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Monday, February 24, 2014

Miraculous Mondays: There Must Be 50 Ways to Surprise Your Spouse

Thought for the Day: One technique used in songwriting is the "laundry list" song. Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" is an example of this kind of song. Brainstorming creative ways to solve a problem or tell someone you love them are techniques used to start working on writing the song. Today, as I continue my Miraculous Monday's series on ways that psychotherapy can help people save their marriages, I decided to tell you about a similar technique that I use with couples who want to enhance their marriages or save themselves from divorce court.

Here's the assignment: I ask them to surprise one another. They are not allowed to tell their partner about their plan. They need to do things that they know their partner will enjoy and appreciate without telling them about it beforehand. When they come back for their next appointment, I ask if either of them were pleasantly surprised by something that their partner did for them over the week. Usually they do notice the effort and have had a pleasant time together.

Sometimes they forget and fail to do their homework. When that happens, sometimes I give them another week to work on it, but other times we discuss what may have stopped them from doing the assignment. If they were too angry with their partner to want to do something that would please them, I use it as a diagnostic tool. We have our work cut out for us to discuss what is bothering them. This may also help them sort out what is interfering in their relationship.

If one partner does the assignment and the other doesn't it can also help to understand what is happening in the marriage. The partner who made the effort is often hurt that their spouse did not take the time to do the assignment. Talking about the disappointment is also important. After an open discussion, often the partner who did not do the assignment is given a second chance.

In addition to giving the couple a chance to have a positive interaction or for diagnostic reasons to tease out underlying conflicts that may not be surfacing and therefore cannot be resolved, the assignment helps bring back some of the positive feelings from the initial stages of attraction. When people meet and are courting one another, they do tend to surprise one another with thoughtful acts. As a relationship develops, married couples often feel that their partner knows they love them and are committed to the relationship. Often, children, work, financial stress get in the way of showing the other person that they still care. It is important not to take each other for granted. Even if you are not in therapy, you can try this technique on your own. It may help spice up your relationship.

Here are a few ways to surprise your partner:

1) Place a rose on the windshield of their car

2) Write them a poem

3) Bring home dinner

4) Give them a foot massage

5) Buy tickets to a concert by a band that you liked when you met

6) Book a vacation, arrange child care, pack their bags & pick them up without telling them about the mystery destination

7) Text them a love note

8) Invite old friends to come for a visit

9) Take them to a spa for a few hours

10) Make reservations at a restaurant where you went on your first date

I'd love to hear some of the surprises that you have pulled off for your spouse or that you try after reading this article. Be creative & have fun, it may just start a miracle!


Joan Kappes said...

This is great! It's fun to surprise my spouse. We've been married for 30 years and around year 7, we 'got it' - Marriage is about creating freshness and growth and appreciation every day, week and year! One example: He is having a difficult time coping with the length of this winter, so, I surprised him with a Southwest Airlines gift card so he can dream, plan and anticipate a future trip! He loved it! And for me, We recently experienced another 10" snowstorm. I had to be somewhere early in the A.M. and was planning to get up extra early to plow our long driveway. By the time I got out of bed, he came into the room and said, "I finished the driveway for you"! Very sweet and appreciated by me!

Barbara Lavi said...

What wonderful stories of ways you are keeping your marriage fresh! This winter has been very challenging for many people, coming up with thoughtful ways to help one another is wonderful. I hope other people see your suggestions & learn from them! Thanks for sharing!