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My wife Kristin reminded me last night that we have our wedding anniversary coming up next week! Let me be real with you – it would have snuck up on me anyway. However, with everything happening with working remotely, the kids being home, and the pressure to practice healthy social distancing, it honestly slipped my mind. Really – that’s my excuse! But not my wife, obviously. Nothing gets past her.

After nonchalantly acknowledging her reminder as if I knew it all along, she joked that we may be celebrating by eating fancy steak dinners in our car served from the curbside delivery that area restaurants are starting to offer – especially since they are closing their dining areas and only offering to-go orders. And then it hit me – we can’t celebrate like we really want to.

There are so many occasions, celebrations, and events that people have planned – that you have probably planned – that now we can’t go through with or do the way we originally wanted. Birthday parties, special trips, anniversaries, graduations, religious services, kids’ sports events – even enjoying the professional and college basketball seasons – all put on hold, canceled, changed.

I get it. In addition to our wedding anniversary, we’ve canceled our original plans for one daughter’s birthday party, a special trip to New York for me and our other daughter, a trip to Denver for my wife, and most of my daughter’s track meets for the season. It stinks. And it makes us sad, and maybe angry. Not to mention all the other emotions stirred up by the current circumstances. Maybe you’re feeling like you’re beginning to lose things – a sense of normalcy, the thrill of celebration, the expectancy of fun and new experiences. And all that time and energy (and possibly money) you’ve spent making plans. It’s disorienting. And it’s unfair.

When you lose something, you grieve. Right now, we’re grieving normalcy. We need to acknowledge that and call it what it is.

Among many other things, we are in a time of grief for plans that have gone down the drain. Let’s think about that for a moment. You’re grieving the loss of expectations and dreams of things you would be doing just like you’d grieve the death of a family member, or a pet, or the loss of a job.

Try not to think of grief as a single emotion like sadness or sorrow. Yes, it’s perfectly normal to have some strong feels when you know you can’t celebrate your child’s birthday like you were hoping. But it’s helpful to think of grief itself as a process that involves complex emotions. And contrary to what some may believe, grief is valuable and healthy. It reminds us of what we care about. Grief helps us come to terms with the loss we feel and the emotions that follow. Which is why it’s so important to talk – and give our family members the chance to talk – about what it is you’re grieving. Giving words to what you’re feeling about losing that trip or that party or that graduation ceremony is healing.

That being said – grief is not a place where we want to camp out. The grieving process should help us to move forward at a healthy pace. So what does moving forward look like for you as you grieve plans made and lost for these next few weeks?

Here are some ideas:

1. Don’t not celebrate.

(Ok, I know that was a double-negative.) On the contrary, replace the plans you had with something. Can’t go to the jump-park for your son’s birthday party with friends? Celebrate at home with the family and a Nerf gun war and serve some ice cream. Graduation ruined? Conduct your own graduation ceremony, complete with a “Pomp and Circumstance” processional, a commencement speech by a family member, the throwing of the cap and lots of pictures. Baseball games canceled? Two words: backyard kickball! Make the best of alternate plans with creativity and a shift in your attitude.

2. Be sure to take pictures and selfies of whatever you do.

Although the memories you expected to make aren’t happening, there will be a day you look back and remember this crazy time. Having the visuals of how your family persevered through this will provide strength for challenging times in the future. It’s a way of reinforcing the idea that “we came through that – and by golly, we even had some fun.”

3. Shift your focus from the plans you weren’t able to do and onto the people you are now with.

So you’re eating anniversary lobster from the front seat of your sedan rather than a candlelit restaurant table. Switch your attention to the person eating lobster in the passenger seat next to you, enjoy the moment and just have some great conversation. Don’t forget to wear your lobster bib.

4. Finally, have hope.

We know that times are uncertain, but I think it’s important to keep in the forefront of our minds that there is an “other side” to all this. Birthdays and anniversaries come around about once a year (from what I understand). The beach will be there after COVID-19 has run its course (I’m no doctor, but I do think it will run its course if we all do what we need to do and stay home). And let’s face it – we won’t have to watch professional bowling or darts on ESPN forever.

Share this hope with your family. You’re all grieving to some degree. Allow the grief process to move you forward, make memories, and focus on the ones you love rather than the plans that were lost.

Image from Unsplash.com

Do you remember the date of your wedding anniversary? If you didn’t cheat and look at the engraved date on your wedding band, give yourself some points.

How many years have you been married? If you had to think to figure it out, take away some points.

How did you celebrate your last anniversary? Did you remember without having to ask your spouse what you did?

If the answer is yes, give yourself a few more points. Add some points to your total if you did something fun as a couple. 

If you let it slide by with no real celebration because you didn’t have time or were too tired, take away a few points. 

If you completely forgot your wedding anniversary, you just lost ALL your points.

Couples marry and even a year or two into their marriage they are still planning crazy fun adventures to celebrate their love. But after a few years, things begin to settle down. Children come along and creativity often flies out the window. Who has time or even feels like planning to celebrate a silly anniversary?

We do a great job of celebrating birthdays and holidays, but lots of couples let their wedding anniversary slide by. Think about it – how many wedding anniversaries do you recall celebrating?

Birthdays and holidays are certainly things to celebrate. But, considering how much time, effort and energy it takes to make a marriage really hum, wedding anniversaries are cause for celebration. If your marriage faced exceptional challenges during the year, some anniversaries might deserve a huge celebration to acknowledge making it through the tough times.

When life is coming at you full speed ahead, you can easily take your marriage for granted. But doing this over the years is like watching a sinkhole form. Erosion is taking place underneath the surface. And while there may be a few signs things aren’t right, it may not appear to be anything major until the whole thing caves in and people are shocked.

Don’t take your marriage for granted. It’s up to both people in the marriage to intentionally make every anniversary something you won’t forget. Every time you make it another year, celebrate your anniversary and what you have. Dream about your future together.

Whether your anniversary is this weekend or nine months from now, take the time to make it special. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Re-create your first date, plan a romantic evening, write a love letter to your spouse or plan a surprise getaway. Do married well!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

It isn’t unusual for people to make time to attend training to increase their job productivity, improve their golf swing or even enhance their cooking or gardening skills, but when was the last time you took time away to invest in your marriage relationship?

Imagine getting away for a week with your spouse and a few other couples with no worries about what time it is or who needs to be at what practice. No kids yelling, “Mommy” or bosses calling. No cell phones, computers, or television and no clue about the news of the day. In fact, you really have no need to know what day it is or what your next meal will be. The focus of the week is just to enjoy each other’s company and to spend time with your mate.

If you feel totally disconnected from your spouse, this could sound like torture or a total impossibility.

Additionally, the thought of leaving technology behind can send chills up the spine. For others, this seems like something that would only happen in their dreams.

One group of couples took some friends up on the challenge of getting away for a week – on a sailboat. They were a bit apprehensive about how things would go but by day two, they loved not having a clue about what time it was, and it really didn’t matter.

At one point the couples were chatting after dinner. It was dark and people were yawning so everybody decided it must be very late. When they discovered it was only 8:30, everybody got a good laugh. A thoughtful discussion followed about how hard we live life and yet often forget to nurture the things that matter most to us because we are just too busy, stressed, selfish or just plain worn out.

Throughout the week people napped, read books, chatted about their children and other things that were just silly. They also soaked in the sun, played in the water, ate together and spent time learning from each another.

Here are a few lessons they learned about how to invest in marriage while on the boat:

  • It’s good to get away. We think we can’t afford to take the time, but we really can’t afford not to take the time.
  • Play is a good thing. Laughter and playing hard rejuvenates the soul and relationships.
  • Fasting from technology and the news of the day can be a very good thing. Spending time away from it made them realize how much time can be wasted just sitting in front of the television or answering emails instead of focusing on their spouse and family.
  • The kids can survive without parents for a few days. Time away from the kids can be a beautiful thing for everyone!
  • You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a fancy vacation to reconnect with your spouse. Camping, sailing or even staying at home while the kids visit the grandparents will work.

At the end of the week no one was disappointed in their adventure. In fact, spouses felt closer to each other and re-energized.

Consider how you can reconnect with your spouse and be intentional about making it happen.

 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Starry-eyed in love, couples stand before friends and family and recite these vows with total commitment to each other. Then they come home from the honeymoon and reality hits. Is it possible to keep the “honey” in honeymoon?

“Many people believe that if they have found their soulmate and are deeply in love, they won’t have disagreements or bad things happen in their marriage. If they do, they think something must be wrong with their relationship,” says Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education.

“I believe one of the biggest disservices we do to newlywed couples is not giving them expectations about how things are going to be when two lives come crashing together. They get married, go on a honeymoon and then come home thinking things are going to be great, only to find that there are these little things that keep coming up that are wreaking havoc in their relationship.”

For example, one newlywed couple lived close to the husband’s family and saw them all the time. Since they lived close to his parents, the wife thought they should go visit her family for Christmas and Thanksgiving. He thought that was totally unfair. She thought it was so fair it made her extremely angry and upset. He didn’t see the logic between where you live and splitting up the holidays. This was an issue in their first three years of marriage.

Studies indicate that every happily married couple usually has approximately 10 irreconcilable differences.

“Learning how to live with your spouse is a constant adventure that requires advance planning,” Sollee says. “I think the first years should be called the ‘clash of civilizations stage’ instead of the honeymoon. This stage is when two people actually get to set up a new civilization determining how they are going to do everything from eat, sleep, work, raise children, deal with in-laws, make love, keep house, pay bills, etc. Couples who believe that because you love each other you will simply agree about how all of this should work are in for great disappointment. Instead of seeing these differences as part of the marriage adventure, this is the very thing that sends what could be a great marriage over time into a tailspin.”

It might come as a surprise to know that noted marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, found that happily-married couples disagree the same amount as couples who divorce. Studies show that all couples fight about money, sex, kids, others and time. Couples who understand that these disagreements are normal and learn to manage those areas do better.

“Finding these areas of disagreement is part of the adventure. It shouldn’t scare couples if they prepare for the journey,” Sollee suggests. “Entering into marriage without preparation would be like planning to climb Mount Everest and only hoping you have what it takes. When people first started climbing that mountain, many people did not make it because they did not know what to expect. Now the success rate is much better because people know how to prepare and often do so for years before they actually climb the mountain. The same is true with marriage. We know the tools couples need to be successful.”

If you’re marrying soon or are a newlywed, think of it as if you were preparing to climb Mount Everest.

It’s a great adventure with potential danger at every turn. You want to be as knowledgeable as possible about what to expect. That way, even the simple things don’t pose a threat to your relationship. There are ways you can know what to expect from marriage—including how to navigate those annoying disagreements that keep rising to the surface. And knowing what to expect can help you keep the “honey” long after the honeymoon is over.

For instance, you can take a premarital or marriage education class where you can practice handling the hard stuff.

“You can do almost anything in life if you know what to expect,” Sollee shares. “If you don’t know what to expect, you can fall in a crevasse and blame it on all the wrong things—your spouse, your mother-in-law, etc.”

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***