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Posts Tagged ‘Eight Dates’

Date 7: Something to Believe In . . . Growth and Spirituality

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

In every relationship, like in life, the only constant is change.

Truth.

Reading that statement in Eight Dates:  Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love made me stop and reflect on how my husband and I have both changed and also how we have grown together over the years.   

When we met, there were similarities, such as we were both recently divorced, grew up in the same faith, had dogs and loved to cycle.  

The differences, though, were stark.  Different sides of the political spectrum.  Different holiday traditions.  His love of sports.  My quest to grow spiritually.  And that just scratches the surface.

But in the last 25 years we have managed to create shared meaning in our relationship.  Research on married couples shows that when couples hold their relationship sacred, they have better relationships.

Bingo.  

We were able to navigate our differences, sometimes with struggle, but always with a desire to be in the relationship.  

The 7th Date

We planned the 7th date on the fly.  I literally grabbed the book as we were running out the door to drive to College Station to attend a lecture.  The book suggests that you select a place that feels beautiful and sacred to both of you.

Does driving on 290 and stopping at Buc-ees in Waller count as sacred?  I vote YES.  They have the cleanest bathrooms, the best snacks and awesome tee-shirts.  Come to think of it, it is actually a ritual for us.  Whenever we head out of town by car, we stop at Buc-ees.  I guess you can say it is part of our shared meaning.  

The 7th date conversation topic was “How have we each grown and changed in the relationship?  What does spirituality mean to each of us and how do we express it? 

A heavy topic indeed.

The topic relates to the shared meaning couples create. It is basically the Story of US.  It is the way couples weave their lives together. 

When couples work out the roles they take on, the goals they share for the future, and stay connected by ritually coming together, they create shared meaning.

We reflected on how we have changed and also how we have strengthened the story of US.

We are the George’s.  We love Thanksgiving and have combined our traditions (he needs football, I need brussels sprouts).  We still love to cycle, although our knees don’t always cooperate like they used to.  Most nights of the week you can catch us cooking dinner together.  He has become the grill master and I make the veggies.  Our dogs create time for us to talk every night because they demand a walk, but we love it as much as they do.  We go to football games, which I now enjoy and he goes to musicals with me and actually initiates these dates on occasion.  We currently enjoy taste-testing different bourbons, something I never thought I would like.  We still diverge in minor ways on spirituality and politics, but it is inconsequential.  Scattered about our house are symbols of the things we have shared together, such as memorable trips, and of course, memories of our now college-age son.  We don’t always like the other’s work schedule, but we have managed to work around it and share chores. We are empty nesters who have worked hard to save for retirement and have a shared bucket list of things we want to do before we leave the planet.

In a nutshell, that is shared meaning.  

Date 6: Play and Adventure

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

Nothing like a thunderstorm that produces dime size hail, tornados, flash flooding and a power outage to thwart date night plans.  Fast-forward twenty-four hours and we were still without electricity, so we set out to find somewhere to eat and have some fun.

Fun and adventure are like oxygen for relationship happiness.  We feel more vital when it is plentiful.  When oxygen is in short supply, we feel restless, confused and have a sense of impending doom. Something feels off kilter and we are gasping for air.

We are working our way through Eight Dates:  Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.  Date 6 is Play with Me:  Fun and Adventure. It’s all about breathing new life into your relationship with play, fun, laughter and adventure.  The book’s date suggestions are about going somewhere you have never been before and being open and spontaneous.

We hopped in the car without a plan and started driving down one of the main arteries in our town.  After batting a few ideas around, we decided to go to Saint Arnold’s Brewery in Houston.  Right before we got to the highway my husband made a sharp left and I was confused.  Where was he taking me?

He said he heard about a new brewery in our town that recently opened and he wanted to try it.  Talk about spontaneous.  Megaton Brewery here we come.

After getting a few pale ales and some tacos from the food truck, we sat outside at a picnic table and dug into the open-ended questions.

Why Laughter and Play are Important

This is my second marriage (and his too).  When I divorced I went to counseling so I would not repeat my mistakes.  One of the things my counselor and I talked about was what I wanted in a new partner.

Laughter was at the top of the list.

My first marriage was one of those oxygen deprived relationships and I made a vow that if I ever remarried, my new husband would have a sense of humor.

He’s all that and more.  Our early days were full of fun and adventure. I watched him play rugby and he went with me to see Cats.  We rode bikes and hiked and remodeled our mid-century home.  There was the Halloween party where we dressed up like Marge and Homer Simpson.  And the time he took me for a plane ride when he was learning to fly.  

Being able to laugh has helped us through our most difficult times.  And being adventurous is one of our strongest connections.  

From research we know that experiencing novel things with our romantic partners brings more happiness. It activates the reward center in our brain and keeps the relationship fresh and satisfying.  Researcher Amy Muise even found that on days couples had a novel experience they were 36% more likely to have sex.  

Couples mistakenly believe that they are doomed if they don’t like the same activities.  Not true!  Couples can create shared meaning when they accept influence regarding their differences, know how to compromise (make situations win/win rather than win/lose) and show interest in their partner’s interests.  

It’s All About Creating Shared Meaning

We started our conversation by reviewing the list of things we would like to experience together.  Our top choice was to travel to an exotic country. We agreed on Iceland, hiking Machu Picchu/going to the Galapagos Islands, and New Zealand.  

I can hardly wait to get busy planning our next trip!

For me, planning vacations is part of the enjoyment.  I recently learned that this is backed by research.  Elizabeth Dunn, a happiness researcher from University of British Columbia, found that anticipating a vacation will be fun enhanced happiness.  Planning together allows you to have input and create something you will both enjoy.  

And since reminiscing about good times adds to joy, I will be sure to take plenty of photographs of the aurora borealis in Iceland and the Inca Trail in Peru.

As we worked through the open-ended questions we discussed things like how we played as children and what adventure we want to have before we die.  Like with all the other dates, we learned some new information about each other.

By the time we finished our conversation the band began to play.  We decided to call some friends to see if they wanted to join us.  They also are spontaneous, fun-loving people, so within a half an hour they were there and we were playing cornhole, air hockey and connect four.

As we played and acted silly, the stress of the previous 24 hours melted away.

Laughter truly is the best medicine.

Date #4: The Cost of Love: Work and Money

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Eight Dates:  Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, the newest book by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, guides readers to have important conversations while on a date.

For Date #4 the topic is work and money and how each partner brings value to the relationship. It also includes a discussion of money histories as well as what it means to have enough money.  

A rich topic indeed.

The suggested location is something that costs as little as possible and reminds you of something you did as a couple when you had less money.  Go to a fancy hotel and sit in the lobby or get take-out from your favorite restaurant and serve it on china.  Pamper yourself.

In the past we would have been on the patio of a Mexican restaurant, drinking Happy Hour margaritas and eating baskets of free chips.  

Our waistlines were more cooperative back then.

So, with clear blue skies and a perfect 74 degrees, we still chose to be on a patio, but this time it was in our own backyard.  Freshly potted planters and the scent of our blossoming lemon tree added something special to the gorgeous spring day.

I nixed the idea of using china for our take-out from Thai Lao.  To me, pampering means NOT washing dishes. 

As per the directions, we started the date by sharing three things we appreciate about each other’s paid or unpaid contribution to the wealth of the relationship.

Being four months shy of 25 years together, we have no shortage of examples, but we each chose to focus on the present.  His drive to have record-breaking overtime was celebrated, as was my ability to plan amazing vacations with said overtime. I call that teamwork.

We then discussed answers from two questionnaires in the chapter, My Family History with Money and What Money Means to Me.  

Twenty-five years together and we still had untold stories regarding family histories.  As we shared our stories, it was clear that both of our families gave us valuable, albeit sometimes painful, lessons with money without even realizing they were doing so.

The Family History questionnaire made me wonder how our son will answer these questions in 25 years. Without even realizing it I am sure we are passing on both positive and negative messages to him.  Thoughts like this help me to be forgiving of my parent’s flaws. 

My husband and I always knew we had similar philosophies regarding money since it is one topic we rarely argued about.  But it was surprising to see exactly how in sync we truly are when we compared answers on the What Money Means to Me questionnaire.  With the exception of our views on how money relates to stress and responsibility, we answered nearly identically.  

I guess that’s why it has always been easy for us to talk about money, which we do quite often.  The Open-Ended Questions for this date were nothing new for us, but still fun to answer.  We often love map about our fears and goals related to money.

The final open-ended question of the exercise is “What are your hopes and dreams about money?”.  This is the topic we have talked about most consistently for the last 25 years.

My husband has had a recurring dream that he won $18,000,000 with a lottery ticket.  We have fantasized and drooled about how we will spend that bounty, never giving up hope that someday we will match all of the numbers.

But even if we never see a nickel of that $18,000,000, we have shared a lifetime of richness in those conversations.

Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love . . . Date #1

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

With bellies miserably full of Thai Beef and Noodles, he washed and I dried.  Alexa was playing Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran in the background. 

When your legs don’t work like they used to before
And I can’t sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks

“We’ll start our low carb diet tomorrow.  This time for real” I said with conviction to my husband, Sean.

He nodded in agreement. 

He’s heard it before. But he knows my weaknesses after 25 years together, noodles being at the top of the list.  I overeat and then complain. Instead of judging me, he grabs a bottle of wine and some dark chocolate (more weaknesses . . . this man really knows me) and sits down at the table to continue our quiet, stay-at-home Valentine’s Day celebration.

“So, who wants to go first?” he asks.

Earlier in the day I told him I wanted to have the First Date from John and Julie Gottman’s new book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

“I do!” I said, not giving him a chance to respond. 

Date “1” is Lean on Me: Trust and Commitment.  After reading that chapter earlier in the day, I had compiled a list of things I cherish about Sean.  While there were many things on my list, there were ten that stood out.  I envisioned sharing in David Letterman Top 10 List fashion.

Cherishing and Commitment

When we cherish our partner, we have a deep feeling that they are irreplaceable.  We simply cannot imagine our lives without them, even when times are rough.  We find ways to tell them that we appreciate them, and do that often.  Cherishing and commitment go together, but they are different.  Commitment is really a verb because it is the actions we take daily to let our partner know we are with them, that we make decisions with them in mind.  

When we choose commitment, we resist temptation to betray our partner. We create trust and safety by turning towards them to work out our differences.  Gratitude is nurtured by knowing what we have rather than focusing on what we don’t have. There is no gossiping or trashing of our partner to others.  

Commitment in Action

Sean and I have had our share of difficult times, that’s for sure. When our son was a colicky infant we leaned on each other for support despite being sleep deprived and cranky with one another.  When my mother and beloved dog both died in the same year, I had a hard time shaking off my depression.  We argued more than ever and found ourselves in couples counseling. Despite these and other challenges, we never gave up on one another.

The incident that sealed the deal for me though was when I had a health crisis 12 years ago.  My mysterious illness had the medical community stumped and I was terrified.  Our lives were turned upside down for months on end with scary symptoms and no treatment. My life and my outlook were forever changed.  It wasn’t until I got a diagnosis and learned to manage my chronic symptoms that I could reflect on how it changed us as a couple.

I had been too absorbed in my own fear to recognize how my husband was scared too.  His life was also forever changed.  But instead of complaining he expressed cherishing and commitment by supporting me through my illness in ways that I took for granted at the time.  He rubbed my back when I was scared.  He drove me to the Emergency Room in the middle of the night on countless occasions. When I had to change my diet, he joined me.  He developed a patience with me that had not been there before.  He was less quick to anger over small stuff and he started leaving love notes for me. 

While he never came out and said it, almost losing me made him realize how much I meant to him.  I felt loved and cared for. We now joke that my near-death experience is the secret to our long marriage.

As I compiled my Top10 List I realized I was describing our everyday life.  Playing and laughing together, and that we get each other’s sense of humor.  Raising a child and dogs together, a connection that is precious to us but was often fraught with stress, cleaning up bodily functions and money we could have spent in far more fun ways. Being comfortable to be myself with Sean and having my faults and bad habits accepted. And that includes bingeing on noodles knowing full well I will complain about it afterwards.  

The song was still playing as I started reading my list.

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are

Yes, I believe we have found love right where we are. And I could hardly wait to tell him.


Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy Associates provides service to Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita, Porter, Fall Creek, Summerwood, North Houston and surrounding areas.

Couples Counseling & Psychotherapy Associates

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Suite 106
Kingwood, Texas 77339
Ph: 281-812-7529

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