Tag Archives: marriage

Dating~When to call it quits

Twelve Questions to ask yourself if you’re wondering whether you are dating the right person

Show up honestly to these twelve questions and really listen to your answers. If you are still not sure, seek a few sessions with a good relationship therapist since possibly some family-of-origin ghosts are getting in your way.

1. Do you like who you are in this relationship?

2. Think of someone who loves you very much (parent, sibling, grandparent, coach, your child…) would they think this was the best you could do relationship-wise? If not, what’s getting in the way of that?

3. Are you growing in a way you like, or stuck in a place you dislike?

4. After a fight, can you get back together and talk about what the real issues were until you each understand what precisely each of you was upset about? In other words, do your fights bring you closer or build a wedge between you? *(see NOTE below)

5. Is there a healthy balance of give and take? If any of these statements are true, read number #6

  • “I show my love by fixing my sweetie’s problems.”
  • “My sweetie is just going through a rough patch.”
  • “Love is all about giving.”
  • “I’m sure my turn to receive will come.”

6. Do you know the difference between healthy helping & enabling helping? Healthy helping is stepping in when someone really can’t manage on their own, like driving someone to the hospital when they are sick. Enabling helping is preventing someone from experiencing the consequences of their own behavior or choices, like endlessly listening to your friend kvetch and complain about how much they hate their life – so you run around endlessly trying to make the edges better – when actually, your friend needs to make some drastic changes.

7. When you think about yourself 3 years out – do you feel excited at the thought you’ll still be with this person, or  poundingly depressed?

8. Do you know, in your heart of hearts, you need to move on, but can’t bear the pain this might cause the other? If so, read #9.

9. As a parent, will you let your kid’s teeth rot in their heads rather than expose them to the dentist? Will you continue to enable this person to live a lie? If they’d be devastated by you moving on, they must think you love them more than you do. Respect them enough to tell your own truth. You will both be the better for it.

10. Are you stuck because you made some dumb decisions that have you all muddled up financially – like buying something big together (house, car, boat, time payments on a costly trip?)  If yes, see #11.

11. Debt together is different from life together. Grow up, get out the spread sheets and talk to a lawyer if you need to get some teeth into independent repayment plans for these once joint financial commitments.  You get to enjoy the consequences of your action which means you won’t make this mistake again – right?

12. Do you keep circling around to “But I love him/her?”  Love is so much more than a fuzzy feeling. It’s a verb in the most life-affirming sense. Love is a crucible for growth like no other. If – despite your fuzzy, lovey-dovey, achingly addictive feeling – you can also check these boxes…

  • It brings out the best in each of you;
  • Your friends and family see you expand in confidence;
  • You care enough to drill down to understand your differences;
  • You willingly try on new ways of being;
  • You allow one another to take risks and to comfort one another when you fall – you don’t wrap each other up in cotton wool and hide;
  • You savor the moment and feel optimistic about the future;
  • Your expression of love and your experience of love are fully congruent;
  • You can show up wholeheartedly and truthfully;
  • As a team you are more powerful than you were as two individuals;
  • Your love is emotional (and chemical) yes, but also born of intellect (you’ve thought this through) and spirit (you choose to grow within this co-created crucible) and flesh (you willingly surrender your precious body into those arms for cherishing);

. . .  why then, you might be on to something very valuable.

*NOTE ~ While the content of each fight can vary, the values you each hold that might have been compromised are often the same ones.  So, if you can’t figure out what the real issue is now – before you make a long-term commitment  – it’s like jumping into a swimming pool with alligators in. If you know there are there – better to get them out first.

Coming:  Dating~How to call it quits

 

Vows

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Emotional Needs

Why do we couple-up?

According to Dr. Harley of MarriageBuilders.com (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.

Dating Again, Post Divorce

OK friends, last in a 5 part series on how to be a friend when your friends have affairs, separate and divorce.  This one’s about what to do when they are ready to get back on the dating scene.

Part 5 of 5  HOW TO HELP WHEN ~ They Are Dating Again

1. Invite your single friends over. Yes, you miss the good old times when you and your sweetie hung out with your friend and his or her “ex.” However, this can be a refreshing shift for your friendship. After divorce, most people shake loose some old behaviours and beliefs: Who is this person now? Invite your newly single friends over with other couples. It’s good for them to cross that hurdle of “odd one out amongst couples ” with someone they know and trust.  When possible, try to connect with both sides more or less evenly. Maybe play sports with one, but have dinners with the other. It’s all good.

2. Be careful with the matchmaking already. Sure it’s tempting! Especially if you’ve watched the death of your friends’ love over the past years and have longed for their happiness. 2 good reasons to slow this down:

  1. If your friends are to avoid a rebound disaster, they’ll need time to figure out who they are now, post divorce. Rather than urging more coupling, try championing some single time. Some “getting to love and enjoy my own company” time. This might be a long overdue developmental stage for your friend – support it!
  2. If you are friends to both, think how it will seem to the friend whom you do not “fix up” with a match? What’s she then – chopped liver?

3. Ask if and how your friends want your “feedback.” Talk to your friend about what they want next. Some self-discovery single time? Great – support that. Some dating-as-self-discovery? Great – support that too. But, have a conversation with your friend about what to do if you see warning signs. What if you don’t like the new friend, after genuinely trying? What if you see behaviors that look dangerous to you? Maybe your friend’s new partner strikes you as controlling, vindictive, or insincere? If your friend asks for your honest opinion, clarify some ground rules. Having an upfront conversation increases the odds these tough chats later will be possible and useful.

4. Watch and Learn – my friend. You may be surprised at your feelings when your divorced friend finally falls in love again with someone wonderful, and their romance, wedding, new home and fresh start make your 15+ year relationship seem dowdy and stale. Even the horror off sharing kids with the “ex” now has a bright side; alternating kid-free weekends! If you feel more jealousy than relief at all this newness, it’s time to clean up your own house.  What do you and your partner need to stay new, alive and in love?

Your Friend’s Divorce

How friends and relations react in the face of a couple’s troubles can make a huge difference, often for the worse.  I am dedicating this week’s blog space to addressing the five types of couple distress I see most regularly, with tips for how family and friends can help, not harm, the hurting couple

Part 3 of 5 HOW TO HELP WHEN ~ They Divorce

1. Don’t be afraid to mess up. There are no rules for how to divorce with élan. No common divorce rituals, rites of passage, no playbook for those of us left with loyalty issues and sore hearts for our friends’ broken love.  It’s understandable to be a bit nervous around divorce – it’s a death and there’ll be grief and loss. Do your best to keep the lines of communication open with your friends. This is particularly important if there are children (see Post 4).  But in any case stay connected, however imperfectly, so your friends know they are not alone.

2. Don’t rush back to “normal.” Just because the death of a marriage doesn’t end with a funeral doesn’t mean your divorcing friends are not in a state of grief and loss.  Most likely the divorced couple will have lost their home, savings, shared past, future hopes, family unit, in-laws, photo albums, lifestyle, trust in the permanency of love, and often a huge helping of self-respect. It takes time to come back from all this. The divorced partners are now off on separate journeys of recovery and it won’t help to rush them. It may take years before your friend becomes the old familiar playful, funny, unselfish character you once knew. Allow your friendship to evolve – as it will.

3. Do remind them of “normal.” Sometimes the last thing your friend wants is to discuss the divorce. Great – provide them with the distractions they seek. This is a good time for you to complain, seek their advice, ask for their help, take up Hot Yoga, start a diet, and generally show them that life is big and wide and has a place for them even when they’re not quite ready to engage 100%.

4. Sort out your own feelings. Remember, this is not your divorce. While it might seem as though your friend/relative wants you to dislike (hate?) their ex as much as he or she does, you may not.  It might be this “ex” is the mother or father of your grandchildren; how can you hate them? It might be you have loved this person and are sad to be losing them from the family or friendship circle. How you negotiate your relationship with someone who is divorcing out of your community is up to you.  You can stay in touch and love them as before. You may just have to do this separately for a while.

Your Friend’s Separation

How friends and relations react in the face of a couple’s troubles makes a huge difference, often for the worse.  I am dedicating this week’s blog space to addressing the five types of couple distress I see most regularly, with tips for how family and friends can help, not harm, the hurting couple

Part 2 of 5  HOW TO HELP WHEN ~ They Separate

1. Be a neutral-zone. Even if you feel strongly in favour of one partner over the other it’s not helpful to act this out as prosecutor or defense. Just listen and try to be supportive by telling your friend how sorry you are that he or she is having this experience.  Don’t badmouth one person to the other – not only is it unhelpful, but there’s always the chance they might get back together again. Don’t ever volunteer to be the “go-between.”  While it might seem neutral, this perpetuates dreadful behaviour and fosters jealousy.  If the separated partners want to talk, they can do so directly, or in therapy.

2. Offer tangible, practical help. If your friends are separating, one, other or both of them will be living with less stuff. Does someone need bedding, kitchen ware, extension cords or a lamp?  If your friend used to rely on his or her spouse to help with dry cleaning, car troubles, elderly parents or the pets, can you step in instead?  Sleuth out which day or night is toughest on your friend and show up with dinner. Be willing to talk about anything, e.g,(“Can I survive on this budget?” or “Shall I shave my head, drop 10 kg, and  re-do my wardrobe?” Listen. Ask questions. See if you can get them laughing at their predicament – occasionally.

3. Stay alert for severe reactions. Whatever the cause of a separation, this is a massively unstable time. Feelings and behaviour will be all over the map and you may be frightened by your friends’ oscillating mood swings. Just show up. Love your friend unconditionally even if they are making poor choices. If you suspect your friend is severely depressed be willing to discuss suicidal thoughts. If she / he has a concrete plan (I’ll take an overdose) and has the means for completing this plan (I’ve been hoarding my pills for two years and have more than enough) ask  “On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being you don’t want to make it through the night, where are you?” If your friend has the means to carry out a suicide and is over a 3 or 4, get professional help.

4. Get your friend helping others. A pity-party is a lonely affair. If your friend is wallowing, get them thinking of someone else. You need them to walk your dog; the neighbour needs house-plants watered; animal rescue needs someone to love the kittens. Obviously, if there are children involved, this will look very different.  See Part 4.

Your Friend’s Affair

While the number of couples getting divorced (or ending their civil or de facto unions) is down a bit in New Zealand from over 12 per 1000 married couples in the late 1990s to below 9.8 per 1000 married couples in 2011,  most of us are touched at some point by the divorce, separation or infidelity of a friend or relative.

How friends and relations react when a couple is in crisis makes a huge difference, often for the worse.  I am dedicating this week’s blog space to addressing the five types of couple distress I see most regularly, with tips for how family and friends can help, not harm, the hurting couple

Part 1 of 5 HOW TO HELP WHEN ~ An Affair Strikes

While it can make a difference to how you feel about your friend if you know whether they are the unfaithful or the hurt partner in an affair, the following tips apply to both scenarios.

  1. Resist the urge to judge. Not all affairs are all bad. As I tell couples who come to me, affairs can be the death knell of a relationship, or the wake up call. When affairs are first discovered it is hard to know which way things will go and certainly there are two sides to every story. If you, as a dear friend or relative, sit in vocal judgment you may well interfere with the genuine insight, growth and healing that can come out of an affair.
  2. Be their friend, not their shrink . By all means be a good friend and listen, empathise, ask clarifying questions and be non-judgmentally supportive, but seeing your friend through the aftermath of an affair – no matter what role your friend played – goes over and above the bounds of friendship.  Hug them, cry with them, then help them find a good professional – you’ll both be glad of it in the end.
  3. Don’t succumb to gossip.  Betraying trust and trafficking in endless opinions about what’s happening, who’s right, who’s wrong and what “should” be done, does not help anyone.  Let your friends know you trust the couple is getting help and change the conversation by discussing ways to support both of them.
  4. Extend invitations to your friend… repeatedly. Often a therapist will suggest the couple touched by an affair take some time apart. This does not indicate divorce any more than going to bed with the flu indicates death, so don’t treat your friends as though they were highly contagious.  It can be a lifeline to know that friends are still reaching out, still care, and are willing to choose human decency over judgmental ostracism. Even if your friend turns you down repeatedly, keep asking. Whether you invite him or her for dinner next week or a cup of tea right now, even if the answer is “No thanks!”  they will see you care.

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

1. SET THE INTENTION.

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?”

2. PROPOSE A WIN-WIN SOLUTION.

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?

3. EVERYBODY CONTRIBUTES BY SPEAKING & LISTENING

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?”

4. WORK THROUGH GRIDLOCK

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.

5. THIS WILL HAVE BEEN FUN FOR ME TODAY IF…

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.

 GOOD LUCK!

 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!

“Wicked” Camping to Celebrate 30th Wedding Anniversary

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OK – thanks so much for all the suggestions!

In the end, practicality and zest won the day.

 New Zealand’s “Grab One” deal showed up just in time to deliver one “Wicked” Camper for 2 people, for a ten day rental with pickup in Christchurch and return to Auckland — including the Blue Ridge Cook Straits Ferry  which is usually between $255 and $364) — for only $99. Done deal!

 Mark and I fly to Christchurch Wednesday morning to visit dear friends whom I met on an Israeli Kibbutz in 1974 and with whom I’ve been friends ever since. In fact their first daughter is my namesake (Hi Gemma!).  Then, we have ten days to re-enact a small portion of our 18 month original Honeymoon, in which we lived in a VW camper and traveled in Europe and the Middle East.  This time we’ll mostly explore New Zealand’s South Island, and visit friends in Nelson as we head north.  And, during the drive, Mark and I can hatch some new directions and priorities for our next 30 years.

 Stay posted.