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A Dude’s Guide to Valentines Day Success

A Dude’s Guide to Valentines Day Success

Valentines Day: How to Nail It.

Dear Men,

I have previously written about Valentines Day to your wives and girlfriends in an attempt to make things easier on you. I encouraged your wives to not be so specific about their expectations for VDay (and other holidays) and I have written to them to point out how they could indeed make this romantic holiday special for you, as well. After all, romance should not be one-sided. I wrote both of these to help you out, cut you some slack, and generally endear your significant others to you. You’re welcome. ūüôā

Now, I want to turn my attention directly to you and offer you some specific help with this single purpose:
HOW YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY NAIL VALENTINES DAY THIS YEAR!

You’re probably thinking…Allison…it’s not even February 13th yet…why are we even talking about this? (A few of you are actually a step behind thinking…wait…when is Valentines Day this year?! It’s April 1st. Same as last year.)

Let’s be real; in all likelihood, your wife or long-time girlfriend sent you this post.

I know the drill. I will be brief. I will be direct. If you do what I say, I’ll set you up for *ahem* “success.”

Sure. You could skirt by another year with Circle K chocolate and a single rose while ordering Papa Johns from the comfort of your couch, fingers crossed that you’ve done enough for things to end in your favor. But WHAT IF you stepped your game up just a bit, and enjoyed the benefit of being the guy who gets bragged about on February 15.

Steps to NAILING Valentines Day:

  1. Start today. Listen, you don’t actually have to do anything today. You just need to casually mention, “I’ve been thinking about what we could do to celebrate Valentines Day together this year…” …and then don’t say anything else. Trust me. Less is more. All you have to do is plant the seed of expectation. Just the simple fact that it’s already crossed your mind will be enough to blow her mind. You are already winning! Congratulations.
  2. Make a reservation. To do ANYTHING. It doesn’t have to be dinner. It could be that you buy a movie ticket in advance. Schedule her an appointment to get her nails done. Sure…a reservation for dinner works, too. It doesn’t matter what it is really. Just schedule ANYTHING in advance. In this simple move you are silently conquering the “you just through this together on your way home from work” argument. It’s really the forethought and intentionality that matters. (And all the women said, “AMEN!”)
  3. Buy or do something that SHE enjoyed when you first met. This could be as simple as making a playlist of old songs she used to love, taking her to an old hangout, watching an old movie you saw together. It doesn’t have to be expensive for fancy. (But it’s fine if it is.) Just have it ready for the big day. It’s really just the thoughtfulness that gets you the points. My husband would say, “nostalgia is a real panty dropper.” So…you’re welcome for that. He’s a poet.
  4. Remove distractions. Whenever you plan to celebrate Valentines Day (the weekend before or after is totally a fine option, in my opinion, just as long as she knows in advance), do yourself a favor and remove distractions so your wife won’t get in her head. Take the kids to Grandma’s house. Hire a cleaning lady to make the house look nice. Think of whatever it that she seems to consider of urgent importance, and make sure that’s taken care of, so at the end of your celebration, she will be able to remain present with you, instead of hopping into all the busyness of household duties.

Ok…as simple as most of this is, it’s all that it will really take for her to think you’re 10 feet tall this Valentines Day. You can get fancy “above and beyond” all you want. But these elements will set you up for success: expectation, thoughtfulness, nostalgia. Have fun…make it your own. Rather than let Valentines Day give you a sense of dread or that you’ve failed…change it up just a bit and enjoy the fruit of your labor!

YOU’RE WELCOME. ūüôā

Oh, and while I have you, men, let me tell you this: I have a very special, very specific “talk” that I give wives when it comes to libido and the importance of sex. I’m like Liam Neeson. I have a special set of skills, therapeutically speaking. If this is a pep talk, training, or treatment plan that you’d like your wife to have, send her my way! Here are some of my thoughts on the topic but I’d be glad to discuss a specific plan in my counseling office in Walker or Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Be the Best He’ll Ever Have

Be The Best He’ll Ever Have

Have you ever had one of those thoughts that just blew your mind but then you realize it’s just a really basic idea? Maybe it’s just me? And people wrongly assume I’m smarter than I am? (Bless my heart.)

The other day while putting up some of my husband’s laundry (brb, I actually just remembered that I needed to put the wash in the dryer), I had this thought: I’m going to be Chad’s ONLY WIFE. Short of him finally killing me for doing one of my very few annoying traits like occasionally snoring in a cute kind of way, or asking him to switch cars with me because I’ve been driving around on E for 3 days, he’s probably never going to have another wife. He will never have another opportunity to be more loved than my love for him.

This felt shocking to me. I’m his best bet at unconditional, empowering, doting love. Not only would I never WANT another woman to love him better than I do (unless, of course, in the event of my untimely death), he’s never going to even get the chance at experiencing anything better than me!

Like I said…it was one of those simple ideas that really blew my mind.

I felt really called to action at that moment.

My husband, Chad, and I had several years of close friendship before the curtain was lifted and we realized we loved each other. And that’s always such a great place to return to when the “home fires” get a little cold, as they occasionally do in any long-term relationship. Because I have this underpinning of true friendship love for him, I typically can’t help but just want good for him. This really helps motivate my marital love. I am his best shot at experiencing life-giving, fulfilling, out-of-this-world love. And I really want him to know and live that kind of love! So this means that sometimes I gotta step my game up!

What about you? Do you ever need to re-evaluate your wife skills and step your game up?

Here are a couple questions to ponder:

  1. When’s the last time you did something nice for him…just because?
  2. Do you show enthusiasm for his victories and efforts…big and small?
  3. Is there anything you used to do to show him you loved him that you haven’t done in a while?
  4. Have you gotten into any bad communication habits like bombarding him with to-do’s when he walks in the door or spouting off complaints, criticisms, or general negativity?
  5. Is there anything you’ve done lately (intentionally or unintentionally) that he may have taken as disrespect?
  6. How’s your ratio between encouragement and complaint?
  7. Do you like the culture you help co-create in your home?
  8. When’s the last time you prayed for God to let you thrill for your husband’s touch?

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one around here who needs to step her game up! But if not…

If you ever want to talk about stepping up your “wife-game” or anything else, feel free to contact me here for an appointment time. Also, to those of you reading this who are thinking: Allison…not only have the “home fires run cold…it’s like a freezer in here!” Let’s talk. There may yet be hope. There almost always is!

Counseling sessions available in Walker and two locations in Baton Rouge.

(Photo credit for this cute picture of Mr. Schoonmaker: The September Company.)

Transitioning from Work to Home: How to set your night up for success.

Transitioning from Work to Home: How to set your night up for success.

The Question

How do you transition from work to home each day? Do you have a particular routine you use to help you go from employer/employee to spouse mode?

The Problem

Like we discussed last post, the transition moment is either seamless or it’s very rocky. If it’s rocky, it might be because you’re having trouble “shaking off” work as you enter into your home environment.¬†The transition from work to home is rough for a lot of people. Maybe your job is very stressful, very labor intensive or very people driven. If you live alone, you may not think much about the transition from work to home, but I’d suggest that it’s chiefly¬†important for you to not blur the line between the two, and consider your home life entirely separate from your work life. If you have a spouse and/or family, walking in to a house full of people who need things from you can feel pretty overwhelming after a tough day at work!¬†It’s so important that everyone in the house is getting their needs met. It’s possible. It just takes some honest reflection and a strategy.

The Plan

If you struggle with decompressing after a stressful work day, here are a few ideas:

  1. Pick a transition point. On your commute home, give yourself time to process the work day mentally, but at a certain landmark of your choosing, switch trains of thought and start thinking about home. Anything. Stuff on the agenda for the night. Things you like about your spouse and kids. Whatever. Just transition at a planned point so that you can be prepared when you walk in the door.
  2. Write down important things from work. Something you need to do tomorrow? Particularly frustrating conversation with your boss? Write it down. And leave it in your vehicle. You’ll get it out of your system just enough to be able to turn your attention to other things.
  3. Ask for/Give space. Sometimes I distract our toddler so my husband can sneak in without being noticed and take a quick power nap in our bed. (When he comes out later: Surprise! Daddy’s home already!) This way, he’s a little more refreshed and ready to engage. Some people like to take a shower to help them transition from work mode to home mode. Others like to watch the news in relative peace and quiet. Whatever you need, figure it out and make it known.
    • This is particularly important if you’re especially introverted or extroverted. You have needs for either connection or an intentional alone time. These are both legit needs and you shouldn’t minimize them. This need has to be met in order for you to be able to give what your family needs. But, you shouldn’t take all night for this need to be met. Do what you’ve gotta do to decompress the necessary amount, but then be available and presentphysically and emotionally.

In conclusion, consider what you need to really be “off the clock.”

If you live alone…don’t blur the line between “work” and “home” just because you can and no one will complain about it. You’ll burn out eventually and plus, it’s just no fun. You owe it to yourself to maintain/create an identity separate from your work, and this transition point of your day goes a long way to support that part of who you are.

If you’re married, don’t let the transition home moment each day pass you by without considering how you’re approaching it and how you can redeem it for better connection and relational satisfaction! It’s an easy moment to enter into and make a big impact on your relationship. You can do this!

As always, I’d love to set up a time to discuss this issue or anything else for which you’d like to receive counseling support. To learn more about the counseling process, check out this article.

Offices in Livingston Parish and EBR.

Reunited And It Feels So Good

Reunited And It Feels So Good: 5 Tips for Making Coming Home the Best Moment of the Day

The Question

How do you and your mate greet each other after returning from work?

Is it like a scene from a Nicholas Sparks movie? Or more like a series of grunts and side glances? Somewhere in between? What if this moment of your day had the power to set a tone of positive connection for the rest of your evening…if only you knew how to tap into its potential.

The Problem

The transition/reunion moment following the work day is one of those linchpin moments where things will either go one of two ways: 1) you’ll feel very connected, safe, and welcomed, or 2) you’ll be frustrated and feel isolated, with your guard up.

This transition/reunion moment sets the tone for the rest of the evening. And it’s easily missed by couples because it seems fairly inconsequential. How you handle this opportunity every day reveals quite a lot, and for whatever reason, it seems to be a missed opportunity for a lot of couples.

One reason why the transition time is rough is due to job stress that you have trouble “shaking off” just because you’re in your home environment. We will discuss this part next post! (Be on the lookout for Part 2 and feel free to sign up to receive posts sent straight to your inbox.)

The other reason why the transition moment might be rocky for you is because things are tense at home. Maybe you feel like a rockstar at work but you tend to feel like a failure or constant disappointment at home. If you are generally having trouble connecting well with our spouse, this moment is where the negative cycle starts each night.¬†Additionally, communication styles that are effective (and even help you excel) at your job do NOT typically work at home. If you talk to your spouse like you’re his/her manager…just go ahead and call me now. ūüėČ

Whatever the reason this transition/reunion¬†isn’t working to your advantage, there are a couple of things that you can do to redeem this moment.

Every day, you have this opportunity to build up intimacy or build up defenses. Why not do all you can to not let that moment pass idly by you?!

You may be thinking, “Allison…I have no idea what you’re talking about. We love “coming home time!” Then congrats…you’re doing it right. For everyone else, when you walk in the door, if you’re met with grunts, demands, criticisms, or even not acknowledged at all…we’ve got some work to do!

The good news is that this little moment of the day is the¬†perfect, routine opportunity¬†to really insert some positive connection in your relationship. Most people are blind to the importance of this time, so it’s not a “high stakes” risk for improvement. It’s a great place to start!

The Plan

Just like fake smiles are shown to eventually make you feel a little happier, even a somewhat forced, intentional greeting leads to more warmth and connection between the two of you.

Here are some great (and even silly) options for making coming home a special event that helps your defenses go down and increases your relational satisfaction.

This is definitely an area where I have to practice what I preach. At our house, we have the challenge (as do a lot of you, particularly shift workers) where every week day goes a little differently. Sometimes I’m home when my husband gets home and we are both staying put for the night. Sometimes we have about 5 minutes together before I leave to go see clients. Others, he’ll come home after work and do all the household stuff alone, and I don’t see him until almost 9pm. So some days, he is greeting me, and others I am greeting him. So most of these we swap.

  1. Physical contact. Stop what you’re doing when he/she walks in. Stand up. Put down the spatula. Smile. And give a big hug and/or a kiss. This is either second nature to people when their spouse/partner returns home or it’s a TOTAL stretch and seems so forced and foreign. Stretch yourself here! A good hug really brings down the defenses. It sends the message: you’re home….you made it…it’s safe here.¬†Pro-tip: Use BOTH ARMS. 20 seconds is actually ideal, based on lots of¬†research. (Sounds long…just go with it; you might end up loving it!) Count in your head if you need to! And if you can possibly manage, give a nice kiss, too. It does NOT MATTER if you feel like it’s forced. It’s like faking a smile. It always leads to a better mood. Tricking your brain by doing something positive with your body.
    • There is actually a lot of interesting research on hugging. Check out this article on the physiological and emotional benefits. You’ll be surprised!
  2. Cheering. Now, I admit that this is kind of silly. But at our house, we chant: Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! with fists pumping in the air. Most often we try to do this in the driveway, for maximum impact on our returning conquering hero. ūüôā The point here is not necessarily cheering, but feel free to make it a special event anyway you can think of!
  3. Play time.
    • Hiding. Sometimes we play hide and go seek, and start right before Daddy walks in the door. If he doesn’t see us when he walks in the door…that’s his cue. It’s play time. Play = joy and connection. Just go for it!
    • Dance party. Actually…Bren√© Brown has a whole theory on how healthy families with low shame regularly engage in dancing together. Don’t roll your eyes at me! Save it for Bren√©.
  4. Consider your partner’s love language.
    • Some days…if the stars align…I’ll have dinner ready. It’s just a way of taking good care of my family that I occasionally pull off successfully. When I get home late from work, sometimes I’ll have planned dinner for my husband to finish off after he gets home, or sometimes he has made his own thing, or it’s leftover city, baby. But if he’s home for a while and I come home late, I can always guarantee that he’s thought of what I can eat when I get home. It’s the best and makes me feel taken care of and supported!
    • What makes your spouse feel loved and supported? You should try to do that when he/she gets home.
  5. Ask questions. Not too many. Not too fast. But here are some choices:
    • Rate it: How was your day on a 1-10?
    • High/low: what was the best/worst part of your day? Then here’s the pro-tip: EMPATHIZE when you respond. “Wow! That sounds awesome!” “Oh man…I hate that you have to deal with that.”
    • Do you need anything from me tonight?
    • What’s something we can do together as a family this weekend/next time we’re both off?
    • If kids- Did anything happen with the kids today I need to know about?
    • Whatever else comes to mind….the sky’s the limit! But not too many…not too fast.

If you want to discus this topic or any other related to individual, marital, or family counseling, just contact me here! Appointments available in Baton Rouge, LA and Walker, LA.

Low Sex Drive and How to Fix It

A Sexy Series: Part Three
When You Don’t Desire Sex.

So far we took a quick look at the types of sexual issues people want to work through in counseling as well as tips to set your relationship up for a win/win sexually.

Today I want to look at what some might call low libido, lack of sexual desire or low sex drive. When you’re not wanting to have sex, here are some of the usual suspects…

Reasons why we SAY we say “no” to sex.

  1. We are tired.
  2. We are stressed.
  3. We have a headache.
  4. We ate too much Chinese food. ūüôā

It’s absolutely ok to say “no” from time to time for whatever reason you so choose. The problem comes when you turn down perfectly good sex almost as a default, without considering your motivation for doing so or the impact of the choice on your relationship.

Reasons why we REALLY say “no” to sex.

  1. Emotional hang-ups.
    • Depression.
      • One of the DSM-V diagnostic criteria for depression is loss of interest or pleasure. Maybe your disinterest in sex has more to do with your mental health than anything else? Depression is a road that doesn’t have to be walked alone, and dealing with this issue may truly open you up to a wealth of possibilities that will positively effect both you and your partner.
    • Unprocessed negative experiences in your past might still be present.
      • This may be a sexual trauma or just feelings of guilt for one reason or another. Either way, it is something that can be addressed in counseling and there’s just no reason why your past needs to cast a dark shadow on what could be a dynamic and healthy physical relationship with your spouse.
  2. Relational hang-ups.
    • Power struggle. “That’s all he wants me for.” “He isn’t doing what I need so why should I do what he needs?” If you’re in at standoff in terms of desiring to meet each other’s needs, one things for sure: everybody loses. Change the tone of your relationship and focus on meeting the other’s needs. Something magical happens. Everyone’s needs are met with enthusiasm…without anyone having to demand.
    • Not really “feeling it” towards your spouse. Maybe your love has gone a little cold and you don’t thrill at your spouse’s touch like you used to. This solution can typically be found in one of two places: your prayer life or your self-talk. Both of those generally require some specific coaching and I’d love to talk with you more about this in person.
  3. Physical hang-ups.
    • Technique issues.
      • If you didn’t know by now…sex is not like you see on TV. Sorry. Whether it’s a communication issue or a mechanics/technique issue, there are a lot of really great resources available to help you get past what is holding you back.
    • You’re not happy with your body.
      • Body image issues can definitely do a number on libido. Ultimately, it all boils down to two choices: come up with a plan to get happy about what you’re working with or come up with a plan to do something about it. I can definitely help you out with one of these and have some great resources to help you figure out the other. For starters, these friends of mine.
    • Hormonal issues.
      • Pregnancy, postpartum, pre-menopausal, post-menopausal…all these reasons and more can cause a big shift in libido. Talk to your doctor. There may be an easier solution than you think.
    • Medication side-effect.
      • Everyone is different and it’s hard to trace back which medication might be effecting your sex drive. Your doctor will be very helpful towards this end. For most issues, there are so many options of medications available, it may be as simple as just taking a different birth control pill. For real, ask your doctor. Could be a super easy fix.
    • Pain/Discomfort during sex.
      • There are a few physical conditions (both male and female) which can result in painful intercourse. Each situation is so vastly different, I’m not able to expound upon this point here. But, many can find relief through a team approach between a physician and a therapist.
  4. Spiritual hang ups.
    • Trouble associating sexuality as a pure gift from heaven.
      • For the purposes of this blog, I won’t unpack this much. But suffice it to say: God is pro-sex and if that weirds you out, let’s talk.
  5. Kid sleep habits.
    • Whether you have to fall asleep with your kids to get them to stay in bed, or they start off or end up sleeping in your bed, this can really mess with your sex life. The resolution of this issue isn’t a quick fix, but we can figure out the steps it would take to alleviate this problem. Whether it’s an attachment issue or just a bad habit, we can find solutions that result in happier and healthier bedtime dynamics.
    • Also, and this is not a joke but is a little funny to me…you’d be surprised at how many clients I’ve had that cite “dogs in the bed” as a mood killer! Seriously, Rufus doesn’t need to know everything that goes on in the house. ūüėČ
  6. Boundary Issues.
    • Pornography/masturbation.
      • You and your partner both deserve to be clear on what the boundaries are in your sex life. “Solutions” you’ve come up with over the years may be causing more problems than you’re aware of. I have some pretty clear and easy boundaries that I suggest for most couples, and they leave room for a lot of awesomeness to be had, while elevating the union to its proper, amazingly sacred place.
    • Not being totally closed off to other suitors.
      • What you may see as an innocent flirtation or even being open to the approach of other people is a vote for “the grass is greener” mentality. If you didn’t know already, the grass is greener where you water it. When you water it, the more you’ll love the luscious lawn you have.

The big picture: sex was designed to be awesome. If it’s anything less for you and your partner, don’t take it lying down. Let’s talk.

How To Negotiate Sex

A Sexy Series: Part Two
How to Negotiate Sex

Many people feel like when it comes to the question of “sex?” the answers are “yes” and “no.” But the truth is that there are lots of options along the continuum and a savvy sex partner will be aware of those choices and know how to negotiate with them.

Part One of this series¬†took a quick overview of topics clients frequently discuss in counseling regarding sex. In today’s post, we will look at a few suggestions for negotiating sex that can help increase satisfaction with¬†that¬†component of your relationship. After all, if the sexual aspect of your relationship is on point, it’s a good indication that the other aspects of your life together are rocking and rolling, too.

Rules for Negotiating Sex

  1. Never give a “no” without providing an alternative solution.
    • This seems easy but it goes a long way for reducing the sting of being turned down. “I’m not really feeling up for it right now but how about before work in the morning?” No one likes to be turned down, but if the answer is essentially, “yes but not right now,” then it keeps hurt feelings or resentments at bay.
  2. One says “when,” one says “what.”
    • This¬†idea¬†came from a book I like to recommend frequently to clients. What I like about this suggestion is that it gives everyone a voice in the process. Example: Person A says, “I’d like to connect physically after we get done watching this show.” Person B gets to say, “Awesome! I could be up for _______________.”
  3. Initiate sometimes.
    • If this is an issue for you, and there is a big discrepancy of how often you each initiate, my advice would be to just pick a ratio that is better than you’re doing now, and stick with it. If he initiates three times in a row, you initiate once. Or something to that end. No rules here…just looking for improvement.
    • If you’re a woman, don’t initiate¬†all the time…most men find that emasculating. If you currently initiate all of the time, hold back on that and let him initiate. I know…I know. You’re thinking, “if I quit¬†initiating, we will NEVER have sex.” Just trust me here…it may take longer than you want, but it’ll be a positive move for the power structure of your relationship. If this continues to be an issue, let’s talk about it.
    • If you NEVER initiate, I realize that it’ll feel like a BIG step to do so. But…generally speaking, this is the type of risk with immediate positive results!
  4. Broaden the smorgasbord of options.
    • I believe that there are a LOT of options along the continuum of healthy and holy physical intimacy choices between spouses. We do our relationships a disservice to limit physical intimacy to one or two options. Think in terms of amount of involvement. I could get a lot more specific, but for the purposes of this blog, I’ll just leave it here. This approach is especially helpful¬†in instances like pregnancy or as we age and begin dealing with physical limitations and hormonal changes.

I hope these negotiating tips can serve to spark in you some ideas on how you can answer the “sex?” question with more than just two choices. Next time you feel a “no” bubbling up within you, consider one of these options so that you can move from a “lose/lose” to a “lose/win” with your mate. You’ll both be glad you did!

As always, if you’d like to discuss this topic or any other with me in counseling in Walker or Baton Rouge, this is how to get ahold of me.

Check back soon! Next post we will look at reasons for low sex drive. Feel free to “subscribe” to posts if you don’t want to miss a blog from your favorite therapist. ūüėČ

A Sexy Series

Let’s Talk About Sex
Here’s what you need to know: I talk about sex quite a lot.
In counseling, sex is something clients want to address more often than not. Why? Because people have so many quirks and questions about physical intimacy that need to be addressed, and counseling is a great place to process and find solutions!
I really value sex and its role in relationships. In fact, I can give you quite a good case on how highly God values sex. He created it, after all, and it’s not exclusively for procreation either. (Example: the clitoris. Praise God for his creative care of us. Go ahead and give God a high five and a wink.)
If you’ve got a sex question or issue, we can trouble shoot it together.
Here are some aspects of sex that I regularly discuss with clients:
  • Negotiating sex (the what, when, where, why & how).
  • Making sex a priority in your marriage.
  • What to do with mis-matched sexual interests or levels of desire.
  • Establishing a healthy and biblical theology of sex.
  • Getting the “shame” and “should” out of your sex life.
  • How you can desire sex more.
  • Why it’s always a good time to have sex.
  • Jump starting a flat-lined libido.
  • Processing through negative associations you’ve made regarding sex.
  • Sexual trauma.
  • Sex after menopause.
  • Sex after pregnancy.
  • Body image issues reducing sexual interest.
  • Male and female sexual dysfunction.
  • Reasons you should say “no” to sex (short list).
  • Reasons you should say “yes” to sex (looooooong list).
  • Establishing healthy sexual boundaries.
Over the next few weeks, we will unpack a few of these topics. If you’d like to request a certain topic be covered, feel free to email me here!
If any of this sounds like something you are working through, I’d be glad to set up a time to figure out some solutions. After all, if the sexual component of your relationship is going strong, it brings a lot of positivity to the rest of your relationship.
Daytime and evening counseling sessions are available in Walker, Louisiana and 2 locations in Baton Rouge.

A Wife’s Guide to Valentine’s Day Success

Why Valentines Day, Mothers Day and your Birthday became your worst days of the year…and how to fix it.

After counseling hundreds of clients over the last ten years, I’ve picked up more than a few quirky insights into American marriages. One of them is this: nothing brings on a good fight like a big one-sided holiday. I’m talking Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day, and your birthday.

Let me explain… Christmas is easy because you can focus on others. Other people’s birthdays or special holidays aren’t an issue because you are in the giving role. But one-sided holidays tend to reek havoc on a woman’s sense of relational satisfaction.

In two words:
Unmet Expectations.

Wives, does this sound familiar? Your first holiday in the relationship was probably pretty painless. Maybe even enjoyable. You weren’t sure what to expect and men usually take the occasion to show off. This trend often continues through dating and engagement.

It’s the first big holiday after you’re married that tends to fall a little flat. Expectations have been set by this point. You’re expecting the celebration to have taken some planning or a degree of thoughtfulness…like he did when you were dating.
Instead, you get gifts bought on the way home and an invite to eat “wherever you’d like.”
The result: you probably resemble a cross between the hungry velociraptor from Jurassic Park and Medusa before her morning coffee.

Your strategy: You take matters into your own hands and instruct. This is the “let me teach you how to be awesome at gift giving like I am” move. For Father’s Day or his birthday you plan the most amazing gift he’d never even dream of fulfilling for himself. You think (or even say? Bless your heart), “see how easy this is?! Just PLAN! Just PAY ATTENTION to what I like.”

Next holiday, the assumption is, “surely he learned his lesson from last time and plus I taught him how to do it since then.”
The result: he didn’t remember or take your instruction. Rage blackout…take 2.

Your strategy: For the next holiday, you try to get out ahead of it. You think, “I will tell him exactly what I want him to do so that I won’t be so disappointed.” Still shell shocked from last time, he thinks, “she doesn’t want EXACTLY what she said…there’d be no surprise.” Or perhaps the more classic, “I don’t want to be told how to love my wife. I will give her what I want to give her.”
The result: that random coffee mug you mentioned liking at Starbucks one time last summer. You aren’t even drinking hot coffee anymore. You only drink cold brew because of the low acidity is better for your IBS. Hasn’t he noticed you stopped drinking hot coffee?!?!

The next holiday…if you make it that far…you decide to proactively kill off the part of you that wants attention. You say, “just don’t buy me anything.”
The result: he knows that’s a trick. He buys you another coffee mug. Because he still doesn’t remember that you don’t drink hot coffee any more, he just remembers that last time he bought you a mug you liked from before and that makes him feel smart. He doesn’t remember the other mug fiasco. For him, that situation just went into the category of “vague sense of failure and disappointment.”
The result: sobbing for a month. Your poor IBS. The coffee mug symbolizes all that is wrong in your marriage and the world at large.

Henceforth, you will find other things to do on holidays that are supposed to be about you or you continue in vain to kill off that part of you that still hopes for him to finally come through on these special events. You disengage to self-protect. (This feels like a safe move but it only leads to isolation.) When the holidays roll around, no one makes any sudden moves and the day comes and goes¬†with a sense of frustration, loneliness, dread, and resentments going both ways. “I can’t ever make her happy. Nothing I do is good enough. Her expectations are like moving targets. I might as well not even try.”

Here’s how to fix it.

  • Meet efforts with enthusiasm.
    • Appreciate the small things.
  • Understand that you’re not married to a woman so he’s never going to think and feel like you do. And that’s ok.
    • Different isn’t wrong.
  • Find something to praise. You’ll get more of it.
    • If a man feels like a failure in what he’s already attempting to do for you, why would he take the risk of doing even more? He¬†doesn’t want to¬†feel like a bigger failure and disappointment.¬†Instead, he will do less. This serves to protect himself and the relationship from further injury. The more you criticize, the more you encourage this mindset. Praise works the opposite way.
  • Approximations of the goals count.
    • You won’t see a total transformation in one step. But steps towards the desired outcome count for a lot and should be praised accordingly. Praise in a way he’ll remember. ūüėČ You’ll ease up the tensions and focus on the positive between the two of you. Before you know it, your bad gift giver will be unafraid to put efforts in because you have changed the environment by being pleased with his attempts. That’s key. If you can arrive at this sweet spot, things will only get progressively better.

A man who already feels like he’s made you happy will want to do more to make you happy.
A man who feels like he’s already disappointed you won’t do anything more because he won’t risk feeling more like a disappointment than he already feels.

So this Valentine’s Day, capitalize on praise in the small things, a positive attitude, and finding a memorable way to encourage his efforts. It’s good for your man. It’s good for your relationship. It’s good for you.

Contact me for any relationship or individual counseling needs. Offices in Walker and Baton Rouge.

Photo credit goes to my friend, Katie Barnett of Vivid Dream Photography, LLC