Ten Inexpensive Dates for Great Connections

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Dating is important at every stage of your relationship

In a new relationship or an existing marriage, dating should never stop. A great date can keep us grounded and remind us of the beauty in day to day life. Dates can also be hard on the wallet and take time and energy not always easy to muster. Maintaining that connection with your partner is important, so here are ten inexpensive easy dates to keep the fire lit.

1. Hike Together

Hiking doesn’t require much. A good pair of shoes, some light snacks, hydration packs, and a good trail is all you need for a beautiful date. A hike can be as simple as a walk-in nature or as complex as discovering a new mountain trail. Inspire great healthy habits with additional steps or a playful race. Exercising releases endorphins. Adding your partner to a hiking date could also end in some romance.

2. Outdoor Picnic

Grab a soft blanket and a basket filled with delicious treats or easy foods and head outside. In your neighborhood, a local park, or a far off spot of nature, seduce your senses with quiet time and conversation with the one you love the most. Picnics can be simple with water and fruit or more elaborate with aphrodisiac foods. Either way, connect with conversation in a quiet environment with few to no distractions.

3. Museum Night

Most museums have a free day, so step outside of your comfort zone and visit a museum in the city you may not visit often. Consider dressing up and taking a stroll around the city after you walk through halls of visual arts. Have some fun learning, critiquing pieces, and quiz one another on knowledge of the arts. Take a look at the free days for all the museums in your city and schedule theme dates in advance.

4. Volunteer Together

Fall in love all over again by giving time together where it’s needed most. Look for local soup kitchens, food banks or shelters, or the Humane Society in your area and set up volunteer time together. Walking shelter dogs together can be a lot of fun and a great way to see if adding a pup to your family is a good idea. Filling boxes with food for families in need is a heartwarming experience. Doing it together can help you both appreciate one another and your free time all the more.

5. Create A Market Project Together

Make a day of visiting fun Flea Markets and create cheap and easy projects. If you are competitive, add some fun to your date with a contest to see who can spend the least and can upcycle the best project at the end of the day. If you’re newly dating, this is a good way to see if your styles are compatible, while if you’ve been together for some time, you can add a spark to your home and to your day with some inexpensive fun together.   

6. Stargazing

Get away from the city lights with a telescope ad gaze up at the stars together. Find a quiet out of the city spot in the park, high on a mountain, or out on a beach and stargaze. Phone apps can help you discover what planets are within view and which constellations are above you. With simple research, you can learn the legends behind the constellations and stars and share them with your partner as you find them with a telescope together.

7. Share a Hobby

Reading, writing, music, crafts, and more...

Find a local workshop your partner would love and sign you two up for an inexpensive class. Look for a poetry slam in your area and go listen. If you or your partner are brave enough, participate. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and write a few words to share with everyone about your relationship.

8. Factory Tour

From cookies and baked goods to candy or beer, if you live near a metropolitan area, it’s likely there is a factory, brewery, cidery, or winery nearby. Many give free tours. Don’t forget to hit the gift shop but stay within a budget for your inexpensive date.

9. Miniature Golf

When did you last play miniature golf? It’s still fun and helps create some playful competition without breaking the bank. All-weather miniature golf indoors is often glow in the dark which means you can sneak in some flirting as well.

10. Stay Home

Not every date has to be away from home. Plan a night home without electronics. Cook together, put a puzzle together, or plan a living room drive-in movie with big fluffy pillows, movie theatre box candy, and popcorn. Just be sure your time is focused on one another not everything else calling your attention at home.


Decrease the Amount of Arguing in Your Relationship

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Simple ways to decrease arguments and end bickering

Arguing is a part of life and relationships. When our bodies go into fight or flight, we tend to react and make rash decisions. In an argument with a partner, these hasty choices cause tension and anger that can build and fester. From here, we may not know where to go

There are ways to decrease arguing in your relationship before you get to a point of regret.

First, start to take notice of each argument. If you bicker often and truly argue less, talk out the smaller issues so the bickering stops and your disagreements become just that - moments when you agree to disagree.

 

End Bickering

Small bickering arguments tend to occur when one or both parties feel neglected or as if they are unimportant. These arguments may feel almost petty, but because the issue means more to one party than the other, that party may feel minimized, as if they or their feelings do not matter.

Schedule time together to talk through these items. Expressing to your partner how you feel without placing blame gives you both an opportunity to fix any minor issues that cause tension. Be an active listener and really hear what your partner says they need while expecting the same. Try not to hold in the things that bother you. Trust your partner to give them a chance to hear your needs.

 

Difficult talks greatly differ from smaller disputes. During these moments, you and your partner both need to feel understood. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with one another, just attempt to put yourself in their shoes and ask they do the same. Here are a few tips to ensure these larger arguments don’t build tension between you both.

Listen Without Interruption

Refrain from interrupting when your partner is speaking. If you feel you will lose track of what you’d like to say, go back and paraphrase the conversation before you respond so your response isn’t an overreaction. If you need to, let your partner know you will write down keywords to remind yourself to comment on those points later. Be sure not to write down whole sentences, just the topic or point you’d like to address once your partner is done speaking. Remember an active listener pays attention, engages, and responds instead of reacts.

 

Stick to the Topic

When an argument occurs, be sure to keep the conversation on topic. This conversation shouldn’t focus on past experiences or behaviors or other topics, even if they feel connected to the current event. When arguments go off track, all too often, the conversations take a turn to a place unintended which may mean saying things you don’t mean or didn’t intend to say. This sort of negative communication can turn an argument into something larger.

Fight Fair

Remember this is the person you love. This is your person. The one who makes you laugh, who makes you feel special, the person you want with you for every difficult situation and every celebration. Also, remember your partner is human and has emotions as well, so keep the argument fair and respectful.

Don’t raise voices. Speaking in a calm tone will encourage active listening and well thought out responses rather than off the cuff reactions. If the conversation is extremely tense and upsetting, decide on a safe word to pause the conversation. Many couples play a game of “Red Light, Green Light” to express the need to take a break, pause, or to signify without argument that a comment or reply is offensive and should be rethought and presented in a different way.

Kindness matters. We’re not in elementary school, so name-calling, no matter how mature your words are, is off-limits. Focus on how you feel and listen to how your partner feels rather than how your partner behaves. Remember you can only control yourself and no one else.

 

It’s important to know we all give and receive information differently than others, even those closest to us. So, talk about how you need to receive information from your partner and listen to how you should give it. This is especially important when you feel you are not heard. Finally, never fear a sincere apology. Sometimes, a hug, acknowledgment that your partner matters, and two simple words, “I’m sorry,” can go further than an unnecessary argument.


Tell-Tale Signs Your Marriage May Be Heading Off Track

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Learn the signs of potential divorce and guide your marriage back on track.

Not all marriages last, but many that end may have lasted if the couple had seen some of the blaring signs.

Every couple argues, many often experience regret after the argument. When arguments end in resentment and anger builds without resolution, it may be a sign you’re drifting away from perseverance. The next step after open-ended arguments is contempt. When either of you speaks to the other with a complete lack of respect, it devalues your partner and your relationship. This contempt builds between you both as you each minimize how the other feels and lose the value of your lives intertwined.

 

Many couples feel they have to walk on eggshells around their partner in fear of saying anything because of an assumed reaction. Others become defensive and on guard for fear of being attacked. Usually, these attacks come in the form of verbal insults and sting more with each one. Again, the lack of remorse doesn’t often leave room for resolution. Instead, these hurtful words become harmful munitions in the marriage.

 

Being critical of one another can often mean respect has been lost between you two. Through unresolved arguments, worrying about saying or not saying the right thing or accusations that may be thrown your way puts a wedge between you both. This can cause each of you to nit-pick at every little thing and even react with more anger than before with larger issues. A good marriage is between two people who compliment one another more than they criticize one another.

 

Loss of interest in physical connection. A busy career and family life are enough to ruin a sex life, but ultimately, if those things along with other things interest you or your partner more than being intimate together, you may be in trouble. Physical intimacy depends so much on emotional intimacy, so if you two are struggling to connect on an emotional level, it makes sense a large aspect of your marriage, your sex life, would be affected. When we are bitter and angry, we don’t want to connect with our partner. Too much of this physical time apart makes reconnection more difficult.

 

Visualizing life without your partner. Whether you can imagine yourself with someone else or imagine yourself living a full life without your partner, taking them out of the vision for your future could put your relationship at risk. In your mind, you may already be there. Figuring out what life may be life without your spouse prepares your mind and your heart for that foreshadowing disconnect. Stepping out of the marriage is a concrete break of trust and betrayal that forces your emotions on another person causing distance between you and your spouse.

 

The silent treatment. It's a tell-tale sign you or your partner are no longer interested in seeking refuge with one another. If your spouse isn’t talking to you, it’s likely they are holding emotions in and allowing negativity to overtake the space where love used to live. This silent treatment goes both ways and is often a sign of loss of trust. If you two have completely stopped communicating, especially about important issues, neither of you trust the other to behave in a reasonable and respectful manner when challenged.

 

One spouse wishes to repair the marriage while the other is checked out. If only one of you wishes to focus on fixing the issues between you, the path to success may be a difficult and lonely journey. Convincing one spouse to reconnect when they’ve lost trust in the process can be difficult, but not impossible. It is most definitely a sign that your marriage may be in trouble, but as long as there is enough compassion to see where you each are, there is still hope.

 

None of these signs are the be all end all to divorce. Even with broken trust, miscommunication, moments of disrespect, and anger building a wall between you two, with commitment and attention to one another’s needs, your marriage may have a chance. Sometimes a therapist or mediator can help reopen the lines of communication in a healthy way. Setting boundaries while healing and talking about expectations can bring you both to a better understanding of how you each feel. There are healthy ways to resolve these issues, so if giving up isn’t on your mind, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Hang in there and start again with baby steps and goals for each of you and for the marriage as a whole. 


Three Ways to Better Communicate with Your Partner

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Learn to communicate and make communicating in difficult times a breeze.

Communication is the backbone of any relationship. When loving partners slip into communication madness, we can end up feeling unimportant and unheard. When these trends continue, negativity and resentment can build, dividing a couple before they realize what’s happened. Working on effective communication when life is beautiful makes communication during more difficult times easier and effectual.

1. Practice Active Listening

All too often, we are frustrated with communication in our relationship because we feel as if our partner doesn’t hear us.

In a world of busy technology, it’s too easy to multitask while attempting to listen, but if we are holding a cell phone or checking a notification on a watch, we are not completely and actively listening to our partners. As multitasking occurs more frequently, it becomes a habit. We may think we’ve listened, but because we checked a notification or looked at our screen, something pulled us away from our partner. It doesn’t take long for someone to feel less than important if we allow this habit to intrude on the relationship.

Actively listening means being engaged. Don’t allow anything to pull either of you away until the conversation has ended. Engage in ways that move the talk forward and show understanding. Ask probing questions, and if left confused, ask for clarification. An active listener can paraphrase and summarize the conversation to act instead of reacting. Feel what your partner says. Observe body language. Refrain from judgment, reflect, and respond from a place of compassion rather than reaction.

2. Be an Empath

Showing empathy allows our partner to see we care. It builds trust and a strong connection. Though we may not always understand why our partner feels a certain way, letting them know we can relate through empathy opens doors for understanding and compassion.

It’s important to know empathy doesn’t mean agreement. Showing empathy means we are hearing our partner’s concerns not that we agree with how they feel. Through empathy, we can express an understanding of their emotions, but it doesn’t mean we own those emotions ourselves.

Empathy is a humbling feeling. It allows us to understand a perspective we may not have. Because we view our relationship through the eyes of our partner when we empathize, becoming an active listener feels more natural. However, practicing empathy may take time. Here are some tips to help. When talking, allow your partner to speak first and actively listen.

Express an understanding of how your partner feels by paraphrasing what they’ve communicated.

Connect by relating to how your partner feels.

When listening, avoid preparing a response but rather take time to feel the emotions your partner feels so the two of you can connect.

In more tense moments, don’t hesitate to take deep breaths before speaking rather than reacting. This gives time to find empathy and see your partner’s point of view, even if you’re not in agreement. 

3. "I" Statements

Many times, in moments of tension, we place blame and project our emotions onto our partner. When we practice using I statements, our partner is more likely to actively listen and practice empathy. Using I statements effectively allows us to present how we feel, why, and what we need to do to alter those emotions. Instead of blaming our partner when frustrated, we can focus on how we feel rather than how their actions affect our emotions.

An important part of I statements is to recognize how we can make changes within ourselves to own our emotions instead of blaming our partner. Finding common ground through relating emotions helps couples to achieve a level of understanding and empathy which makes listening in an active instead of reactive fashion easier.

There are no big secrets to communicating. It’s important to remember the love between you and your partner stands stronger when you both understand that your position and emotions matter. Listen without speaking and remember you both have meaningful feelings. Make an effort to practice positive communication each day. Remember you and your partner should be complimented far more than criticized by one another.


Focus On The Problem Not The Person!

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When anger is part of your relationship, you’re no stranger to dealing with life’s day-to-day unique challenges. Slip-ups will happen, and when they do, it can be all too tempting to attack and blame your spouse. Obviously, this is counter-productive.

When you or your partner (or both!) are angry and frustrated, it’s easy to shift the conversation away from being solution-focused and to attacking and blaming the other person. Blaming is easy – as we all know! When blaming your partner for what went wrong, you no longer have to worry about what to do about it. What a great way to avoid fixing the problem!

Blame does not produce solutions; it simply keeps you stuck in a negative loop which gives the illusion of a solution. Breaking out of this loop takes conscious effort. When you find yourself blaming your partner, take a step back, inhale deeply, and focus on creating solutions.

Don't ask who's right.

Ask what's right.

Attacking the problem (and not your partner) creates a healthy environment conducive to sharing at a deep, effective level. Do like to be blamed? Well, neither does he or she. No one appreciates being attacked.

By focusing on the problem, you can actually work towards a solution. Focus on the problem, not the person, and you’ll find that working through your relational challenges is much easier for both of you.

6 Tips for a Successful Vacation Together

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Remember, you can take a relationship on the road but you won't leave your challenges at home.


In a classic Modern Family moment, super-mom Claire Dunphy is preparing for a dream vacation to Hawaii when she says, "I'm a mom traveling with her kids. It's not a vacation, it's a business trip."

For too many couples, with or without children, each partner has a very different expectation of what should be a retreat to relax and revive. 

Keep in mind that a vacation doesn't mean you leave yourselves, or the challenges in your relationship behind. That's why it's so important to prepare for your vacation in a way that sets appropriate expectations, boundaries, and standards for communication. Here are six tips for preparing for a vacation you can truly enjoy, together!

1. Start by Sharing Your Goals

Is your goal to relax? Maybe see a lot of new sights? Go on adventures? Read a book (or seven)? If you and your partner have different goals for vacation, it's something that's important discuss when you start planning. Not halfway through your trip!

When your goals are different, so are your expectations. But compromise can solve this problem...as long as it's acknowledged.

2. Be Realistic About Your Budget

There are few easier ways to tank a vacation than arguing over money in the middle of a meal or activity. Much like wedding planning, vacations can go from $0 to "ouch" fast if you're not intentional about your budgeting. You don't want to ruin the rest of your year, financially in less than two weeks. During your planning period, think about how much you can comfortably afford and be sure to budget for unexpected costs. 

That way, when you're in a store (or the spa) and ready to splurge, you'll know if you've got the money set aside or if you need to step back and rethink the spend.

While managing a spreadsheet before and during vacation sounds pretty unsexy, tracking expenses can be a positive way for couples to make a game out of coming in under budget (although we recognize that tool isn't for everyone!)

3. Be Open to Planning "Me Time"

Say you want some serious downtime and your partner wants to get some golfing in. You can easily set aside a day or half a day to go your separate ways. If you're traveling with kids, it's important to ensure both parents are able to take time for themselves. 

Another great way to take the burden off of parents is to plan in advance for places you can entertain the kids. For example, many malls have free play areas where kids can run around inside if the day is rainy or too hot for an outdoor playground. 

4. Share the Burdens (& the Joys)

Have a lot of driving to do on your vacation? It might be a good idea to put both of you on the rental car. Sure it's an extra expense, but the stress of one partner doing all the driving--especially in unfamiliar territory--can quickly dampen the fun of vacation.

No vacation is all glamour, all the time (unless you're spending 5-figures or more and your trip comes with a LOT of support). Taking turns managing luggage, dealing with travel or lodging issues, and more helps both of you stay level so you can both enjoy the great things a vacation has to offer. 

5. Don't Set Unrealistic Expectations

As we've already mentioned, you might be taking your relationship on the road, but your baggage is coming with you. That means your actual luggage AND your relationship challenges. Expecting that a new setting will remove your daily problems is a surefire way to set yourself (and your partner) up for disappointment. 

On the other hand, being in new settings is a great opportunity to be reflective and reconnect over the things that you both love--in life and about each other.

6. Remember: You're There to Have FUN!

In the end, a vacation is about having a great time. Before you get bogged down in frustrations or disappointments, remember that gratitude is a powerful tool. Taking a moment to be grateful: for this trip you can afford to take, for the beautiful sights, for time to work on your relationship, for time away from work...those moments of gratitude can turn your day around. So when it all gets to be too stressful, take a deep breath and think of just 3 things you're happy about today. 


Get Back to Feeling Better Faster

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Made a mistake? Messed up again? Stepped on your partner’s toes? Communication is KEY in relationships, and even more so in those where anger is present. And guess what!? Apologies are an essential part of all healthy relationships. Every person makes mistakes, and each couple comes with two flawed people, so there are bound to be occasions for apologies in every relationship. Couples who quickly (and genuinely) exchange apologies spend more quality time together; striving for solutions and discovering strategies on how to do better next time.

For couples where anger is present, things are no different. There will still be mistakes made, and there will still be a need for apologies. However, anger can affect how to best make an apology.

DON’T make things worse by pouring out a long, drawn-out apology or begging endlessly for forgiveness. It only makes things worse! The angry partner tends to get lost in a million words, while the non-angry partner wants fewer words and more action.

If your spouse is not ready to work on solutions and strategies right then, that’s O.K. too. Simply agree on another time to begin to work thing through. Remember that sometimes, the right action in an apology is to give him or her some space to process what happened.

As always, communication and honesty are vital. If you’re open with your loved one about how you feel, and if you allow him or her to be genuine with you, you two can work through any situation.

The Small Stuff Matters

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How micro-betrayals erode the very foundation of your relationship

Probably dozens of times throughout the day, your partner forgets to do something; breaks a promise, arrives late or leaves too early (or forgets an appointment altogether), or makes another big mess. When confronted with his (or her) actions, he thinks that by simply saying, "I’m Sorry," (again) will somehow make everything magically O.K.  What the offending partner doesn’t realize is that it’s not the big stuff that usually destroys relationships, but rather the small stuff, little things that happen again and again, over a long period of time, which destroys the loving relationship.  We like to refer to these “over and over again” episodes as “mini-micro betrayals,” which seem at the moment, like no big deal.

But Nothing Could be Further from the Truth!

Those pesky little things add up, and while no single act is that big of a deal, when they start adding up and multiplying – Watch Out!

Over time, these little things start to feel like termites ferociously eating away at the foundation of your relationship. What’s left is a relationship filled with holes, destroyed one little termite-sized bite at a time. This leaves the disappointed partner feeling like, “Hey - if I can't trust him to deliver on the ordinary, everyday stuff, how in the world can I count on him with the big stuff; the important stuff?”

Left untreated, your partner’s unreliable nature creates distance and resentment, and eventually the relationship could collapse or implode. Meanwhile the offending partner is oblivious to any problem whatsoever, thinking everything is totally “fine.” What an unpleasant surprise when he is confronted with a mad spouse who has finally had enough!

Remember in relationships the daily micro-betrayals really do have an enormous impact on the sustainability of your relationship.  You can’t change him or her (…if that were the case, you’d have done it by now!). So, what can you do to alter this destructive course?

Learn to talk to your partner every day. Accentuate the positive, telling him or her how much you appreciate his uniqueness, or the way he does something that you really do appreciate. Do not be condescending! Only tell the truth and express genuine appreciation.

In the same way, when something is done that sends you through the roof, explain those feelings, too. Leave out absolutes (you always do this or that); avoid negatives (why don’t you think before you do something?) and don’t bring up the past (you did the same thing last month!). Instead, tell him you need to talk about something that happened and then gently explain. The purpose of talking is not to condemn and bring up a laundry list of things done wrong. NO! The purpose is to bring awareness of the situation from your perspective and lovingly talk about the repercussions of the event.

For example, let’s say you come home from work to find that your wife started planting some flowers along the walkway in the morning, and then when she was about halfway through, decided to go into the kitchen and bake bread. The flowers she planted look like they may survive but the ones still in the cartons are hot and drooping and appear to be about half-baked from the blazing sun. Dirt is all over the sidewalk; and the shovel, rake, hoe, the hose (which is still on and spurting water), and fertilizer lie in the way all scattered about. It’s a mess.

In the house, the house smells almost wonderful, like the aroma of freshly baked bread, but with a hint of burn to it. Hmm…seems as though she may have forgotten to set the timer again. Your wife is tired but happy for all that she has done today, and she desperately wants/needs your approval and appreciation. Never mind that the yard and the kitchen (and your wife!) are a mess and the bread is burned. (“It’s not burned,” she explains with a grin and a wink, “it’s only a little brown on the edges.”) Dare you burst her bubble by saying something now? The results may not be what you really want or expect from an adult, but she really has worked hard all day and is eager to share everything with you. But you know from experience that it could literally be days or weeks before she gets back out to finish up the flowers. You groan inwardly as you ask yourself if this is going to be a repeat of last year when she left the same project unfinished all summer long?

What do you do? What should you do? How do you turn this into a positive?

Now is your time to express heart-felt appreciation.

Look at the things she did get done. Tell her the flowers she planted are beautiful and will be a wonderful, colorful addition to that little area. Tell her the bread smells good enough to eat, even the “brown edges” will be good with butter, and then smile at her and wink. And then suggest that after dinner the two of you could go outside and spend time together finishing up the planting. The positives are accentuated. Your wife is appreciated. The mess provides the two of you ‘together time’ and by the end of the day, it can be all nice and neat.

Will it happen this way every time? No. But every time you can use it to create something wonderful. Do you need to be her babysitter and take her by the hand every time to make sure things are done up? Maybe, but hopefully not. Let us reiterate to you: You Aren’t Going to Change Your Spouse. She is what she is. You are what you are. We all are what we all are.

Focus on how you react to each situation. Focus on you!

Learning to look at situations a little differently; attacking a problem with kindness and love, can make all the difference in the world regarding your marriage. However, if you think you may not be getting anywhere in your marriage, seek professional council so you don’t drive yourself crazy or give up on the relationship. You can get there; be patient with your partner, and be patient with yourself.

THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES OF RELATIONSHIPS WITH A PARTNER THAT STRUGGLES WITH CONCENTRATION!

THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES OF RELATIONSHIPS WITH A PARTNER THAT STRUGGLES WITH CONCENTRATION!

Being in a relationship with a person who has concentration issues can be frustrating, emotionally draining, and expensive. It’s easy to feel more like a parent than a partner or lover. It’s also easy to assume…