17

The ME in Mediation – a New Perspective

The ME in Mediation - a New Perspective

Just when I thought I knew all there was to know about mediation, I learned something new. I know that mediation, the process of resolving legal issues with the assistance of someone trained to help warring parties find creative solutions, is often better for divorcing spouses than having a trial. I have served as a mediator in numerous custody cases. As a Family Law practitioner, I have attended dozens of mediations while representing clients. As a Guardian Ad Litem for children, I’ve sat through mediations between the parents in case I could be of assistance with child-related issues. And as an adjunct Family Law professor, I have taught the mechanics and benefits of mediation to law students for seventeen years. I’ve even written articles about it, such as Take the Bat Out of the Battle, extolling its virtues for parties going through divorce.

So what is there left for me to learn? What’s missing from all that hands-on experience? The one perspective that probably matters the most. I had never participated in mediation as a party – as the one who actually had something at stake. Until last month.

I was in court to collect money that had been owed to me for a year and a half because I didn’t see the situation changing on its own any time soon. When the judge called our case, he asked us if we would like to mediate the case before having him hear it. I mentally rolled my eyes (it’s not good to actually roll your eyes when the judge asks a question) and asked myself what would be the point. I had already made two previous agreements with the individual over the past two years, and neither one had been honored. Besides – I was right. She had absolutely no defense. This was a slam-dunk case. I could be out of there in five minutes if it went to the judge. Who knew how long it would take if we tried to mediate it. As in, try to make another agreement with somebody I no longer trusted.

I looked over at my opponent and she shrugged – not quite sure what mediation was all about. The judge made the decision for me, suggesting that we give it a try. Not following the judge’s “suggestion” is about as well-received as eye-rolling. So off we trotted with a mediator who was standing by. The judge was already dealing with his next case.

My opponent and I sat across from each other at a conference table and the mediator sat at the head, forming a triangle with us. He started patiently explaining what mediation was, how it worked, and what was expected of us. I was still in professional attorney mode – and quite annoyed that I had to sit through a talk that I had given myself numerous times. I resisted the urge to “help” move things along.

And then we each had an opportunity to sum up our positions. To my shock and horror, I started getting a little emotional. What the . . . ? Attorneys don’t get misty-eyed when they talk. It just isn’t . . . done. I realized that it was less attorney-opponent and more two people who didn’t agree. Sure, we had “exchanged positions” before – but always through brusk phone exchanges or carefully worded emails. Never sitting across a table while looking at each other. Nothing like seeing a wince, frown, surprise, hurt rolling across the face of somebody you’re talking or listening to for a new perspective. Hearing is more than just taking in sound – it’s processing the words, registering them.

Here are a few things I learned about mediation from my new perspective:

  • We can make erroneous assumptions about the other’s position. Somehow, in our heads, those assumptions turn into facts. Sometimes listening to each other in this environment, having had an opportunity to prepare for discussion on some difficult topics, allows you to hear something new in what you have already listened to.
  • Being heard can be a fair trade-off for some compromise on the issues in dispute. It’s very satisfying seeing someone really get a point you’re trying to make – especially if you’ve been trying to make it for some time and it just wasn’t being received.
  • Getting it is enlightening. And potentially humbling. But when you finally HEAR what is being said in the way it was intended – a point the other has been trying to make but either not saying well or just not saying it when you were receptive to hearing it – it can be empowering. It can free you up to focus on the issue versus focusing on the way you feel about the other person.
  • Negotiating toward compromise says nothing about who is right. You’ve heard the saying: Do you want to be right or have peace in your life? There’s a lot to that. Proving you’re right takes a lot of energy. And what’s the payoff if you succeed? A moment to be savored? Served up with a side-dish of increased resentment from the one you need to work with to find a solution for disputed issues? Not helpful.
  • “Fair” is it’s own reward. Taking the “right” out of the resolution – legally right, morally right, just plain right – and crafting something fair results in two winners.

Everything I formerly advocated about the mediation process for divorcing couples still holds true: you craft a better solution for your family than some judge who doesn’t know you can; you can get creative with the resolution in a way that the judge cannot; you have some control over the outcome as opposed to tossing the dice with the judge’s orders, you have an opportunity to be heard by the other in a way that you might not get in the courtroom.

But what I never said before – because I didn’t know it – was that going through the process was somewhat healing. And I don’t mean in a join-hands-kumbaya sort of way or a slap-on-the-forehead-arms-shoot-up-I-am-HEALED sort of way. I mean the knot in the stomach I entered the room with was gone, anger was dissipated, and both had been replaced by a sense of accomplishment. I left the room . . . satisfied.

I’m not telling you that Mediation is magic dust. It’s not something you can sprinkle on years of hurt, mistrust, betrayal, anger, or other raw emotions to make all the bad stuff disappear. I am telling you it’s a way to start a conversation that can have a different ending than others you’ve had before. And I’m telling you it’s an opportunity to be heard and craft a resolution for your family, and about your stuff, that is personalized in a way a judge just can’t accomplish. I’m telling you this process does not have the tear-each-other-to-shreds result that a trial can have. And I’m telling you, most important of all, that you can leave the mediation room with dignity intact, a desire to work together better for the children, and a sense of satisfaction having crafted a solution you believe works for your situation.

I can’t offer any solace regarding how you might feel leaving the courtroom if you choose to go to trial – because that’s an unknown.

Related:

Take the Bat out of the Battle (with mediation)

Laudable Listening

Marriage: Troubled Waters or Sea Glass?

26

In Appreciation for My Marriage: A Love Letter to My Parents

In Appareciation for My Marriage: a Love Letter to My ParentsDear Mom and Dad,

You know I love, respect, and am blessed to have in my life the man I’m married to, right? Have I ever told either of you how much you have to do with that?

As a young girl, you would not allow me to allow myself to be disrespected. There wasn’t enough eye-rolling in my head to lessen the requirement about a visiting guy coming up to the door. No horn honking, running out to his car when he pulled up, waiting outside for him. I was worth his time to come up to the door to get me. I was worth his time to walk me back to the door and make sure I got in the house safely. When as an insecure teenager I was willing to settle for someone – anyone – who liked me, you were not willing to let me settle for someone who did not hold me in high esteem. You caused me to have certain expectations about how one should be treated in a relationship. It took me years to realize you were not just being controlling, judgmental, and generally uncool.

How you treated each other has had a major impact on my marriage. I’m not glamorizing your relationship – I know you had more than your share of tough times, losses, marital discord, and strife. I also know that there is probably plenty that I don’t know about your relationship. But here are lessons that I learned about marriage just from watching you – when I didn’t even know I was watching:

  • You start out with just the two of you, and end up with just the two of you, so that relationship has to be prioritized to be sustained throughout what comes in between.
  • The only thing better than receiving a surprise from your spouse is giving one to them and the happy anticipation of their reaction.
  • Surprises don’t have to be parties where people are waiting to jump out – they are things like the funny note on the mirror, shrimp cocktail in the work lunch, bringing juice to the other in bed.
  • Having pet names for each other keeps things tender.
  • Making each other laugh is a worthy goal.
  • Having a secret code (also known as French) allows you to connect know matter how many are present.
  • Presenting a unified front to others, no matter what you are going through behind the scenes, can lead to unification.
  • Having each other’s back is a priority.
  • Household chores don’t have a gender classification – they just need to be done.
  • Cooking isn’t tied to gender, either.
  • Trying new things together keeps it fun.
  • Socializing with other couples widens your horizons and deliberately brings into your world different points of view.
  • Refusing to join in when others are complaining about their spouses and staying positive about your own can totally change the conversation.
  • No matter how hot the argument gets, name-calling has no place in it.
  • If the day is so difficult you can’t make the other laugh, make the other smile.
  • Embrace the adventure of the unknown. Or be static.
  • Keep learning. Watching the news, reading, asking questions. You stop learning, you stop growing – which would be boring.
  • Mutual respect can overcome some major differences of opinion.
  • Laughing at each other’s jokes – no matter how many times you’ve heard them – is its own gift.
  • There’s a lot of ways to publicly declare your love without anyone ever hearing you utter the words “I love you” to each other. And actually, it’s less your declaration than an outsider’s observation based on the evident mutual respect and enjoyment of each other.
  • Supporting each other doesn’t always mean being physically there for them – sometimes it means letting them go take care of their business and supporting their decision to do so.
  • And sometimes supporting each other means being physically there for them – even when there’s nothing you can do.
  • When you each prioritize putting the other first, you are both content.

These are just a few of the lessons I learned about marriage from you. I know as soon as my letter is sent, I’ll think of one I forgot to write down. An important one. And they’ll keep coming to me as long as I’m married. Know that I am grateful for those, also.

When I do something kind for my husband, or make him laugh, and he says to me: “I sure see your parents in you,” I know I have received the ultimate compliment. Because you gave to me the ultimate gift: a real life demonstration of living out the wedding vows of sticking it out and being there for the other “in good times and in bad times.” You have blessed me with this legacy.

With an abundance of love and admiration,                                                                                                                           Daughter #2

P.S. If I’d known in my early years what I know now, I would have spoken much kinder about you both in my diary. I’ll forgive you for reading it, if you’ll forgive me for the words you read!

Yvette and Tony Abreu - living well and laughing often

Yvette and Tony Abreu – living well and laughing often

Yvette, 88 and Tony, 90 - heading toward their 67th year of marriage

Yvette, 88 and Tony, 90 – heading toward their 67th year of marriage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                       Is there anyone YOU can honor with a love letter?

 

Related:

How to Write a Love Letter to Your Spouse (and Why You Should)

How to Get Couple Friends (and Why You Should)

Friday Five Valentine Edition

27

A Dozen Roseless Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas (That are Outside the Chocolate Box!)

Unique Valentine's Day Gift Ideas

Let’s be honest – flowers and candy are kind of an easy out for Valentine’s Day. They’re nice, sure – but not the most creative gift choice. And what’s the deal with the price of roses doubling just for the occasion?? Costs skyrocket like the price of gas on Labor Day weekend – for no other reason than people will pay more to give the traditional gift. So buck the system. Be a Valentine’s Day rebel. Here are a dozen (roseless!) gift ideas to that will get you thinking outside the chocolate box!

1. Vanity license plate. Get that special saying or nickname on a license plate – and your loved one will have your special sentiments with them where ever they go!

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas2. Newspaper greeting. If you live in a small town, buying a page, half page, quarter page or smaller of the local newspaper is probably an option. You can have it say whatever you want – and even include that special picture that will make your mate smile. What goes better with a morning cup of coffee like a personalized newspaper?!

3. Etched mirror. Take a hanging mirror from your wall to a glass etcher and have that meaningful quote, symbol or picture etched permanently in the place your mate will see reflected around their face for years to come! For a bigger splurge, hire the etcher to come to your home and do the bathroom mirror.

4. Create a secret code. Do something simple like having the letters in your own names represent different letters. Give your mate a card with your secret message (maybe where you’re going for dinner?) with instruction on the back for how to crack the code. When the day is over you’ll still have your code to tweet or send Facebook message that only the two of you will understand!

5. Name a star for them. Really. The International Star Registry has several “packages” for star-naming available. They even have coordinates of your personalized star included. Additional splurge? Buy, rent or borrow a telescope to have it aiming at your mate’s new star when you present your gift!

6. Personalized office supplies. Staplers, tape dispensers, letter holders and pens can be boring. Unless they’re a reminder that you are loved! Go traditional with your mate’s name, or make it even more personal with an inside joke, favorite song lyric, or other meaningful engraving.

7. Workplace delivery. Instead of sending those predictable (and grossly overpriced) roses to the workplace, how about surprising your mate with lunch delivered from their favorite restaurant, or a special coffee and pastry for their morning break?

8. Personalized games. Dice and playing cards can be personalized with words and pictures. Want to go bigger? How about personalizing a whole board game like this Make Your Opoly Board Game?  Operating on a tight budget? There’s an app for that! In this case, a My Monopoly Game app that allows you to create and print personalized stickers to go over an existing game board.

Unusual Valentine's Day Gifts9. Customized T-shirts. Have a special message printed on a T-Shirt or Sweatshirt so they can wear your love all year round!

10. A calendar. Boring? Not if you have few mystery dates penned in for upcoming months. Now the mundane qualifies as a gift that keeps on giving!

11. The selfie presentation. Want to take your mate to a special movie, dinner, or other event? Take a picture of yourself holding the tickets or menu and download the picture as wallpaper on your mate’s computer. What better way to start the day then turning on the computer and having the promise of a gift-to-come virtually presented?

10. Happily-ever-after book ending. Draft a Love Letter and glue it to the back inside cover of the book they’re reading for a very special ending!

11

5 Ways to Make Superbowl Game Watching More Fun

 5 Ways to Make Superbowl Game Watching More FunWhether you love the actual game, or you’re humoring the one who does, here are 5 ways to make Superbowl Game watching more fun!

1. Gift Pass: Pick a play and start passing a gift item – maybe a thermo cup or $5 Coffee Card. No holding more than a 3-count! The person holding it when a touchdown is made gets to keep the prize! After the first touchdown, the winner gets to pick what wins the next prize – maybe a penalty or field goal. And the watch is on! Variation: Everyone puts a dollar or a quarter in the cup and starts passing it – same finish!

2. The Icebreaker. For a crowd that doesn’t know each other well, you can have a pre-game warm-up game! Have a variety of questions in a jar and some small prizes to hand out for the winning answer. Then take turns pulling out and reading the get-to-know-you questions. Here’s a few to get you started:

  • Who has the longest middle name?
  • Who went to high school farthest away?
  • Who has the most pets?
  • Whose street name is the shortest?
  • Whose socks have the most colors on them?

3. Predict the winner: As each person enters the party, have them make their prediction of the winning team and final score on a sheet you’ve prepared for everybody’s answers. The one whose right (or closest!) gets the prize – maybe a tin of popcorn or oldy-but-goody football movie.

4. Don’t say it!: Everybody starts out with 10 quarters at the beginning of the party. Then choose a football-related word that no one can say during the game, such as “quarterback” or – if you really want to make it difficult – “touchdown.” If someone hears another person say the word, they can take a quarter. The person with the most quarters at the end gets one more quarter from everybody who has remaining quarters. Any quarters each person has left after paying their final quarter is theirs to keep! Variation: Pass out beads or buttons for each person instead of using quarters. The one at the end of the game with the most beads or buttons collected with a prize.

5. Commercial Bingo – Enjoy the commercials even more by winning a prize based on the order they’re shown. You can make your own cards or go HERE for some free printable cards.

5 Ways to Make Superbowl Game Watching More FunGO TEAM!

30

17 Things Teachers Want to Tell Divorced Parents

17 Things Teachers Want Divorced Parents to Know (but can't tell you themselves)Teachers can be a Guardian Ad Litem’s best friend. When I represent a child whose parents are going through a custody battle, charged with the duty of investigating for the purposes of making recommendations to the Judge about custody and visitation, I look forward to talking to the child’s teacher.

After reviewing all the court documents, getting as much information as possible from each parent, and spending time with the child, I find it helpful to get the perspective of somebody who cares about the well-being of the child but who is not vested in the outcome of the court battle. Who better than a teacher – the individual who spends time with the child daily, interacts with the parents, and has a birds-eye view of how the child interacts with others.

Most of the teachers I have contacted over the years have been very generous with their time when it comes to looking out for one of their students. Often giving up lunch hours or planning time, meeting me before school or inviting me to call them at home in the evening, they contribute unpaid hours to giving feedback that is invaluable to helping an outsider get the bigger picture with regards to what’s going on in a child’s life.

After over two decades of such interaction, one of the things that kept coming up is what teachers would like to say to warring parents and stepparents, but are prohibited from doing so because of school policies or professionalism. After over two decades of teachers making my job less difficult, I want to return the favor and be a voice for them. Following is a compilation of what I have heard from many a teacher over the years.

Most of the teachers stated they found it helpful to know if something significant is going on in a student’s life such as a custody battle or dealing with the loss of an absentee, sick or deceased parent. It helps them understand new behaviors and allows them to better assist the child during challenging times. What they don’t find helpful is unnecessary drama.

Here are 17 things teachers would tell divorced parents – if they wouldn’t get in trouble for doing so:

1.  I’m happy to provide feedback about any concerning changes and/or progress your child is making during challenging times. However, my focus is on your child’s welfare, not your court action – and I don’t want to be dragged into the latter.

2. Don’t badmouth your ex to me. I’m not going to take sides. And frankly, that behavior makes me wonder more about you than the person you’re complaining about.

3. Please don’t start (or end) a sentence with “Don’t tell my ex.” I’m not your confidant.

4. Don’t tell me what to tell your ex, either. I’m not your go-between.

5. Don’t ask me to “fudge” if your ex asks something.

6. Don’t put words in my mouth, misquote me, exaggerate information I provided, or use me in any other way to support your position on any given child-related issue. I don’t want to be in the middle of your feud.

7. I don’t want to testify in court. Your child is important – but so are the other 20 left sitting in the classroom with a substitute teacher who is unfamiliar with the lesson plan of the day while I sit around at the courthouse waiting for “my turn” to be questioned and challenged about my observations regarding your child.

8. I see the sadness in your child when you talk about their other parent in a negative way.

9. Don’t have your child give me messages about the other parent. It hurts them to do so.

10. Don’t embarrass your child by being ever-present so that you can assert in court you’re the better parent. I appreciate your help in the classroom, rotating with the other parents. Don’t overdo it.

11. Don’t over-provide in hopes that your child will see you as the fun/special parent. If you are asked for a bag of candy, don’t bring six. If you are asked for a dozen cupcakes, don’t show up with aprons for the whole class. This “fairy godmother” syndrome makes your child stick out and makes the other children feel their contributions are less significant.

12. Don’t increase my work load by asking for daily reports in hopes of finding something to use in your custody battle against the other parent.

13. I don’t keep score on how many times each of you has been in to ask a question or participate in an activity. I recognize that many parents work during the day and the fact that one does some things more than the other is typical –  and you won’t get me to say otherwise.

14. Let your new spouses know that parenting is not a competition. If they know the bio parent is chaperoning a field trip, do they really need to be there, too? Is their purpose to show off to the parent how close they are to the child? If there is tension, jealousy, or any other sort of conflict, it ruins the outing for your child. And it is distracting for the other adults who are trying to focus on the children.

15. Don’t make me do everything twice. Unless there are safety issues involved, I’m going to copy you both on emails. And please use our school website to stay abreast of activities.

16. I do notice if your child is suddenly disheveled, smells, is habitually late, is falling asleep in class, has an attitude change, has behavioral changes, seems depressed. When I pass on such info, it is to alert you to a problem, not to provide intel, pick sides, or make accusations.

17. Your child doesn’t want to haul his overnight stuff around in his backpack. There is limited space in my classroom and things like that have to be stowed behind my desk. And think about it – how would you feel if you opened your briefcase in a meeting and your pajamas popped out?

TEACHERS, HAVE I LEFT ANYTHING OUT?

Related:

Children of Divorce: 5 Things Parents Should NEVER Say to Them

Children of Divorce: 5 Things Parents Should NEVER Say to Them

Divorce Through the Eyes of a Child

Divorce Through the Eyes of a Child

What Children Want Their Divorced Parents to Know About the Holidays

What Children Want Their Divorced Parents to Know About the Holidays

20

The Magic Eye of Marriage

The Magic Eye of MarriageRemember those Magic Eye books and pictures that were everywhere in the early 1990s? Like the picture above, they were chaotic blurs of colors, shapes and seemingly abstract patterns. The promise was that if we looked at the two-dimensional picture in the right way, we would see a three-dimensional image emerge before our very eyes!

So we would squint, move the picture around, stare into the colors – and still it looked the same. But when we were persistent, we could make it happen. If you held the picture close to your face – nose almost touching – and backed it away slowly while staring at it unblinkingly, the picture in front of you morphed magically into a beautiful, interesting, or complex design. Even though you were looking for that transformation, you were still taken by surprise when it appeared because it was right there – and had been right there the whole time. You just weren’t looking at it with the right focus. And remember how once you finally saw it, you could move the picture around and still see the inner picture – often even more clearly when you moved it farther away? That’s because your focus at that point was on the depth of of the picture instead of the chaotic facade.

And so it is with marriage. We let the surface appearance of chaos and disconnectedness in our busy lives turn into our reality – the 2D version of us. The beautiful, the interesting, the foundation of what we started with is in the midst of that. It’s available for us to return to and hold on to when our big picture blurs into something we don’t recognize. It’s worth the effort to squint and shift our view and persist in our efforts until we see clearly what our main focus is – the 3D version of us. Once you know where it is, it’s what you keep seeing.

For more information about how Magic Eye works or fun Magic Eye products, click on the picture.

For more information about how Magic Eye works or fun Magic Eye products, click on the picture.

 

Related:

Marriage: Troubled Waters or Sea Glass?

Married With Gratitude – a 30 Day Challenge

The Annual Marriage Assessment – 11 Questions to Get You Started

3 Reasons to Go to Bed Angry

 

12

5 Exercises to Skip When You’re Married

5 Exercises to Skip When You're MarriedExercising with your spouse is usually a good thing. Not only are you spending time with each other, you are both working together toward a common goal – an activity that reaps benefits in other areas of your marriage. But not all activity is created equal. There are some forms of exercise that, when done with your spouse, could actually harm your marriage. Here are five exercises you should skip when you’re married.

1. Jumping to conclusions. You know what they say about the person who assumes, right? Don’t give yourself an opportunity to prove the old saying correct – ask a few questions (without the accusatory tone)  before making an informed conclusion about any given situation.

2. Stretching the truth. Referred to in some circles as “lying.” Not OK. Unless, of course, you are planning a fabulous surprise for your mate or hiding their gift!

3. Side-stepping the issue. The serious stuff doesn’t go away by ignoring it. Find a stress-free time to talk over those tough topics before they elevate to crisis-mode.

4. Running out of steam. Take care of yourself so you can better take care of and be there for your spouse. There’s a reason flight attendants tell passengers to put their own oxygen mask on before attempting to assist others: doing so makes the person more effective when assisting.

5. Pulling up past grievances. Take a tip from Elsa and let it go, let it go, let it go if you want to have a happy ending!

IN SUMMARY:

Marriage exercises to skip

Related:

Introverted But Not Shy? Does Your Mate Need Space?

7 Common Mistakes Married Couples Make

10 Car Habits That Make Your Spouse a Defensive Driver

19

10 Ways You Can Tell the New Year is Here Without Leaving Your House or Looking at a Calendar

10 Ways You Can Tell the New Year is Here

With horns tooting, fireworks popping, and Auld Lang Syne blaring off the TV, it’s pretty hard to miss the arrival of the New Year.  But just in case you slept through the hoopla and haven’t heard any official announcement, here’s 10 ways you can tell the New Year is here without leaving your house or looking at a calendar!

1. Your spouse announced you both have new memberships at the local gym. Again.

2. The ads in your junk mail are for White Sales instead of toys and electronics.

3. Magazines, newspapers, and your toiletries are organized in baskets and colorful containers that have suddenly appeared.

4. You hear: “Is this deductible?” a lot.

5. The refrigerator is full of good-for-you stuff.

6. You’re the only one in your neighborhood that still has Christmas lights on at night.

7. Your spouse hasn’t sworn/eaten ice cream/indulged in whatever they consider to be their bad habit for over a week.

8. People have stopped sending you tweets, instagrams and Facebook posts of their darling pets wearing antlers or Santa hats.

9. The cookie stockpile is dwindling.

10. You have sworn off making New Year’s Resolutions. Again.

What’s the number one sign that the New Year has arrived at YOUR house?

Related:

Marriage Chcukles

10 Car Habits That Make Your Mate a Defensive Driver

Marriage – 5 to Make You Smile

14

The Annual Marriage Assessment – 11 Questions to Get You Started

The Annual Marriage Assessment - 11 Questions to Get You Started!

The beginning of a new year is often a time for evaluation, assessing, and planning for the upcoming twelve months. We analyze things like our health, our spiritual direction, our priorities, our careers and set goals regarding what we would like to do different, better, or not at all. Let’s not forget our marriage in this annual assessment!

The beginning of the year is a great time to review the past year of marriage to assess what we did right, what is not working, what we can do better, what changes we can make to improve our marriage, and what goals we can work together to accomplish over the next year. Here are 11 questions to get you started.

To Answer as a couple:

Is there anybody in your life that is not supportive of your marriage or tries to undermine your relationship that you should consider limiting contact with this year?

Do you need to cultivate some couple friends this year who have positive attitudes about marriage to interact with?

What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve your marriage this year?

What’s the most important decision you need to make together this year?

What is the biggest obligation you feel needs to be met this year?

What area of your lives most need simplifying and what is one thing you could do to accomplish that?

If one or both of you need to get healthier, what is one change you could both support making to move toward that goal?

What is your biggest financial goal and what is one thing you could do this year to move closer to that goal?

For each spouse to answer individually:

If there is a time-waster activity that gets in the way of spending time with your spouse, what can you do about it this year?

What can you do to encourage/uplift your spouse on a regular basis this year?

What one change can you make that would help you be a better husband or wife this year?

Whether we are already amazing or working toward getting there, it’s easy to get caught up in the New Year changes we want to make to be better individuals. Make sure you spend at least, if not more, energy and effort with your spouse to determine what you can do to enhance your already-amazing (or on-its-way-to-amazing) marriage in the upcoming year!

Related:

10 New Years Resolutions for Couples

101 Things to Say to Make Your Mate Feel Great

Calling all Spouses: The 30-Day Gratitude Challenge

17

2014: And the Winner Is . . .

2014: And the Winner Is . . . 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!)

BEST LEGAL ADVICE

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!

BEST FUNNY

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.”

2014: And the winner is .. . BEST WEDDING ADVICE

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.

BEST MARRIAGE ADVICE

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.

BEST TOO CUTE FOR WORDS

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!

BEST PERSONAL SHARE

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.

BEST HORROR PICTURES

5 Ways to Spook Your Spouse! It got a little creepy. But I thought the title gave fair warning of what one could expect!

BEST ANALOGY

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.

BEST SENIOR ADVISER

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.

BEST TEARJERKER

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.

BEST STOP-MESSING-WITH-THE-KIDS-ADVICE (tie)

 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.

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!)

Thank you for reading, sharing, and commenting on my blog posts this year. I really appreciate your support and your feedback and look forward to hearing more from you in 2015. I wish each of you a healthy, blessed, and very Happy New Year!