one is to respond in an over-the-top way and/or make regrettable statements.
3. The situation can be processed in your subconscious while you sleep. In other words, things will look better in the morning.
But will things really look better in the morning? Will we wake up refreshed, rational, and eager to see our mate’s side of things? Do we wake up to an epiphany for a fair resolution? Or do we get out of bed, ignore each other, and carry our grudge throughout the day?
Maybe there is a reason that “not going to bed angry” has been advised by many of our predecessors. Maybe the tired marital cliche’ has some merit to it. In reverse order, here are three reasons not to go to bed angry with each other.
3. The chasm between the two of you could widen. Instead of being rested and able to resolve the conflict from the night before, both parties could end up more convinced than ever they were right. And determined not to be the first to concede – or even speak. Sound silly? Most long-standing grudges are. How many times have you heard someone utter I’m not even sure what started it? And yet, the animosity lives on.
2. Being angry can disrupt your sleep. Tossing, turning, stewing, planning for the next go-round, could deprive you of the sleep you so desperately need in order to restore your reasoned thinking. So instead of waking with a new attitude, you’re crankier than ever and ready for round two.
1. Because there may not be a do-over tomorrow. We often go through life as if we have all the time in the world. But, as our elders are so acutely aware, we may not have tomorrow. Anybody who has lost a loved one probably remembers the last words ever exchanged with them. Statistically, the chances of us being just fine in the morning are very high. But statistics are just numbers – which is not always the same as real life. Which is why it is important to live in a way, and treat each other in a way, that leaves us with no regrets.
This November, one of the things I am most grateful for is the opportunity to visit with dear family members in (not-so) sunny Florida! While I am enjoying them, please enjoy this Thanksgiving encore!
With Thanksgiving as its finale, November is a great month to focus on the many people and things there are to be thankful for in our lives. The great food is just a bonus! If you and your spouse want to put the “Thanks” in Thanksgiving this year, here are 10 suggestions to get you started.
1. Send a Thank You note to someone who has affected your marriage. Is there a couple who set a fine marital example? A friend or relative that was supportive during a tough time? Send them a hand-written thank you note letting them know they made a difference.
2. Double tip – or triple tip. Let that food-server in your local diner know their service is appreciated and valued by going beyond the current ‘obligatory’ percentage with your tip. Breakfast servers often are up the earliest, hustling the most, and pulling in the least in tips. Just having coffee? Watch a face light up when you leave some bills instead of change as a thank-you.
3. Add a note to the tip jar. This isn’t instead of a tip, mind you. But if you’re at a place that has a tip jar out for counter service and you have something nice to say about your waitperson or the establishment, jot a note letting them know and put it in the tip jar with your cash tip.
4. Serve any day but Thanksgiving. Show your appreciation to a local shelter or ‘soup kitchen’ for the service they provide to the community by helping out. Some years back my husband was out of town for Christmas and I was alone. I decided to help serve the holiday meal at a shelter. Feeling virtuous, I called the shelter to let them know the good news – that I would be gifting them with my services. They weren’t nearly as impressed as I was. While such places need holiday help, many offer on those days – I actually heard the words “twice-a-year-do-gooders” uttered by a staffer. Often there are shortages of help at the beginning of the month (because people are saving their good deed for the holiday) or the Monday after – when everyone is good deeded out.
5. Place a potted chrysanthemum on your neighbor’s porch. Often we don’t interact with our neighbors other than to wave as we’re coming and going. ‘Good neighbors’ don’t have to be friends – they can be the person who let UPS leave your package at their house, the ones that brought your dog back when it got out of the fence, or the one who is respectful about only playing their drums before 7:00 p.m. Let them know they are appreciated.
6. Praise publicly. Give the waitperson who did a good job, a special teacher, your pastor, an inspiring community member a shout-out on Facebook or write a note to their employer. My husband and I were once in a Best Buy waiting a ridiculous amount of time to get help with buying a computer. A staffer heard us talking (read: grumbling) about the wait, apologized for it and spent the next half hour getting us connected to all the right product. When we checked out, the clerk ringing us up asked our helper what he was doing there on his day off. His day off? We wrote his supervisor a letter saying how impressive it was that an employee thought enough of his employer to protect their reputation in such a way and how helpful that young man had been. A week later we made another trip back to Best Buy. There, in their front entrance, was a framed picture of our helper with a banner that proclaimed him Employee of the Month.
7. Require thanks before the food. If you are hosting a dinner during the month, have a small paper and pencil by each place setting. Maybe printed out acorns or leaves? Instruct each guest to write down 3 things they are grateful for prior to eating. After everybody has been served go around the table and have each read their list. Allow discussion between the reads if it evolves.
8. Send someone a list of reasons you are grateful for them in your life. If it is a family member, divide the list to reflect both the natural relationship and the in-law relationship. With all the in-law jokes that abound, how nice for a mother-in-law/father-in-law/whoever-in-law to know the positive is celebrated.
9. Give them what they admire. Has somebody special in your life admired something you own? Is it an appropriate thing to gift to them? Years back when my parents downsized during a move, they gave us a lovely milk glass creamer and sugar set that I was fond of. One of my best friends admired it on a visit. She happens to have an interesting milk glass collection. She was delighted to later receive it as a gift – she appreciated the history of the objects as well as their beauty. And frankly, they looked better sitting on shelves in her living room with milk glass cousins than they did in our cupboard.
10. Gift the one who doesn’t get gifts. We often think to gift people we interact with regularly – our hair stylist, a colleague, a teacher. But what about the receptionist at the salon, the colleagues’ assistant who often helps out, a librarian, the janitors, the ‘lunch ladies’? Drop off a little something to that person who is often overlooked – letting them know they are indeed seen and appreciated.
Please add to the list of how couples can put the THANKS into Thanksgiving in the comment section below.
There are some things we just don’t think to thank our spouses for – but maybe we should. For instance, you know how in the movies people wake up morning-fresh with tousled hair? Well, in real life, it’s morning breath and bed-head. Yet our spouses love us through it and in spite of it. And have we ever said “thank you”? Here’s five more you may not have said “thank” you’ for.
1. That warm spot they create in bed that you roll into the moment they shift.
2. Waiting until the commercial break (or fast-forward break) in your show to tell you something.
3. The times their face lights up with a smile when you walk toward them. (Isn’t that the most welcoming feeling?!)
4. Helping to develop the secret code you share. The look, gesture, raised eyebrow, or cue that says wordlessly Let’s blow this joint or Did you hear what I heard? or Did you see the chick in the pink tutu with the leopard boots?!
5. Saying “I DO” and meaning it.
Original cartoon image
November is a great month to be intentional about expressing your appreciation for the dearest person in your life. We say ‘thank-you’ to our spouses throughout the year for specific actions and do little nice things on occasion “just because.” As we should! But how often in between those moments are we taking them for granted? Are we doing a good job of letting them know how special they are to us – how much we value them? Let’s take November and make that happen. Let’s make Thanksgiving be more than a prayer and a 10 course meal with great leftovers. Let’s make it be more than a day.
Pick one of the suggestions, some of the suggestions, mix and match the options, or come up with your own way to honor your spouse for 30 consecutive days. Be specific about what you plan to do – and commit to your plan. Be intentional about being grateful. The benefits for both you and your spouse will last much longer than the 30 days. Just one more thing to be thankful for!
Little changes can have big impact. Case in point: You write a lovely note to somebody you like and tell them how pretty they are. Except you accidentally leave out the ‘r’ in pretty. Such a little mistake. Such a big difference in how your letter is received! Here are some common mistakes that married couples make – and the little fixes that can have big impact!
1. Thinking fair means 50/50. Trying to divide household chores and obligations evenly often leads to scorekeeping, finger-pointing, and potential disharmony if one spouse feels they are doing more than their half of the duties. The Fix: Each spouse should do what they do best based on talents, opportunity, and ability. One spouse may be good at organizing meal plans and the other may be a better cook. You both may hate grocery shopping, but one has time off on a week day when it’s easier to get in and out of the store quickly. Avoid the temptation to mentally assign the little onerous tasks that don’t require specific skills – think taking trash out and emptying the dishwasher – to each other. Just do them as they come up. While on any given day the chore split may end up something like 30/70, over the long run the division of labor will probably balance out.
2. Indulging your inner ostrich. Handing over the reins completely in any given area may be setting yourself up for problems. Often one spouse has the task of bill-paying, checkbook balancing, and other financial dealings because of talent, availability, or the other mate’s aversion to doing so. The result is one spouse is ignorant about what has to be done if the other one is ever out of commission for any reason. This same dynamic crops up in other household activities such as meal preparation, laundry, maintaining kid’s schedules, etc. The Fix: List the tasks that fall 100% to each spouse. Once a month pick one from the list and do it together so that the partner less informed has a basic understanding of how it works. Once you have covered the list, start all over again so that every few months each mate is being exposed to the task they would have to suddenly take over in pinch.
3. Neglecting outside interests. It’s easy to get caught up in daily routines and ending up with a social life that revolves exclusively around each other. While couples absolutely should spend meaningful time together and engage in social activities they both enjoy, they shouldn’t be joined at the hip. No one person can be all things to another. Continuing individual growth and bringing that element to the relationship can enhance a marriage. The Fix: Set aside time as individuals to connect with old friends, take a class you’ve been wanting to take, or spend time on a hobby you enjoy. The key to a successful fix here is balance – don’t schedule so much you now have to set aside time to fit in your spouse!
4. Sharing TMI. Telling friends, family members or co-workers details about your marital tiffs or gripes may give you a much-needed momentary release, but have long-lasting effects. Long after you have made up with your spouse, your confidant remembers the negatives. You may reasonably expect your buddy to keep mum about what you have shared, but you already know not all expectations are met, right? The Fix: Before you go venting elsewhere about the injustices in your marriage, ask yourself if it is a topic you can discuss with your spouse in a calm moment. If it truly isn’t, consider whether it is an issue that rises to the level of seeking some professional assistance from a counselor or your spiritual leader.
5. Reverse TMI. Couples should be able to talk about just about anything to each other. They should be each other’s safe place to fall. So, is it even possible to tell each other too much? Yes. If you are telling your mate about your day and his or her eyes glaze over, it may leave you feeling like they just don’t care. But it’s more likely a case of Irrelevant Information Overload. It’s not personal. The Fix: Unless it’s necessary to understand your point, leave out detailed descriptions, technical jargon they’re not familiar with, and too much talk about people they don’t know. We’re not talking about dumbing it down – we’re talking about speeding it up. Think about how long your own attention span is when listening to a fact-intensive narrative. Just because you sometimes wish your spouse would wrap up a story quicker doesn’t mean you love them less. Assume your mate feels the same.
6. Missing bedtime connections. Pillow talk is what evolves spontaneously when you’re both laying in bed, snuggled in, maybe with the lights out, sometimes almost asleep. A thought passes through your head that you wouldn’t get up and walk down the hall to tell the other, but the moment is shared because the other is a breath away. It is an intimacy we can’t recreate on our feet, in the living room, in the light of day. Sometimes conflicting work schedules, children’s needs or health issues keep us from going to bed at the same time. But often it’s a TV show, a video game or a Facebook chat that costs us that precious exchange. The Fix: If getting on the same nightly schedule is not practical or possible, be intentional about committing to how ever many nights during the week you can make that happen. Even one is better than none. But two is better than one. And so on. Make it happen – because you can’t get those nights back.
7. Embracing the “little white lie.” It’s not OK to lie about the “little stuff.” Shaving $20 off the price when asked about the cost, saying you mailed the bill you know is still sitting on the car seat, claiming to work late so you don’t have to deal with a visiting relative. The boundaries of what is “little” expand and blur over time. And, like anything else we practice diligently, lying gets easier the more we do it. This insidious tendency needs to be nipped in the bud before it blooms. The Fix: Ahhh, this one’s the easiest. Just don’t do it.
Current post is linked to MessyMarriage site
1. Creepy Finger Soap. Trade them out for the Irish Springs in time for their morning shower. Talk about waking up! Save one to drop in the pocket of the jacket they’ll be wearing that day – a little something to make them think about you later on!
2. Speaking of fingers . . . Packing a lunch for your mate? How about slipping in some of these distressed digits for dessert? Who knew sugar cookies and almonds could make such a gruesome duo?? [Click picture for recipe]
4. Jeepers, creepers – where’d you get those peepers? For a ghastly surprise, attach them to something in the closet. Be sure to unscrew the lightbulb so the glow in the dark feature is at it’s best. Just your Halloweeny way to say to your spouse: “I only have eyes for you, hon!”
5. Head in a Jar. In the refrigerator! You may want to have a camera set up for this one! I stumbled upon this last year and have waited patiently for a whole year to share this chilling delight. (I thought about including it as an illustration in the Deadhead Your Marriage post, but I wasn’t sure the humor would have been
appreciated appropriate there.) [Click pic for the gruesome how-tos]
According to the results of a recent study from the University of Rochester, watching and discussing movies about relationships with your spouse is as effective in lowering divorce rates as more intensive marriage counseling programs.
While the study was done with couples married 1-3 years – one of the most vulnerable-to-divorce time periods – the study authors surmise it would be just as helpful to couples who have been married longer because some of the study participants had been together for significant lengths of time.
In the study, three forms of conflict management were compared. The first two more traditional models required substantial time investments and therapist participation throughout. The third, “Relationship Awareness Through Film,” included only about 10 minutes of lecture, a movie and discussion, minimal interaction with a therapist, and a homework assignment for spouses to watch a relationship movie once a week for four weeks and to discuss each movie after viewing using a provided discussion guide.
A diverse movie list was provided with 47 options to choose from. Comedies, dramas, classic and contemporary selections – From Funny Girl to Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner? – something for everyone! The one thing they all had in common was a focus on relationships.
The couples who chose that more portable self-help conflict management route had the same decline in divorce rates after three years as couples who participated in the two more traditional therapy methods.
Associate professor and lead author of the study, Ronald Rogge,offers this explanation for the phenomena: “The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships. Thus, you might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving.”
When it comes to keeping your marriage on track, you or your spouse may not have the time, inclination or funds for traditional therapy. But who can’t squeeze in a movie and a chat?
NOTE: Dr. Rogge has a website that has interactive tools to try the film-related relationship awareness program with or without participating in the actual study. The site also includes an expanded movie selection list with accompanying discussion questions. Click HERE to check it out.