Cupid's Arrow

CupidValentine's Day is a great idea to set aside time for remembering those we love. In fact, it is even more than just remembering; it is romancing. And as for romance, we do it well! Marketing shows that Valentines' day is one of the most expensive holidays- last year we spent 18.9 billion on flowers, candy, and presents for our loved ones (


 I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of money, and neither do most of the couples that I see. Many couples come to me and ask "What can we do to celebrate V-day without spending too much money? Here are some ideas to celebrate each other without breaking the bank.

  • Build a romantic fire. Before the kids go to bed, have fun roasting marshmallows. After their lights are out, host your own indoor picnic, complete with a bottle of wine and chocolate-covered strawberries.
  •  Recreate your first date together. What were you wearing? Where did you go? Do you remember what you talked about? Spend the evening reminiscing and reflecting on how far you've come as a couple.
  • Make a tape of the songs special to your relationship. Include 'your song,' songs from your past, songs from favorite movies. Add a personal voice dedication and leave it in your partner's briefcase, Ipod, or car stereo.
  • Have a scavenger hunt. Write a few poems, wrap candy kisses inside, and hide them around the house. Each poem should be a clue to finding the next one. Make sure the final clue lands your mate someplace you want to end up for the entire evening. A romance package, including a bottle of champagne and new lingerie, is a nice touch.

Be creative with your imagination, not your wallet. I guarantee you that your partner will remember this holiday for a long time!


When the Fat Lady Sings

Fat lady singsIn therapy, one of the most frequent questions I am asked is "How do you know when it's really over? When is it time to give up?" That's a good question, one with many different perspectives. In today's society, it seems to be easier to quit and move on with a new love than to try and work it out with the old.  And why not? New love is exciting, passionate and all encompassing.   In looking at the idea of a new relationship to replace the old, we are continually flooded with media that gives us guarantees and promises of relief from old wounds. Dating sites are abundant, so that a person can even go "shopping" to see if there is anyone out there that better meets their needs, before breaking up with the current partner.  Why stay with the old, broken relationship when there are so many other possibilities? Making the commitment to stay in a relationship that has gone south is a difficult one- so when does the fat lady sing? Here are some tips to tell if you should move on or work it out:

  •  Respect- do you still have some for each other? Answering "no" does not necessarily mean the end of the relationship. Respect, even when lost, can be regained with a change in actions, behavior and perspective.
  • Goals and directions- if you have lost these with each other, can they be recaptured? All relationships go through stages, and the goals will change with those transitions.
  • Values- moral, ethical and lifestyle. When these are out of alignment, it's difficult to make a relationship work. Common sharing of these values is the one of the predictors of relationship success.

Recently, a study, showed almost 30% of respondents indicated that they were interested in reconciliation, even after the divorce proceedings had begun (Doherty, 2010). Couples that participated in the survey were approximately half way through a divorce/co-parenting class, and indicated interest in reconciliation services, had they been offered to them. What does that say about our ability to make a decision, one of the most important decisions that we may ever make? It shows that in many relationships that we think are broken beyond repair, we still want the relationship to work! When there is motivation, there is still hope.

The single most important thing that I tell my clients is this- do everything you can to repair the relationship. You never want to have to look back and wonder "Could I have done more? If I had just done this, would we still be together?" When you can walk away and honestly say that you have put your all into it, your personal integrity will be intact. And that's what you will proudly be taking with you into the future.

Dishwasher Diaries

Dishwasher diaries Oh, how the humble little dishwasher can demolish a relationship - who would suspect that a machine that was invented simply to make life a little easier, could become a catalyst for many an angry evening. What time to turn it on, how to correctly fill up the plastic trays with crusty dishes from the day, what type of cleaning agent to use; these are the discussions that turn strong men weak and women into weeping wrecks. There is always one partner who is the "only" one who loads it correctly; don't they understand that the cups and plates must face down instead of up? Why am I the only one that empties the dishwasher? Why would anyone think that placing knives into the silverware tray with the cutting end up is a safe practice, even if it does get them cleaner? Little did we know that your relationship can break as easily as a china plate while cleaning up the kitchen.

As a couple's therapist, I have heard many a story about the conflict of the dishwasher, and the blame on the unfortunate appliance for breaking up too many marriages and relationships. How can a simple domestic machine be so influential?   It comes down to an issue that every couple must solve: the battle of control. Control is always a significant source of conflict in any relationship. When the relationship is working well, the power and control will be lessened, when the relationship is in trouble, these matters are magnified. Simple activities can cause major conflicts in a relationship, and partners will react with an attempt to control the situation. Telling your partner for the fifteenth time how to load the top rack of the dishwasher becomes an issue of control, and being in control is important to everyone. We feel that we lose part of ourselves if asked to do something that goes against our will, even something as simple as putting the last fork in the silverware tray.  The analytical part of our brain takes over, and we believe that we are being "helpful" in showing our partner the correct way of loading the dishes. The emotional part kicks back with a plea of "Don't try and control me!"

Many of us will admit that we like to be right, and we like to get our own way. We might even admit that being right is so important to us that we will often resort to using facts and debate to reinforce our points to our partners. But continuing to try and be in control does nothing to foster intimacy and healthy relationships, and needs to be balanced by compromise and understanding. Dishwasher conflicts can be easily solved with some simple ground rules.

  1. Remember, you can't change your partner, but you can change the pattern of behavior and avoid the conflict.  Try and pick a time a neutral place and time to start the discussion.
  2. Identify the problem or issue and clarify both you and your partner's wants using attentive "I" messages and attentive listening skills.
  3. Generate and evaluate possible solutions, decide on one and implement. Taking turns doing the dishes, having an "I cook, you clean" rule, or enlisting your kids to help clean up can create resolutions.

Above all, don't blame the dishwasher! Be aware of how your own control issues are affecting your relationship and take some steps to avoid conflict.