Category Archives: Pre-Marital Tips

Before you get hitched, consider this…

The Top Six Benefits of Pre-Marital Counseling

Getting married?


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And, an effective, research-based, professionally delivered Pre-Marital Preparation Program is high on your gift registry – right?

If you answer “Why yes, of course! Why on earth would I consider something so life-changingly profound without some serious tire-kicking, research and advice!” then good for you.

You and your partner have already considered the top six benefits of  professional pre-marital preparation:

1. BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND ~ Just because you love someone very much does not a happy lifetime make. A pre-marital prep program which helps a couple dig more deeply into who each person is as an individual and how this person with this background might mesh with that person with that  background is vital for planning a life together.

2. GRASP THE ENORMITY OF THIS COMMITMENT ~ I mean, whom you marry will have THE biggest impact on every aspect of your life: Where you live; how you live; the rhythm of your days; your children’s genes and/or upbringing; your daily budget and your long term savings; your friends; your diet; your connection with your family of origin; your spiritual life; your recreation…. you get the point! Learning how to broach and discuss these topics with a spirit of curiosity and open-ness is a vitally helpful skill.

3. ENORMOUS PERSONAL GROWTH ~ A committed, long-term relationship is going to call you into places of deep personal awareness and growth like nothing else can. Learning how to allow this, how to respond without defensiveness and how to gracefully expand into the best possible version of yourself is something you’ll learn with good pre-marital consulting.

4. ANTICIPATE & PREDICT ISSUES ~ A bit like hearing there’s a storm coming allows you to put up the shutters and lay in extra food, getting an eyes-wide-open awareness for the areas in your relationship that are likely to be rocky allows you to prepare, and not be so side-swiped when they show up. Money, sex and anger are the “big three” but all sorts of differences which can seem small now might blow up one day – so skill up for this.

5. GET AN OUTSIDE OPINION ~ You know your love is vast and sound, but if you feel  vulnerable about exploring some issues before you even say “I do” it might be particularly wise to expose your relationship to the helpful wisdom of a licensed marriage and family expert. Not because he or she will find flaws and tell you you’re nuts, but because it helps to normalize rough spots and frictions, see yourselves from the outside, and feel free to talk with a trusted professional who has only your couple success at heart – not familial loyalty nor impossibly high expectations.  

6. SKILL UP! ~ This will not come as a surprise, but people have been getting married and divorced for a very long time and by and by some social scientists and researchers have been paying attention. There is excellent evidence based research out there from which you can benefit – but only if you know about it. Setting aside some time to learn about principles and practices that foster love, connection and attachment will be one of the best educational investments you ever make over your lifetime if you want to boost your chances of creating a loving, secure, mutually satisfying relationship.

If you answer “Of course not! Why would I have any doubt in our ability to use our love to solve all problems?”

Stay tuned!

I’m hoping to make the case to you that you’ll vastly increase your chances of success by investing in some learning and experiential help with a great pre-marital program – watch this space!




Do they make a difference?

Thinking of Pope Francis I as he anticipates becoming leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics  I find myself wondering what sort of vow he makes in relationship to those he serves. And if he does make a vow, does it help guide his behavior in any way?

Since 1688 in Great Britain, for example, Parliament changed the Oath an incoming monarch would say to identify that ultimately (unlikely as this might seem) power lay with the people through Parliament and the monarch had to swear they would act  “according to their respective laws and customs.” There is of course also a whole bunch of obedience to the Protestant Church who originally held great power – but that’s for another blog post! However, if a King or Queen gets too uppity, in theory, we can get them out. There is a public pledge of understanding about the expected rules of reciprocity: “You be King but don’t get too out of hand, we’ll all enjoy the pomp and circumstance.”

Which has me wondering about marriage vows. Working with so many couples — some married formally with the big white wedding; some married simply in a back yard but none-the-less legally bound; some cohabiting, maybe with a housewarming bash to mark the event; some who drifted together with no “promises” in place; and of course, gay and lesbian couples who’d love more legal status yet who get creative in terms of formalizing their unions — I see a huge variety in the degree of Vows, or “expected rules of reciprocity.”

I’ve yet to conduct a survey exploring the correlation between these agreed-upon “rules of reciprocity” and marital satisfaction – but it might prove interesting.

Here are the vows Mark and I said to one another on November 20th 1982. We adopted these from dear friends Julia and Stuart. Feel free continue adopting and adapting if they fit for you!

I take you to be no other than yourself

To love and comfort you

Honor and keep you

In sickness and in health

In sorrow and in joy.

Loving what I know of you

Trusting what I don’t yet know

With respect for your integrity

And faith in your abiding love for me

Through all our years

And in all that life may bring us

I greet you as my husband/wife.

Reading these again now (and as we do around each anniversary) I have to say, without wanting to be trite or corny, I think they’ve played their part on our successful journey toward one another over the past 30+ years. I’ll start my survey tonight by asking Mark what he thinks!






“I Feel Like You Should..”

“I feel like you should…”  If this is how you’ve been talking about your feelings, it’s time to learn how to be more honest and effective.

It’s a bit like “I love you, but . . . ”

You’ve lost me at the “but”.

Sometimes, talking to people we love about things that matter is too hard to even get started. This is where emotions come in handy.

I’m blogging about emotions for two reasons.

  • Learning to notice and name what you feel helps you figure out what you need;
  • Learning to talk effectively about what you feel and need is key to great relationships.

Say you and your partner are both foodies. It’s what drew you together. You thought “We both adore cooking, it’s going to be fun!” But after a few months of Honeymoon best-behaviour (when neither of you spoke up for what you really wanted) you began to resent “cuisine compromise.” Neither one of you ever truly made a dish – it was all “What do you think – add the sherry or red wine vinegar?” You longed to have the kitchen to yourself to make a disaster or delicacy all on your own. You’re savvy enough to know you’re supposed to talk feelings and “I” statements so after one helpful tidbit too many you blurt out “I feel like you’re way controlling – I can make a potato salad for heaven’s sake.”

Great start – you’ve noticed a surge of anger and spoken up for something you want.  You’ve let your feeling of “angry” identify your need for “kitchen autonomy.” Odds are your partner won’t take it that well though. You may have lost ‘em at “You’re way controlling.”

Here are 7 steps for speaking with your partner more effectively.

  1. Presume do-overs. Cut yourselves some slack for botched first ( second and third) attempts. It’s rare for couples to talk effectively to one another on the first go-around.
  2. Figure out what you feel. Check your cheat sheet, Parrott Emotions Tree 2001and/or read “I Feel So Bad!
  3. Use your feelings to identify what you need.  See this posting.
  4. Break the ice with something. “Wow – who knew I had such strong feelings about potato salad?”;  “I was a toad in there – sorry! But I’ve figured out why I was all snappy. Are you open to hearing it?”
  5. Just talk through your process. Literally, lead them through what you’ve just done in steps 2 and 3. Tell them how you sleuthed out what you felt and maybe what you think you need.
  6. Get curious. What does your partner feel and need?
  7. Get creative When you both know what you each feel and need you can come together on the same team against the disconnection you both felt. Now you’ll feel more like collaborating together for some win-win solutions.

“Well, we want more independence, but to cook together some too. And new – so maybe a class or two? And guests – livens things up. What else do we want?”

And you’re off.

Watch for that shift from “I” and “You” statements to “We” statements.

This is key!

Don’t Die Without . . .

Expressing Your True Feelings


In Bronnie Ware’s heartfelt blog she notes that the five most common regrets of those near death are ~

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.


How about that!

Feelings – those things I’m constantly encouraging us to become more familiar with and fluent in – rank as the number 3 most devastating loss when not expressed.

Here is what Bronnie wrote:

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

What does it take to express your feelings? If you are not sure, join me for Emotions 101,  a five-part fun series running 4th – 8th March 2013. Topics include ~

1. Is that a feeling, or a stomach ache? Don’t laugh – it can be hard to tell sometimes. Learn how to recognize your emotions. (Blog on 4th March  2013);

2. Sad? Mad? How about Lonely, Wistful, Incensed, Ashamed? Dump the kindergarten terms for your complex internal maelstrom.  (Blog on 5th March 2013);

3. “I’m fine.” Great, so is my wine! Aren’t you Enchanted, Elated or Thrilled?  Let’s liven up your Happy place. (Blog on 6th March 2013);

4. “I feel like you should…”If this is how you’ve been talking about your feelings, it’s time to learn how to be more honest and effective. (Blog on 7th March 2013);

5. “No you don’t!” If this is how you respond when someone shares their feelings, come learn how to listen so people will open up to you. (Blog on 8th March 2013).

So – whether you’re Oscar Wilde ~

I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them. ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

or Elizabeth Gilbert ~

“Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

you’ll find something of interest. See you for Emotions 101,  4th – 8th March 2013.






Top 10 Emotional Needs

Why do we couple-up?

According to Dr. Harley of (from whom I have adapted these descriptions of needs) couples cite the 10 emotional needs listed below as most important to them. These are what they want out of their primary love relationship. For fun, rank order these with #1 (most important to you) to #10 (least important to you), and compare notes with your lover. You might each learn a thing or two.

_____ AFFECTION  (you have a consistent and willing place in your partner’s arms and heart for touch, hugs and snuggles)

_____ SEXUAL FULFILLMENT  (you enjoy making love and find your sexual relationship is allowed both full expression and evolution).

_____ RECREATIONAL COMPANIONSHIP (you enjoy spending most of your free time together and find that certain activities are enhanced by sharing them with your partner.)

_____ INTIMATE CONVERSATION (your partner is your go-to person for what is on your mind. You find it easy to open up to your partner because he or she listens and understands you in a way that feels satisfying and unique.)

_____ HONESTY AND OPENNESS (you trust one another to share what is important and not to withhold secrets that might be hurtful.)

_____ PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS (you are proud to be with your partner, you like showing him or her off to your friends, you are happy to have “caught” such a person!)

_____ DOMESTIC SUPPORT (you and your partner have figured out how to run a home together. You know what your areas of strength and weakness are and you both manage to navigate these successfully so your home space meets both your needs.)

_____ FINANCIAL SUPPORT (you and your partner can discuss how the income you need is brought in. You can agree as to how each of you contributes, how much, how often and what to do when you need to renegotiate these needs.)

_____ FAMILY COMMITMENT (you and your partner have a similar appetite for sharing your lives with extended family. You can manage your in-laws with consideration and compassion and can put your marriage ahead of pressure from outside.)

_____ ADMIRATION (your partner is proud of who you are, what you accomplish, how you accomplish things and tells you this quite often).

It’s pretty common to find we try to fulfill the needs we want for our partner – assuming they want the same thing. So, if you’ve not been connecting as well with your sweetie lately – compare notes.  If your #1 is Intimate Conversation and your partner’s #1 is Recreational Companionship, it might explain why the fishing trips are so fraught. You want to use this time away for some D & M’s (deep and meaningfuls) whilst your partner just hopes you’ll both pursue fish.

Watch this space for EMOTIONS  101 – a five-part series, starting on 4 March 2013, on how to recognize, talk about, express and use your emotions effectively.

Love as Acceptance

Part 5 of 5 How to Win At Love – in Five Easy Stages

STAGE  #5 ACCEPTANCE~ your partner is perfectly imperfect.

What is this stage like?  Figured I’d show ya rather than tell ya. Gratefully re-posting this lovely interview with the worlds oldest couple. See original here:

“Meet Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher of North Carolina. They have been married 85 years (86 in May) and hold the Guinness World Record for the longest marriage of a living couple and get this…. Zelmyra is 101 years old and Herbert is 104.

The happily married couple teamed up with twitter this Valentine’s Day to answer some relationship questions. Check out their take on finding love, getting through hard times and more. Good read.

1. What made you realize that you could spend the rest of your lives together? Were you scared at all?

H & Z: With each day that passed, our relationship was more solid and secure. Divorce was NEVER an option – or even a thought.

2. How did you know your spouse was the right one for you?

We grew up together & were best friends before we married. A friend is for life – our marriage has lasted a lifetime.

3. Is there anything you would do differently after more than 80 years of marriage?

We wouldn’t change a thing. There’s no secret to our marriage, we just did what was needed for each other & our family.

4. What is your advice to someone who is trying to keep the faith that Mr. Right is really out there?

Zelmyra: Mine was just around the corner! He is never too far away, so keep the faith – when you meet him, you’ll know.

5. What was the best piece of marriage advice you ever received?

Respect, support & communicate with each other. Be faithful, honest & true. Love each other with ALL of your heart.

6. What are the most important attributes of a good spouse?

Zelmyra: A hard worker & good provider. The 1920s were hard, but Herbert wanted & provided the best for us. I married a good man!

7. What is your best Valentine’s Day memory?

Zelmyra: I cook dinner EVERY day. Herbert left work early & surprised me – he cooked dinner for me! He is a VERY good cook!

Herbert: I said that I was going to cook dinner for her & she could relax – the look on her face & clean plate made my day!

8. You got married very young – how did you both manage to grow as individuals yet not grow apart as a couple?

“Everyone who plants a seed & harvests the crop celebrates together” We are individuals, but accomplish more together.

9. What is your fondest memory of your 85-year marriage?

Our legacy: 5 children, 10 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great grandchild.

10. Does communicating get easier with time? How do you keep your patience?

The children are grown, so we talk more now. We can enjoy our time on the porch or our rocking chairs – together.

11. How did you cope when you had to be physically separated for long periods of time?

Herbert: We were apart for 2 months when Z was hospitalized with our 5th child. It was the most difficult time of my life. Zelmyra’s mother helped me with the house and the other children, otherwise I would have lost my mind.

12. At the end of bad relationship day, what is the most important thing to remind yourselves?

Remember marriage is not a contest – never keep a score. God has put the two of you together on the same team to win

13. Is fighting important?

NEVER physically! Agree that it’s okay to disagree, & fight for what really matters. Learn to bend – not break!

14. What’s the one thing you have in common that transcends everything else?

We are both Christians & believe in God.Marriage is a commitment to the Lord.

We pray with & for each other every day.Image

Separate Honeymoon Anyone? Part 2

Part II – The Solution For (our Honeymoon &) Your Family!(Continued from Part I)

In the face of multiple, competing and divergent family interests, did you identify anyone in your family (or yourself) as ever behaving like a Martyr, Bully or Pleaser?

Is there another way?

If there were another way, what would it look like?

Is it possible for very different people, with different ages and interests, to figure out what to do together in a way that no one has to compromise, bully or cajole so much that people feel lost, bossed or herded?

Indeed, is there a way that the planning can be part of the fun whilst building intimacy and connection?

Yes there is ~ meet

Style #4 The Mediator.

Looks like:  “OK, we’ve got six people and nine great ideas between us. Let’s decide right now that we’ll make it a great day no matter what we end up doing. I’ve got an idea that might help – are you guys up for hearing it?  How be if we each share our best idea and why it’s important to us? Let’s really listen to each other because what we can’t do today we could perhaps do another day. It’s important that everyone speaks up because it’s good to know what we each enjoy. We’ll hear one another out and see if one or two ideas seem best for this group on this day. If most of us can agree on what to do, let’s commit to doing those other ideas this year so over time we’ll all get to influence the group and feel good about our shared decision.”

Pro – Everyone has a chance to check in with themselves to see what sounds fun and why, and to put it out there. Everyone also gets the chance to listen to the others so you get to know one another more fully. The process of talking and choosing can be great fun – loads of improbable ideas can be tossed out and laughed over.  Even “the losers” (those whose ideas are not decided upon for this day) know they are not long term losers because their ideas have been heard and are now on the agenda for another day.

Con – This approach takes time. It can get messy in the middle with pre-schoolers thinking of nutty things and teenagers saying “whatever” until you gently invite them to be more specific. It assumes a level of kindness amongst group members. It requires the group to value the process as well as the outcome.

Upshot – No matter which idea is chosen, everybody wins in 3 ways:

  1. You get to know yourself better (by checking in with what you feel and want)
  2. You get to know those around you better since you hear what they feel and want.
  3. You get to practice connecting to one another, which minimizes the chances you’ll become enemies or strangers over time.

If you are interested in being The Mediator next time your family has a group decision to make, here’s a process you may find helpful:

Family Mediation in 5 Easy Steps


If you see a situation that could easily turn to custard – such as a group of quite different folks all trying to agree to a plan – take charge and immediately raise the bar by stating an exciting or compelling intention. In the example above the Mediator said

Let’s decide right now that we’ll make it a great day no matter what we end up doing.”

Another way is to pose this question: “

Is it possible for us as very different people, with different ages and interests, to figure out what to do together in such a way that no one has feel lost, bossed or herded?”


Since it will immediately be obvious to everyone that not all the ideas on the table can be undertaken, there’s the possibility of some tension – particularly if you’ve got a handful of competitive sorts who are tuned in to the idea of winners & losers. By letting your group know you’ve got an idea that has benefits for everyone no matter whose ideas are acted upon, you might get some buy-in for your plan.

I’ve got an idea that means we all win. Even if your idea isn’t the one we all agree to today, it will be put on the agenda for another time. So, are you up for hearing it?


By inviting everyone to weigh in with what is genuinely true for them  – even your surliest teen and Gran who always puts everyone else first – you will accomplish two very important tasks. First of all everyone gets to take responsibility for how his or her day goes. If everyone puts an idea forward it has a chance of being chosen – if not today then soon. If someone has no ideas at all,  can he or she agree to see if someone else’s idea sounds good and support it as their own? It is always easier to knock an idea than generate one – right? Same with choosing what to do. This practice of inviting everyone to contribute avoids the issue of people defaulting to one person’s idea and then grumbling.

How be if we each share our best idea and why it’s important to us? Let’s really listen to each other because what we can’t do today we could perhaps do another day. For me, I’d love to split the day between a leisurely brunch since I’m famished, and then I think a zoo trip would be wonderful. Who’s next?”


After everyone has had suggested an activity and why it might be fun for him or her, each person in the group will have a better sense for what might be best. Maybe little sister reminds the group she wanted to fly a kite last time you did this and it wasn’t possible because there was no wind, so on this blustery day her idea might be a good one. Whilst maybe your idea of a leisurely brunch wasn’t well received since the kids had all been snacking all morning and were full of energy. See if you can get a few people to sum up what seems to be the fairest and best-for-all ideas and propose them. You need to name the ideas that are to be shelved for now (like little sisters kite flying was last time). If there are still two quite different activities being championed by two or more people, go a bit deeper. Ask each person things like;

So Mandy, you’re keen for us to cycle over to Kelly Tarltons and then on to St. Helliers for ice-creams because Kelly Tarltons has that special on and you adore ice creams on hot days. OK. And for you Danny heading over to hike in the Hanuas with a picnic lunch is more fun because you hate cycling on busy roads and want some shade? Can anyone think of a way to shift these two ideas a bit so everyone is happy?”

Opening it up for everyone to weigh-in once more might elicit some good compromises everyone can live with – like a shady Hanua (Danny’s wish) hike with ice-creams (Mandy’s wish) and a commitment to schedule Kelly Tarltons soon.

People dig their heels in and get stuck when their ideas and reasons remain unheard.  Try it – really listen to what people want, acknowledge it, commit to meeting that request as best you can in the near future – and see if this person is willing to become more flexible.


This is key to bumping into happiness on all sorts of occasions. If – at the beginning of an undertaking – you identify what will make you particularly happy about this project as you undertake it, and then if you look back on this project and remember how you achieved what you said you wanted to achieve – you will feel happy about it.   No matter who suggested the activity your group ends up committing to, each member of the group can think about one thing they are especially excited about. So – Mandy who wanted the bike trip and ice-creams can anticipate the ice-creams on route to the hike. Gran, who does not hike much and who plans to take a folding chair and bird watching book so she can be in the hills but not hiking, might say “I hope to see those cute Fan Tails – I’ve heard they love this area.” And usually sullen teen might say “I’ll take the stop watch – save me doing track tomorrow if I run some of this trail.”  You get the idea, right? You are inviting everyone to buy-in to the day with their own unique set of reasons.


 Oh yes – the honeymoon?  It’s hard to keep these blog posts to around 1000 words (my goal!) I’m at over 1400 already.

I’ll write a fuller blog about the honeymoon if anyone is interested. But, in brief, Mark and I planned an open-ended adventure through Europe and the Middle east. We’d saved about $5,000 USD (good money in 1982); sold the Subaru after driving from Seattle (top left on the map of the United States) to Florida (bottom right on the map), for another $1200 and flew off to London where we cajoled our 1974 VW camper into a road-worthy first home. We allowed the adventure to take shape and when, after about 5 or 6 months we found ourselves voicing different priorities for the summer of 1983 – we “invented” this process, with a twist.

1. We sent an intention to create a marriage in which our individual passions could still flourish. We had stated in our vows that we wanted our union to make us bigger people, not smaller ones.

2. We committed to finding a win-win solution.

3. We talked about what we each wanted and why.

4. In the face of apparent gridlock we discovered the idea of taking a month apart at the same time – Mark for his German adventure and me for my French one.

5. We identified goals we each wanted to achieve and tell one another about upon our reunion – at a suitably romantic little Inn in Annecy.

It worked. We both had quite delightful adventures.

And the rest, as they say, is history!



Separate Honeymoon Anyone?

Part 1 – The Problem

As my fiancée and I started planning our honeymoon (and life) together, we pretty quickly came to the conclusion that we both wanted to include some activities and adventures that the other wasn’t so interested in.

Mark’s got reasonable German and wanted to stride about the Austrian alps – “Macht schnell“.  I fancied strolling through the Ardèche river valley in SE France sampling baguettes, local wine and cheese – “Bon appetit!”

Before I tell you what happened to us on our separate honeymoons (yes we did marry, we did separate on our Honeymoon and we are still together), it occurs to me now that this is a universal problem all families must face. As Mark and I discovered before we got married and started a family, just because you love one another doesn’t mean you actually will want to do everything together all the time.

Can this be OK?

If so, how?

This question is alive and well as a small sample of some recent issues from my therapy office shows:

  • A long-married couple is struggling to adapt as the wife finally admits she actually dislikes sitting with her husband every night watching TV: she is longing for more intellectual pursuits;
  • Two partners (one from NZ and one from the USA) are trying to understand what each means by “let’s party!”
  • The assumption “when we’re a team we do everything together” is getting a challenge as a couple can’t agree over how to design and build a planter box and they wonder if this is a slippery slope toward some fundamental incompatibility.

So, whether you are trying to agree on how to throw a dinner party, create a shared garden space, spend your evenings, plan an upcoming long weekend with the kids or design your ideal Honeymoon the fact is there are times when you’ll want one thing and your partner will want another. Throw in a few kids with different ages and interests, the in-laws or some house guests and the odds are good that you’ll never please all of the people all of the time.

In my experience people choose one of three broad approaches to try solving this issue. See if these feel familiar.

Style #1 – The Martyr

Looks like:  “Oh, I’ll just go along with what the others want. I don’t really mind. It’s OK with me. I just want everyone to get along and stop arguing. If someone won’t compromise we’ll never do anything!

Pro – If you are apparently willing to do “whatever” then the odds do improve that your “sacrifice” will take one voice out of the equation and maybe un-complicate things enough for the most persuasive person’s idea to take form.

Con – If you get into the habit of not speaking up you run the risk of disappointing yourself by doing things you don’t enjoy and disappointing the group since it’s not much fun to be around Martyr’s – they can be a bit half-hearted and self-righteous.

Upshot – Practiced frequently, you’ll start to forget what you genuinely enjoy. Every time you bring out the Martyr behaviour you will disappear a little bit. You’ll get cut off from what you genuinely feel and need. You’ll become a bit more of a stranger to yourself and your family. If you lose touch with what makes you happy (which is a big part of who you are) you run the risk (at an extreme end of these decisions over time) of living an inauthentic life and becoming angry and bitter in your later years.

Style #2 – The Bully

Looks like:  “Oh for heavens sake be quiet and listen to me. I’ve got a great idea and if someone around here doesn’t take charge we’ll never get anywhere. He’s what we’ll do. Come on!”

Pro – If you have the energy and leadership to rally the troops in this single-minded way you will most likely get them up, out and doing something.

Con – With this “lets just get on with it” approach, you run the risk of rallying troops into an activity none of them actually wants to be part of. Is this gaining maximum happiness?  Is just “doing something no matter what whilst minimizing the discussion and planning up front” preferable to a more inclusive approach?  Is this approach more or less likely to have folks looking forward to the next shared occasion?

Upshot – Your forceful enthusiasm or “bossiness” tends to do some damage along the way. Sure you all made it to the beach, mountain, boat, park, museum or zoo where you may even have had moments of fun. However, those who feel “bullied” might be making quiet resolutions to themselves to cut you out of the equation by planning an activity without you next time.

Style #3 – The Pleaser

Looks like:  “OK everyone, I want us all to be happy so is there one thing we can all enjoy? How about the beach and ice creams? Oh – you can’t sit in the sun Gran? How about we get you an umbrella? What? Tim – you’re desperate to skateboard? Could you bring it and scoot about on the footpath? Well maybe we can have a shady coffee and then some beach time and head over to the skateboard park? Oh for heaven’s sake John you can’t add fishing today as well! Honestly it’s like herding cats to get you lot to agree to anything!”

Pro – At least you are trying hard to herd those cats! You might actually come up with a pretty extensive list of activities to be squeezed into a day and a couple of folks might actually have fun. As a Pleaser you are more likely to have more people having fun than the Martyr or the Bully.

Con – If it is only you exhausting yourself in trying to make sure everyone is happy you are actually creating a blend of Martyr (since as Pleaser you often forget to think about or include what you want to do) and Bully (since when the impossibility of pleasing everyone becomes apparent you will tend to snap out a final decision) and there is an overwhelming sense of exasperation.

Upshot – With this frenetic start to a day the group tends to set off on a pretty exhaustive agenda with little buy-in from people and a general sense of how hard it is to find overlapping interests. There is often a back-lash emotion along the lines of “Lordy Me!  I’ll do something on my own next time – this was way too hard!”

If you identify (or live) with a Martyr, Bully or Pleaser you are not alone. Every week I end up having conversations with people who have been hurt – usually unintentionally – by loved ones in these sorts of unsuccessful attempts at connecting with one another. So, while each of these approaches can get a family out of the house and off doing something for a day or long weekend, each approach also takes it’s particular toll on the relationships between those involved. So, the question I’ve been asking is ~ “Is there a way that helps families figure out how to have more fun together whilst also improving relationships along the way?”

And, based upon the results of our experimental two-track Honeymoon, I’d have to say “Yes, there is!”

Check in soon for ~

Part II – The Solution For (our Honeymoon &) Your Family!