It’s so easy to take the one we love for granted. We go through our busy days doing what we usually do and expecting our mate to do what they usually do. One way to keep things fresh and let your mate know you appreciate them is to put a surprise in their day. Just a little unexpected gesture that is sure to put a smile on their face. Below are five fun ways to surprise your mate – and they’re free!
1. Put a message in their food. Get creative. This can be done with mustard or ketchup on an open bun, spaghetti noodles, blueberries lined up, cucumbers cut into letters – anything. Create a heart, a few words, a happy face, a junior-high-style your initials + their initials. Some time back I grabbed the breakfast pastry my husband had put on a plate for me and had it half-way in my mouth when my he gasped. “What??” With indignation he said, “You didn’t even read it.” Who reads a Toaster Struedel? Pulling it out of my mouth before chomping, I saw the precious “I (heart) you” he had written in frosting. I almost ate his love without noticing!
2. Mail them a letter. If your mate is the one who gets the mail, post them an old-fashioned hand-written note. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate – a funny card or a few words telling them how special they are. Who doesn’t smile when they see a non-bill colorful envelope with their name on it?
3. Give them an unexpected chuckle. Prop up a funny note or a silly cartoon in an unexpected place. The inside of the toilet lid or seat is probably a location where one wouldn’t expect to see a personal message. Other options include the steering wheel of their car, in a cookie jar you know they’ll be raiding, or in place of the marker in the book they’re reading – we’re shooting for quirky here.
4. Beat them to their chore. We often unconsciously divide up labors and without ever discussing it both mates have duties that have become their job. Taking out the trash, making the next morning’s coffee, emptying the dishwasher are part of the routines. Shake things up by beating your mate to that mundane task that is on their side of the unofficial roster. They see that you appreciate it getting done on a regular basis, you get the enjoyment of their surprised smile.
5. Change their view. Upload a favorite picture, a scene from a movie they love, or scenery from a place they want to go and set it as their screensaver. (This assumes you are not replacing a beloved parent or departed pet, of course.)
I practice what I preach. Here is the cartoon my husband recently found when he opened his cooler. I had a note attached to it that said: “How NOT to give a compliment!”
‘Brutal’ and ‘honesty’ don’t have to go together. Being truthful should not be synonymous with being mean. With that in mind, how do we answer those difficult questions from our spouses? The questions on topics that you know your mate is sensitive about? And yet the questions call for, and your spouse deserves, honest answers.
Speaking truth with kindness can lift your mate up instead of squash their spirit. Following are five examples of those . . . well, touchy questions. For each, there are two responses. The first one might come readily to your lips. Although truthful, it’s also Just Plain Mean (JPM). The second – while no less honest — is A Kinder Alternative (AKA).
1. Do these pants make my butt look big?
JPM: Not if you’re standing next to an elephant.
AKA: They’re not as flattering as the (insert something mate owns) that you wore last week.
2. Does my losing my hair bother you?
JPM: You didn’t lose it – it’s in the shower clogging up the drain.
AKA: Baby, we’re both going to change. The only thing that won’t change is our love for each other. (Sure, it’s a little sappy, but I promise you it’s the better answer)
3. (Asked by the spouse learning to cook who has served three tasteless meals in a row) What would you like me to fix for dinner tonight?
JPM: Cardboard would be a flavorful change of pace.
AKA: Hey – you cooked the last three times. Let me put something together for us.(Offering to pick up a favorite to-go meal is also an acceptable alternative.)
4. (Asked by a spouse who smells sour after a long day at work) How about a hug?
JPM: How about losing the skunk in your pocket, stinkwad?
AKA: I was just about to jump in the shower – how about joining me? (This alternative may have additional fringe benefits.)
5. (Asked by a mate sensitive about the friction between spouse and a dear (albeit crass) friend) Mind if Chris comes over for a couple of hours tonight?
JPM: Aren’t you afraid if you keep hanging around with that jackass you’re going to turn into one, Eeyore?
AKA: How about I give you and Chris some pal time and I’ll run over to (anywhere you can think of) for a while.
When asked a question by your mate on a topic you know they are sensitive about, squelch the desire to zip off a ‘witty’ remark that, although honest, is also just plain mean. Respond with a kinder alternative. Give a true answer – the one that benefits your mate and your relationship.
Have a suggestion for a JPM to avoid or an AKA to use in its stead? Share with us in the comment section below.
The topic of prenuptial agreements can be divisive. Whether called prenuptial agreement, ante-nuptial agreement, or marital agreement, it is actually a contract entered into by the bride and groom to-be prior to marriage to set forth terms regarding property and/or alimony issues in the event of divorce or death.
Does it seem counter-intuitive to plan for divorce when preparing to take vows that often include the words “for better or for worse until death do us part?” And how does that conversation even go? “I love you with all my heart, honey – but in case I don’t love you in five years I would like to make sure that the property I’m bringing with me into the marriage remains mine.” Or “Baby I want to spend the rest of my life with you. But in case that life isn’t long enough to trust you with my stuff, I want you to sign something that says you won’t make a claim on my stuff.”
Discussions about finances and how they will be handled during the marriage should happen before wedding invitations are sent. This is even more necessary when one party has a disproportionate amount of property, anticipates an inheritance, works in a family business, is entering into a second marriage, and/or has children from a prior relationship.
If either party thinks they want or need a prenup, the matter and the reasons should be discussed long before the wedding date, in a stress-free setting and at a time when both parties can be focused on the topic.
If the reason given for a prenup request is something like “if we get divorced I assume I don’t want you to have my stuff,” more discussion is needed about what marriage means. If you hear “my parents are insisting,” (unless this mandate is tied to a family trust or business) this should tell you something about who you’re marrying and how future decisions will be made. Hearing “my buddy had one and it came in handy,” should also result in you examining the wisdom of marrying this person.
But what if you have children from a prior marriage and want to make sure they inherit the house they grew up in? Or what if your mate has gone through a divorce and wants to ensure that any holdings worked for will not be further diluted? Neither position is inconsistent with planning a life-time together. Often dealing with those niggling “what ifs” frees up the parties to enter into the marriage with abandon, knowing if the unforeseen happens it has already been dealt with.
You should consult an attorney if you want more information on such agreements or you are being asked to sign one. Each state has specific rules that need to be abided by to ensure that the contract is enforceable in the future. Whether seeking a prenup, responding to a request for one, or both, each party should have their own attorney because their interests are different and one attorney cannot effectively represent both interests.
Even if you are contemplating a very simple agreement, wording matters and you should leave that to an expert. An attorney can also let you know if there are things missing in the contract which should be included, terms are included which are unfair or wouldn’t be enforced in that state, and when and how the contract can be enforced.
Whether entering into a prenuptial agreement is planning to fail or failing to plan depends on the attitude of the parties and the reasons for doing so. Make sure you have the conversation about such a contract early enough in the relationship that you can discern which category your situation falls under.
Did you have a prenuptial agreement or wish you did? Tell us about it in the comment section below.
We’re down to the wire on getting a good Father’s Day gift. The traditional shirt and tie gifts from the past don’t work for many in this casual age we live in. The kids got Dad the fun gadgets already, so what’s left for you to celebrate the great dad you’re married to?
Some of the suggestions in last month’s Mother’s Day article will work with some tweaking. Below are some of those tweaked ideas as well as a couple of additional options.
1. Surprise him. Set up a phone call or a drop-in visit from somebody he loves. Is there a college buddy he only connects with once in a blue moon? Somebody he was like a dad to? A favorite relative? Make him smile by making that connection happen.
2. Splurge on him. Those same gift-of-the-month clubs we talked about last month have more than girl-gifts. Meat-lover’s choices include bacon, salami, or jerky clubs. Other man-food selections include hot sauces, salsa, popcorn, coffee, beer, wine, olive oils and an abundance of goodies. There are plenty of non-food options available, too, such as golf balls, ties, bonsais, grooming products, and e-books. All available in monthly packages that can be tailored to budgets and time frames consistent with your particular splurge needs!
3. Honor him. Find that wonderful picture of him that’s buried in an old album or stuffed in a photo box. It can be a dad-moment, him doing that goofy thing that cracks you both up, him in a shot with someone who’s precious to him – you’ll know it when you see it. Put it in a coordinated frame for a gift that can be enjoyed way beyond the special day.
4. Celebrate his achievements. If he has a game ball rolling around in a drawer, a t-shirt from that marathon he ran, a collection of pins from the civic organization he participates in, find a way to display it. News clippings and other flat objects can be framed. Hobby stores have numerous options such as shadow boxes, display cases and small decorative shelves for 3-d items. This silent boast will remind him on a regular basis of how proud you are of him.
5. Indulge him. Whether it’s a single coupon or a coupon book, give him the gift of a future gift. The home-made coupons contain activities he can have on demand. Such as a batch of his favorite cookies made with one day’s notice, watching his favorite show live while you record your usual show, or any slew of more personal activities that you don’t need my help coming up with. Just remember: don’t make promises you’re not 100% willing to keep and no grumbling when he actually cashes them in!
So with three shopping days left before Father’s Day, you still have plenty of time to come up with a creative, thoughtful gift without even leaving home. It will be a gift he’ll remember much longer than another shirt and tie combo!
Who are you saving your smile for? A disgruntled coworker? A parent you cut off in the drop-off lane? We use smiles in a deliberate way because we know their power. An upward twist of the lips can stop a griping employee in his tracks or ease the tension in a chaotic situation.
Smile-power can also be used on your mate. It can be a mood changer. Even a day changer. We can set the tone for the day by greeting our mate with a bright smile. Or we can shuffle into the kitchen, ignore our loved one, and mumble about how the sun came up too soon – again.
Don’t waste your energy telling me that you’re “just not a morning person” or you “can’t be human until past the first cup of coffee.” You could muster up a smile if you put your mind to it.
Imagine that you walked into the room and your favorite celebrity was sitting there. Now (assuming you’re not in Porky Pig jammies, you’d run a comb through your hair, and brushed your morning breath away) wouldn’t you automatically flash a thousand watt smile?
Or how about this: you slog your bleary self over to the coffee pot and propped in front of it is a $500 check with your name on it. Go ahead – tell me that wouldn’t make you smile.
See? You can do it – you just need the right motivation. Then you need to evaluate why that event is more motivating than lifting the spirits of your mate – your cherished life partner – with such little effort.
Take your smile-power with you through the day. When your mate comes in the door, put aside the magazine you’re flipping through or look up from the computer and honor them with eye contact and a welcoming smile.
If you’re the one coming through the door, enter with a smile instead of immediately launching in about injustices of the day. There will be time to share after making the connection that lets your mate know you’re glad to see them.
I’m not saying walk around all day with a goofy grin on your face. Just allow your face to light up when you encounter your spouse. It actually takes less effort and fewer muscles to smile than frown.
And smiles are contagious. They are one of the few things we can sincerely give away and get right back.
Ever have a good result by using your smile-power? Tell us about it in the comment section below!
You’ve been dating your mate for free since (or before) March when part one of Date Your Mate was published. You revved things up with all the options provided in April’s part two. But wait – there’s more! As we head into summer, this last installment of the Date Your Mate series offers suggestions for fun (and free-ish) outdoor entertainment.
· Go fly a kite. Yes, I’m serious – there is not an age limit on this delightful activity. Check out a kite-making book from the library or Google “how to make a kite” and you will be pleasantly surprised to discover that you probably already have all the required materials. Some assembly required, of course! Take your new creation out on a breezy day to a spot where the sky is free of telephone wires and let it, as well as your spirits, soar.
· Music, music, music. If you have already located fairs and festivals within a comfortable drive (as suggested in Part 1) check out what they list for entertainment. Many have schedules for musical events such as bands, singers, symphonies, and choirs. You may also find dance exhibitions on the lists – cloggers, jiggers, tappers, and belly dancers to name a few. In addition, do a computer search for ‘free concerts’ in the geographic range you are interested in, check with the chamber of commerce in nearby cities, and peruse the entertainment section of your local newspaper. The problem won’t be finding options, it will be choosing which events to attend. Lose the earbuds and iPods for an evening and enjoy.
· Farmers market. They are not just for foodies anymore. In addition to fresh produce, one might find wares from locals such as bee products, goat products, hand-crafted soaps and candles, yarns, brooms, breads and baked goods. It’s a learning experience, too – merchants love to answer questions about their products. Who knew a goat could help produce safe and effective shampoo, body lotion, chapstick, detergent? And you’re going to buy food to eat anyway, so why not make it something fresh while supporting local providers?
· Flea Markets and Garage Sales. Can you say “people watching?” No better place to enjoy that hobby. In addition, one can find a myriad of inexpensive treasures and idea generators. Get silly and wear outfits that will contribute to the enjoyment of other people watchers!
· Firework displays. For those of you who haven’t been for a few years, plan ahead for an explosive date night. Bring with you the big-enough-for-two (but not too big) blanket to sit on and do lots of hand-holding. Who says the fireworks have to end when the light show is over??
Now you have plenty of date options for inside and out, warm weather and cold, daytime and night, winter and summer. And none will cost you much more than the ink used to write it on the calendar. Notice I didn’t say “lead?” Don’t “pencil it in.” Use ink. Make it happen. Make dating your mate a priority and receive maximum returns on your marital investment.
Many low-cost dating ideas have been set forth in the Date Your Mate articles as well as your suggestions, but I know there are still plenty of good ideas that we haven’t covered. Tell us what we missed in the comment section below.
Life’s little irritations can make or break us. How we choose to deal with them affects our mates and marriages. It determines our level of contentedness.
Years ago people dressed their salads with oil and vinegar and homemade dressings. Homemakers were delighted when ready-made dressings became available in stores and were awed to have several choices. Fast forward to 2013 where salad dressings take up one third of a grocery store aisle. Options for flavors, brands, and sizes abound.
I like Ken’s Country French dressing. It was often unavailable at the local stores I shopped so when I’d spot it, I’d buy several bottles at a time to hold me over a dry spell. The dry spells got longer and longer until it had been so long I began to wonder if it was still being made. Yet I look each time I go to any grocery store. And grumble as I have to select from one of the hundred and forty-two other choices available.
But I don’t want Seven Seas, Paul Newman or Kraft – I want Ken’s. And not Ken’s Ranch, Vinaigrette, or Italian. It has to be Ken’s Country French. It’s special. It has a touch of honey in it. So I keep looking at every grocery store. And I keep getting disappointed.
You’re probably already tired of me whining. I hear you thinking: “So squirt some honey in one of the other brands and get on with your life for Pete’s sake. It’s salad dressing – how much time are you going to spend on such a petty issue?!”
Not very attractive, is it?
Let’s look at some of the things we grumble about at home. Clothes left on the floor? Toothpaste cap off? Toilet seat up? Anything that can finish this sentence: “I have told you a hundred times to/not to [fill in the blank].
Now rate this recurring issue on a scale of one to ten where ten is “life changing” and one is “I usually forget about it within a few minutes.” Then ask yourself these questions:
1. Has my grumbling about this issue changed my mate’s behavior?
2. Can I list three things I love about my mate that far outweigh this issue?
And, if you’re really brave ask yourself:
3. Is there something I do that annoys my mate that I have no intention of doing different?
Nobody’s asking you to stop grumbling cold turkey – that might throw your body into shock. Wean yourself. Next time the annoying event happens, count to three before reacting. Increase that count a little each time it happens. You will eventually count high enough to forget why you’re counting and what you almost grumbled about.
Let me start us off. I’ll stop grumbling about not being able to get Ken’s Country French dressing and start appreciating available options. But if you happen to spot it somewhere, will you pick me up a bottle or two?
Have a tip to help squelch grumbling? Please share it in the comment section below.
It was a simpler time – a gentler time. The good old days. Oh sure, life wasn’t perfect in the 1950s. Marriage wasn’t perfect in the 1950s – in spite of what was portrayed on programs like Father Knows Best and The
Donna Reed Show. But there was some good stuff there that we can borrow to have more meaningful relationships in 2013. Here are 4 oldies but goodies from the 1950s:
1. 1. Dressing up for our mates. It was an era when women made sure their eyebrows were on before the morning lights were on. My mother told me that she would tie her hair back every night with a ribbon that matched her nightwear so she would look pretty when she went to bed. Now I’m not sure how long that lasted, because I don’t remember seeing a lot of matching morning ribbons when I came down for breakfast in the 1970s, but it seemed to be a point of pride for her for however long it lasted. How many of us freshen up before our spouse walks in the door? It only takes minutes for a quick shave, a spritz of cologne, or just losing the shirt with the baby splash on it. Spiffing up for our mates does indeed make us spiffy!
2. 2. Connecting at dinner. Eating at the kitchen table with the TV off and phones out of reach. Does anybody besides me remember the embarrassment of having a parent answer the phone during the evening meal and stating to your caller – that special someone you’d been trying to impress – that phone calls aren’t allowed during dinner? Now that I am on the other side of that humiliation, I fondly recall the interesting dinner conversations we had and the clear connection between my parents. Plug in to each other during meal time instead of your iPod.
3. Turning the TV back on. You’ve seen the pictures – usually in black and white – of a family grouped around the TV, the same eager look on each face. The reason everyone is excited is because it was a novelty. We can recreate that anticipation and elevate our TV-watching experience by leaving it off most of the time and coming together to watch something special – something we both look forward to seeing. It transforms the mundane into an event.
4. 4. Sharing root beer floats. Nothing like good root beer with a generous scoop of foaming ice cream to give us a fifteen-minute trip back in time while enjoying each other’s company. But what about the calories in that sweet mini-retreat? Well, you know what they say – the couple who has ice cream floats together should take a walk together afterward. Yeah – more bonding time!
I know life wasn’t perfect in the 1950s. Father probably didn’t always know best and Donna Reed likely lost the pearls as soon as she was off the set. But from bygone eras we can resurrect some of those simple gestures and practices that enhance our time with our mates and lets them know they are appreciated.
Do you incorporate old-fashioned simple pleasures into your relationship or have an idea how to do so? Tell us about it in the comment section below.
If you have already assisted your child in making his mom a beautiful one-of-a-kind art project for Mother’s Day – maybe something that included spray-painted macaroni or a colorful handprint on a paper plate – know that you are not done. Oh sure, you get brownie points for helping your child have a gift for mom, but it is, after all, his gift. And you might actually lose a brownie point or two if you put a ribbon on it and leave the child with the expectation that Mom will hang it from the rearview mirror in her car.
I hear you grumbling about how I should have told you this sooner instead of three days before Mother’s Day. But don’t despair – there is still time to put together a meaningful, thoughtful gift to celebrate the woman you love. Here are five suggestions:
1. Surprise her. Contact somebody who is very special to her and set up a phone call from that dear person at an arranged time. Now be creative here – the thoughtful gesture looses all its oomph if it comes from someone she talks to on a regular basis. Think special buddy from high school, college, or the old neighborhood. Or that kid she was like a second mother to. Or that sibling that she only talks to once or twice a year because she lives overseas. You get the idea! Bonus points: You bring her a favorite beverage while she’s on the phone.
2. Inspire her. Put together a collection of sayings to inspire her. If she has a favorite hobby, cause, or activity, Google that topic with “inspirational sayings” or just “sayings.” If she has a favorite author, Google that name with “quotes.” The same can be done with lines from songs of a favorite musician, artist, or poet. If you don’t have a favorite entity to focus on, look up inspirational sayings in general – you will find plenty to choose from! Print the sayings out on nice paper and either roll up and tie with a ribbon or cut them into 3×5 pieces and put them in an old-fashioned photo album – either makes a nice presentation. Bonus points: The sayings have nothing to do with losing weight, eating healthy, or exercising more.
3. Splurge on her. If you want the celebration to last longer than the day, consider one of the gift-of-the month clubs. Some items that can be purchased this way include flowers, cheese, fruit, coffee, cookies and spa or gardening selections. Most programs give an option of 3, 6, 9 and 12 months to suit varying budgets. You can print off the on-line page you order from and wrap it in a small gift box to present to her on Sunday. She will enjoy the monthly gifts as they come in and be reminded each time of what a thoughtful mate you are! Bonus points: This is her favorite flower or food – not yours.
4. Honor her. Sort through old photos or pictures still in the camera and find that special shot – the one that captures a precious mom-moment or her in a proud pose. Find a unique frame (hobby stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby usually have excellent options at affordable prices) to present it in. Bonus points: The shot is a flattering.
5. Pamper her. Purchase a set of plush towels just for her with matching wash cloth, face towel and bath towel. Not just a bath towel – we’re talking a bath sheet. Something cushy to embrace her as she steps out of the bath or shower. In addition to any department store, high end sets can be a good deal at discount stores like Tuesday Morning. Bonus points: It matches the bathroom décor.
Any of these options can be found and put together in the next day or so – thus, giving you plenty of time to present that meaningful gift to your loved one on Sunday. She will be wowed – and rightfully so – at your thoughtfulness and creativity!
Do you have any suggestions for last-minute Mother’s Day gifts that don’t look last-minute? Please share in the comment section below.
Does your spouse seem to hibernate every once in a while? Does your husband wander off by himself or unexpectedly shun socializing with people he usually enjoys? Does your normally chatty wife frantically wave her hand while mouthing “I’m not here” when you try to hand her the phone, leaving you to make a lame excuse on her behalf?
A couple of years ago I was driving back from a conference with writing-buddy Sonia Gensler, telling her about how I just got on the other side of my semi-annual funk. About every six months or so I have a two or three day period wherein I withdraw socially, avoid phone calls and ignore emails. I never knew what brought it on or how to characterize it. I didn’t feel depressed and had no problem getting out of bed and being productive in an enjoyable way – I just didn’t want to be around people.
Sonia nodded and said: “You’re an introvert like me.” She was as blasé as if she had just stated the obvious fact that we both have brown hair. I’m quite sure my jaw dropped and I looked at her like she had just sprouted a second head.
Me? An introvert? I’m one that would be voted most likely to plop myself down at a table full of strangers, introduce myself and end up with a new pal and a lunch date twenty minutes later. As a matter of fact, that’s pretty much how I had connected with Sonia six years prior.
“Have you met me, woman?”
That’s when I got educated about what being introverted means. To my surprise, being an introvert had nothing to do with being shy. Introverts can be shy, but being shy doesn’t make one an introvert. Psychologist Carol Bainbridge provides this simple definition: “Basically an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around others.”
In contrast, she defines an extrovert as one who is energized by being around others. So an outgoing person may be an extrovert, but being outgoing does not make one an extrovert. The difference between the two is simply how we go about recharging our batteries.
Light bulb! I didn’t have ‘funks’ – I had recharging sessions (whew!)
Understanding the dynamics of these two types of personalities can help us to better meet the needs of our mates. Do we need to give them some space periodically to recharge so that they can enter social situations with more enjoyment?
On the flip side, if we’re married to an extrovert, do we need to cooperate and be supportive of the activities that replenish their energy?
Understanding the introvert versus extrovert dynamic can help us depersonalize our mate’s behavior. Her wanting to be alone for a day doesn’t mean she’s shunning him, pouting, or being hormonal. Him wanting to go to a party where they will know few people doesn’t mean he’s being insensitive to her insecurities about being around strangers. If we realize it’s not personal and focus on what the need is of the other at a given point in time, we may both end up replenished and in sync.
Does the introvert/extrovert dynamic affect your relationship? Let us know how you deal with it in the comment section below.