ERP 421: How To Keep The Fun & Positivity Alive In Relationship — An Interview With Arlene Pellicane

By Posted in - Podcast April 23rd, 2024 0 Comments

Keeping the flame of passion alive in a relationship can be a challenging endeavor, especially amidst the demands and stresses of everyday life. From managing work responsibilities to navigating household chores and family commitments, couples often find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of obligations, leaving little room for fun and positive connections.

In this episode, we explore actionable strategies and valuable insights aimed at addressing the challenge of maintaining fun and positivity in a relationship. From practical tips to infuse joy into everyday moments to revitalizing the bond between partners, we offer guidance on reigniting the spark and fostering a deeper connection amidst life’s demands.

Arlene Pellicane is a renowned author and speaker specializing in marriage and parenting. She has been featured on numerous media outlets such as The Today Show, Wall Street Journal, Focus on the Family, Fox & Friends, TLC’s Home Made Simple, FamilyLife Today, and The 700 Club. Arlene also hosts the Happy Home podcast and has authored popular books like “31 Days to a Happy Husband” and “31 Days to Becoming a Happier Wife”. Alongside her husband James of over 25 years, Arlene resides in the San Diego area with their three children: Ethan, Noelle, and Lucy.

In this Episode

06:43 Arlene’s journey from being raised in a loving family to becoming a champion of healthy relationships.

10:55 Cultivating daily intimacy.

14:42 Nurturing connection through fresh perspectives.

21:58 The importance of scheduling regular dates in maintaining a thriving relationship.

26:44 Rediscovering playfulness and adventure, especially for couples who may have lost touch with these aspects of their connection.

30:15 Strategies for couples feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of planning weekly or bi-monthly dates.

33:13 Cultivating connection through regular getaways.

40:13 The importance of maintaining a positive focus on connection during designated relationship rituals like date nights and getaways.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Prioritize daily connection by setting aside dedicated time each day to focus on your partner without distractions.
  • Schedule weekly dates to nurture your relationship, even if they’re simple activities, to maintain a sense of novelty and anticipation.
  • Discuss and agree upon date night activities together, ensuring both partners feel engaged and excited about the plans.
  • Rotate the responsibility of planning dates to share the load and encourage mutual investment in the relationship.
  • Approach sensitive topics at appropriate times, avoiding discussing them during designated connection rituals like date nights or getaways.
  • Plan regular getaways, whether big vacations or simple 24-hour escapes, to rejuvenate your bond and create lasting memories.
  • Unplug during getaways to fully immerse yourselves in each other’s company and deepen your connection.
  • Don’t hesitate to initiate positive changes in the relationship, even if your partner isn’t initially on board, fostering a culture of mutual respect and understanding.

Mentioned

National Marriage Week USA

Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

31 Days to a Happy Husband: What a Man Needs Most from His Wife (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Atomic Habits (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

ERP 089: How to Use Love Languages to Strengthen Connection

ERP 090: How to Use Love Languages to Strengthen Connection – Part Two

Connect with Arlene Pellicane

Websites: arlenepellicane.com/about

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nationalmarriageweek

X (twitter): https://twitter.com/marriageweekusa

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nationalmarriageweekusa

Podcast: podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-happy-home-podcast-with-arlene-pellicane (Apple Podcast)

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Arlene, thank you for joining us.

Wonderful to be with you, Jessica.

Yes. I appreciate just it seems as though you are really reaching out to really support people and a message of supporting, healthy relating. I am so excited about our conversation.

Yes, I hope that every listener will feel encouraged. That they’ll feel: “I feel better after listening to that. I feel encouraged and supported.” That is what we’re here to do.

Nice. Before we get to talking about what we’re going to talk about today, and for people who are just meeting you, what would you like to share, as far as what got you interested in supporting people in this way of healthy relating and relationship?

I am an only child who was raised by a mom and dad who were very loving – loving towards each other, and loving towards me – and I kind of felt like: Oh, that’s just the way the world is. Because that’s the way that my world was, growing up. My parents are Chinese, they were raised in Indonesia, and then they came to America, and I was born here in America. So this was my world. As I grew up, I realized, well, there are a lot of people who didn’t grow up with a loving mom and dad, who both loved each other and loved you as a child. So that became very much my heart of how can I help and encourage people to build loving relationships? So that, first of all, they can experience that long-term love and goodness from that relationship, and then they could pass that along to their children, and etc. So that’s kind of the heart of the interest was, hey, I have found this to be a really good thing, this whole marriage and family thing, and even the parenting thing, even the baby years and the teenage years and all those things. So how can I help come alongside families to help them experience the same thing? 

I have a weekly podcast called The Happy Home Podcast. I always like to end it with: “You don’t have to come from a happy home to create one.” Even though I came from a happy home, and I’m doing what I can to replicate that, I’ve met so many couples who did not come from a happy home, but then they’ve realized: Okay, there needs to be changes. and you see how amazing that you can grow and you can change and you can stop bad patterns. So that’s what I have devoted my life to, in terms of the podcast addresses that, and my books are trying to help people have a happier home. That doesn’t mean a perfect home. That doesn’t mean like everything is like roses in your marriage. But you know what it means to come from a happy home, that it is somewhere that is stable, somewhere that is loving, somewhere that is more encouraging than not, etc. So that’s been my joy. 

My husband and I have been married for 25 years, and have really truly enjoyed. I was the girl, in high school and in college, who was like, I’m watching all the romantic movies and I’m wondering, where is he? So it was like, where is he? So finally, after grad school, after working, and you get married and you wait for that and you finally get married. It’s like, you treasure that. So that has been lovely. We have three kids, one in college and two in high school.

Thank you for sharing a little bit about you and your journey. It sounds as though, if I’m understanding, your real promotion and your real regard for the emotional glue, in this happy kind of healthy, loving connection, and know that it’s not always perfect, but that there’s a warmth and a safety that supports. It’s like the fascia, when you think about the body and the fascia that connects. It’s this connective tissue, this connective glue that supports. Am I hearing you?

I love that. My husband is going to come home today, I’m going to be like, you are my fascia! I like this very much. I have new language. Thank you, Jessica. I love that. 

Wow, that sounds super sexy. 

Right? Come to me, fascia, we’re like a glue together.

Yeah. Well, the connection, there’s an interconnectedness. You’re talking about the family and the children and the intergenerational importance of just how we all show up for each other, and that responsiveness and that being present, that’s so key. I really appreciate your message about even if you didn’t have these circumstances, or the optimal, good enough parenting and the happy home, that you have the opportunity to create this; you can learn these skills, you can earn a secure attachment and secure functioning in relationship. 

Absolutely. 

Yeah, wonderful. All right, well, let’s dive in. Just before we got started here, you were saying let’s talk about the rhythms. So when you speak about rhythms in relationship, and we’re talking more specifically about romantic relationship in adulthood, tell us a little bit about what you’re referring to? 

Yeah. So one organization I work with is National Marriage Week, and National Marriage Week happens every year from February 7th to 14th. One of the things that is taught at the National Marriage Week, which I think is so beautiful, is this rhythm of: connect daily, date weekly, and get away regularly. And what does this look like, daily connection? This means, you know how when you’re first dating someone, you just cannot wait until you see them that day, or that you call them or you text them, or there’s some kind of connection between you. You’re just like: Oh hey, I’ve connected! You’re so happy. But you put a couple years into that, a decade or two into that, and sometimes it can feel like, let me avoid you so that I can get on with my day, instead of let me connect with you. So it’s just this return to, hey, every day, let’s make sure that we’re looking at each other. 

My husband and I, when we were first dating, he was looking into my eyes and he said, do you know what I see when I look in your eyes? I was like, what do you see? He said, I see the letters AV, your contact lenses say AV. I popped those things out that night, and I was like: Oh my word, they really say AV on the rim. And he was looking at my eyes so closely that he saw the lenses in my eyes. You don’t have to be that intent maybe. But isn’t it funny? Just think when you were first knowing one another, how intently your attention was on that person. But then what happens? Life gets busy, you’re looking at your phone instead of your spouse, instead of your loved one, and that happens. So it’s returning back to that daily, even if it’s a one. Can you imagine even for 30 seconds, if there are no phones present, no agenda present, no to-do lists? But you’re just looking at your loved one for 30 seconds and just saying, how are you doing today? Like, what was great about your day, what was awful about your day? Is there anything that you’re dreading or you’re looking forward to this week? And you’re really looking at them. So this doesn’t take hours, you can literally take one minute and do this. But it is a daily connection. 

We talk a lot about the five love languages, which is by Dr. Gary Chapman, and he and I have written books like Screen Kids together. The love languages, you can certainly look that up, five love languages, if you’re not familiar with that. But it’s basically that people give and receive love in different ways. So my husband loves physical touch. So when we were dating, he’d be like, do you want me to rub your feet? I’m like, gross! Like, why would I want you to touch my feet after we’ve been on a date? I was like, that is disgusting! But then in time, I realized, oh my goodness, it’s because you are physical touch, and you want me to rub your feet. It’s like, I finally understood why you kept offering to do that. So our daily connection is, I will rub my husband’s feet many nights, not every night. But many nights, I will rub his feet, and he will listen to me talk, because talking is mine; words of affirmation. He will tell me nice things about me, like: I appreciate you rubbing my feet so much, you looked very beautiful today honey, I love you, whatever. So he’s giving me my love language and I am giving him his, and that’s just this little daily ritual we have. I kind of tease him that he just hangs his feet over the bed just outside of the blanket, and it is kind of like a puppy dog, like: Please, please, see me, see me. I’m like: Okay, here I come, I’ll rub your feet and we will talk to each other. So daily connection.

Well, it seems really important what you’re describing, and having the ability to see each other in a real present way, almost see each other with the beginner’s mind. Because when we look at a relationship of 25 or 30 or however many years, we as humans typically get a little bit more automatic and automate things and get into habit. If we even think about driving, if you’re a proficient driver, one could even be in autopilot. So it’s this human tendency to want to automate, to be efficient. Yet, we don’t want to automate our relationship. So often, especially if there’s many tasks or different demands, it’s easy to be focused otherwise, or think that we know about our significant other, when really, they’ve experienced something new that day, or they’re a different person, or feeling something. As you mentioned, having feelings of certain sorts. So to be able to really have pause, prioritize that connection, and you’re giving some examples, especially referencing love language, so it really hits the mark. 

But before I even respond to that, is there anything you want to encourage people to keep this a little bit more alive? Because even the question of how are you, highs and lows, roses and thorns, people can feel routine about it. So is there anything? Even the eye-gazing, like looking, there’s something that when we are familiar with it, it’s just this human tendency to just get into the routine of it. So is there anything you recommend or want to encourage people to do here?

Believe me, I need this just like everybody else, for sure. So that same National Marriage Week at MarriageWeek.org, there is a couple’s connection plan, it’s free, that you can download. It gives you these new prompts, new things to talk about. The couple’s connection plan, MarriageWeek.org. But I think questions like, what podcasts are you listening to lately? That opens it up, because all of a sudden, now the person is talking about what we’re talking about right now. So what podcasts have you been listening to lately? Like, what movie are you really looking forward to seeing? Where should we travel next, whether it’s somewhere really close or somewhere really far away? Is there a new restaurant that we want to try in town that’s some kind of food that we’ve never eaten, or we haven’t had in five years? My son is in college, and he has this roommate, and it’s adorable. His roommate eats very limited things. So it’s like, we introduced him to Thai food. He had never eaten Thai food in his whole life, and he’s just like, what is this? So it’s just little things like that that I think are fun. It is that curiosity. My husband and I, we had talked about trying to go to a ballroom dancing class, and we had put it off and put it off and put it off. Finally, we went, and we just stink at it. But we just kept going, and now it’s really cute. Although older couples try to help us, and it’s adorable, and we love it. 

Free Side view of happy African American homosexual couple of men touching foreheads on blurred background of glowing lights Stock Photo

“Trying to do new things, so that you have new things to talk about. Reading new things, listening, podcasts, etc., new things. Put a marriage event in your calendar, where you are going somewhere for some kind of marriage retreat, or maybe a talk or something. So that you do have new things to talk about.”

I think you’re right, that even the questions we ask, to make yourself think of a new question to ask, which I know can be challenging. 

Well, thank you for responding to that. I hear the curiosity and really giving some space to wonder and be in the unknown of what do I not know? Or were you surprised by anything today? Or did anything disappoint you? Or just maybe a different question. Then I really love their recommendation of bringing in something novel and new. There’s just a little bit of a dopamine hit that we get when there’s that new learning, and to share that with a significant other. Even as simple as a new restaurant or something, and maybe even scarier and bigger risk of going to a ballroom. I mean, that’s not a comfortable thing sometimes to get outside of that comfort zone. And how fun that you’re doing that. 

With that, Jessica, it’s also the listening. I feel like we’ve been married 25 years, and we’re just kind of starting to learn how to listen. I thought we were really good at listening, and then we’ll be learning more about it and you realize: Oh, I’m pretty much listening to get enough information, so that I can respond correctly, or that I can get to my response. So that listening to our spouse without any agenda, without trying to shift it to now it’s about me. But instead, just really listening and, and just being quiet, and just listening. Then really trying to understand, like: Oh, well, I didn’t even realize you were so anxious about this, or whatever it is. That I think even evokes a lot of newness, because you think you know what your spouse is going to say. I do that all the time. I complete his sentences, because I think I’m so clever, and I know exactly what he’s going to say. Lately, he’s been like: Oh, you’re doing it again. I’m like: I’m sorry, let me shut my mouth. Because he’ll say, do you want to try again, do you want to try again, do you want to try again? So I think listening also is a really key component to that.

Well, and I think it goes to what we’re already talking about, and there’s a deepening and enriching in that space in listening. Because sometimes when there’s a lot on the agenda, or tasks that need to get talked about, or decisions needed to get made, it’s like: Okay, you go, and then I’m going to go on, and then you go. So we’re kind of fielding the ball. But if there’s a real listening and a deepening and just holding space, sometimes the person who’s speaking will say things that you never thought they would say, because there’s space and there’s room. 

I will agree with you. I’ve known my husband since 2006, so it’s like 18 years, and been together in relationship. I still learn things about him that I’m like: Oh, now I get it, or that makes sense. It’s like a deepening. I knew it, but knowing it on a deeper level, just having those moments where I’m really contemplating. To your point, not only listening, but imagining and really trying to understand more deeply. This just brings that connection. To have somebody on the receiving end really see and contemplate it and be attended to, that’s a real gift. 

It is a gift, and an easy gift to give. It doesn’t cost any money, it’s about the same amount of time. So it’s a good gift to give.

It is. Then to just, again, reflect back to you around the love language, and knowing our partner’s love language, the ways in which they feel most loved and most comfortable, it’s their primary native language around love. To have awareness around that and being supportive of that, that that can typically be that much more potent, if we’re going to put the effort in. 

Okay, I can direct people to resources, the book and other podcasts about that. So thank you for pausing with me, you were going to go onto weekly dates, what were you going to say there?

I love to encourage people, Jessica. If you just shoot for the weekly, you’ll probably get one or two a month, and that’s absolutely fine. We give you thumbs up, that’s a go signal. Go for it. It is that same idea of trying to find something novel, doing something new. Having something on your calendar makes you know: Hey, even though we have a really busy, nut life, I know we’re going to connect on Saturday night, or I know we can look forward to that Friday night. So there is the anticipation of it, like: Oh, this is fun, and I’m looking forward to it. There’s the novelty of it. I heard one counselor say, now make sure when you’re on a date, it’s not like: Oh, I had a nice time. He said, you have your nice time with your Aunt Bertha. You’re supposed to have kind of like an adventurous time or a fun time or a sweet time, make sure you kiss and do the things you used to. Of course, not every date is going to be like this. So please understand that not every date is like: Wow, that just sent me to the moon! Some may feel very ordinary, and that’s okay. Because you just have to keep at it. There’s going to be some that are extra special, and some that you just did, and that is good. 

Brad Wilcox at the National Marriage Project, and he’s a sociologist at the University of Virginia. So they surveyed couples of if they go on dates, and they found that 52% of couples say they don’t go on dates, which means they say we either don’t date or maybe just a few times a year. Then 48% of couples said we do date at least once or twice a month. So it’s a lot of people that are not dating. But you can imagine the ones that did report were dating, you can imagine that they want to spend time together, they’re willing to put a little money into it and time, they prioritize their relationship over their other activities. So it makes sense that these people that are dating would have a boost, a 15% boost, in things like overall satisfaction, communication, good sex life, not likely to divorce. 

Free A Couple Holding a Paper Box  Stock Photo

“One of the simplest things you can do for your marriage, for that relationship, is to date regularly, and to not forget that part. So it’s not just like, we’re business partners, but we still enjoy each other’s company.”

And when you fall off the wagon, which my husband and I do many times, you get busy, things happen. It’s like: Oh my word, three or four weeks have gone by, and we haven’t gone on a date. It’s okay, then you just go like, let’s put it on the schedule for next week. And when you’re in the super busy seasons, your date might look like, we are going to walk around with a dog for half an hour, and talk and kiss at the end of the road. That might be the date for that week, and that is totally fine. But it’s on purpose, and you schedule it, and you look forward to it.

Well, thank you for acknowledging just there’s a couple components to a date. Because I do think people get a little bit more specific around what constitutes a date, and you just gave a little bit more range. That it could be something simple, that it’s on purpose, we schedule it, and we have some connection and intention around it. Are there other things that constitute a date in your mind?

I do think that whole planning and that anticipation, let’s say it’s something really small. It’s like, we’re going to go to McDonald’s alone. But then it’s three days before, I can’t wait to go to McDonald’s alone. So you make the most of it, whatever it is. Let it take its course and make the most of it. I think it’s just the acknowledgement that I still want to be with you, and let’s carve out time to be together, I think that part of it. Even when you don’t feel that way, so sometimes, obviously, you feel that way, like: Oh baby, I really can’t wait to be with you. And some days, you don’t feel that way. But now, it’s like you made a vow. That’s part of our Love Beyond Words, which is the theme for National Marriage Week this year. It is this idea of it’s not just words, but I’m going to back these up. That when I said I’m going to be with you, till death do us part, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. That means when I don’t feel like going on the date, I’m still going to go on the date with you. When I don’t feel like listening, I will still listen to you. That’s all very good for us, to say I can look at someone else and serve them. Guess what, when you love someone like that, wow, you are the winner! Because you’re the one that your heart will fill up with so much love, because you’re like, oh my goodness, I did the right thing, even when I didn’t feel like it. That’s such a good thing.

Yes, when we can show up with that generosity and also be present, that we might actually be the ones receiving when we think we’re showing up for the other. I love that. It does occur to me that you’re referencing play and fun, which I think is really important. I see your smile when you’re talking about this. For couples that lost touch, because my sense is that if one’s a little bit more in the crew, there’s a little bit more of a repertoire of like, what’s fun in the current phase of things or current season? But if a couple is out of habit or lost touch, they might actually not know what’s fun. They’re just classic, dinner and a movie, or fancy dinner or something. That might actually not feel so fun. What do you encourage people, or do you have any tips that you want to mention for this?

Yeah. Let’s say you’re in this place, it doesn’t mean like: Oh my word, next Friday, we have to have a cruise to Mexico. You don’t have to make this huge leap. It might be just this little thing. So on MarriageWeek.org, you can find a date night idea list that has all different things. So you can certainly look at that. It might be as simple as: You know, sweetheart, we want to go on a date, but I don’t know what to do. Do you know what to do? They’re like, I don’t know what to do. So they say: Okay, let’s both get a piece of paper, and let’s just write 10 things that we kind of like. So this could be anything from going to the farmers’ market, to seeing a movie, to going fishing, to watching a ballgame, to seeing a concert, to visiting grandchildren, whatever. Hiking, biking, knitting, whatever it is. So you both make your lists separately, and then come together and see, does anything come together? If you’re super lucky, one or two of those things, you’ll have those. So you’ll know those are a go. Then it might be like: Okay, you know what, you love football, I’d be happy to go with a game with you. Oh, you really want to go to this farmer’s market, I will walk around with you. So you kind of play like: Hey, let’s find what things we can do together that we both like. Then you also play the game like: Well, I’ll just do this because I don’t hate it, and you really like it. Then you do that for each other. 

I think it’s ways to grow as a person, and what you’re doing is you’re preferring the other person. Even if those are really small gains, over time, that speaks a lot to your partner. Like, wow, look at them, they’re showing up! My husband loves to camp, and I never. Camping to us was like, stay at the hotel, walk around the lake, and sleep on your nice pillow and go in your nice bathroom. So those first times of sleeping in the tent or whatever, that was really hard. But we’ve come to compromise that there’s some times we’ve gotten a cabin, and then there’s some times we have gone backpacking. And it is good. Obviously, my husband does say you have veto power, so you are able to say I draw the line here. You can do that. 

Free Man in Gray Suit Jacket Looking at Woman in White Wedding Dress Stock Photo

“As much as you can, try what the other person likes, and that’ll open up all sorts of new things for you.”

Yeah, it’s a generative cycle that when we can start to engage, that possibly we’ll get at new ideas or we’ll recognize: Oh, I had a little more capacity for this than I thought, and just a little bit more range. That gives more opportunities to have fun together, rather than so lost touch or narrow. I wanted to ask about the date, weekly dates, or if it happens twice a month. Do you recommend any strategy for couples that feel challenged by the load of planning? Or feeling like one is a little bit more of the planner, and it typically ends up falling on the other end? Because that can start to feel not so good.

Yes. If the planner is feeling like, man, I do not like planning so much, then that planner, I think, can say to the other: You know what, sweetheart, I am typically the one who plans all these things, but I am not having enough time to do this good. So why don’t we do every other date, or maybe I plan two and you plan one? Then the planner, let’s say your spouse or your partner, plans this really dumb date, and you’re like, this was awful! Then you need to be quiet about that. You cannot criticize and say like: This was an awful restaurant, you picked an awful movie, I hate sitting by the water. You need to not complain, and you just need to say, thank you so much for planning this day. So obviously, if you’re the one planning it all, you’re the idea person, and you’re all into this, and then your spouse really isn’t. So then don’t criticize them, because then they’ll never want to do it again and it’s back on your plate. So if you don’t want it back on your plate, then you need to say: Thank you, this was great! Guess what, your spouse is going to get better at that. Like, in a year, your spouse is going to kind of tune in. The more specific you can be with your spouse to say like: Oh, I really loved that, what we did. They’ll get it, like: Oh, this is what this person likes, I’m going to work on that. So I think that’s a nice way to do it is to swap back and forth. 

Free Two Women Sleeping Together Stock Photo

“Even though we have been talking about creativity and novelty, if you’re in the stage where it’s like that is a lot of work, then my goodness, just pick a restaurant and a pretty lake, and just go to the restaurant, sit by the lake for half an hour, and come home. It is okay, you don’t have to burden yourself with trying to outdo what you did last week.”

You don’t have to do that. Take the stress out of it. Because this is supposed to be an anticipation of fun, not an anticipation of like: Oh my word, I’m having 10 people over for dinner tonight, and I’m so stressed. It’s not supposed to feel that way, so then you’re not planning it right.

Exactly. I really appreciate your encouragement that even if it wasn’t what you love, that perhaps you can give feedback for learning that: Oh, I really liked that part, or I want more of that, or that felt good. It’s just helping in a positive way, give specifics and give opportunity for that learning. 

Fantastic. Then you mentioned regular getaways. 

Yes, you can see this daily connection, this weekly dating, and then the regular getaways, whether it is like: Whoa, the big vacation to Europe that we’re planning and we’re saving for, and we’re so looking forward to! That can be definitely, that has so much power. Because all the years or months you’re anticipating it, it’s like: Wow, this is so exciting! So you get to ride all that anticipation. Then you do the big trip, and it’s wonderful, and then you have all the memories of like: Oh, remember when we did this. So that actually, to me, is a very worthwhile investment to save money for, to have that big dream trip, to have the escalation of anticipation doing it, and then all that memory dividend as you get older. 

Now that may not be in the cards for everyone, and honestly, that’s okay too. Because whatever it might be, like: Oh, I’ve never seen Chicago, or I’ve never seen New York, or I’ve always wanted to see the Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, or I want to visit the National Parks. Like, whatever is your thing that you really would like to do, there’s probably something that is within your reach financially, that you can do and really look forward to. So I encourage you have that high point that you’re saving for and working for you. That’s a really beautiful thing to do together. 

Then on a more regular basis, just think within 15 minutes to one hour from where you live is probably a nice hotel, or a nice little BnB, or something that is scenic or just a change of pace, that you can go to, and just that 24 hours away; away from your phone, away from your responsibilities at work, away from your children, your grandchildren, whatever it is. That is like gold. I just talked to a mom, and they all have young kids, and she’s like: Wow, we hadn’t been away together for five years. And when we were together for 24 whole hours, it was like, why have we not done this before? This is amazing. 

So let’s say you’re working and you think I can’t get away from work, well, why don’t you work until noon, and then at noon, go to your getaway, stay all day long, have that morning with your spouse, be back for the next day afternoon. Guess what, you have not missed a day at work, but you have been gone for a full 24 hours. So work it in once a year, go for this little 24-hour break. If it’s not viable financially, then it could be like working with another family and doing like: you watch my kids for this year and we’ll be alone, and then we’ll watch your kids in six months as you guys can be alone. But do something, it really is attainable, where you’re just thinking how can we get 24 hours in a row by ourselves? That is a worthwhile goal. 

Absolutely, and there’s something that happens with that more intensive time. You’re speaking about unplugging, not having the normal rhythm or the routine. But also to have this new environment or the concentration of time and connection that is really nourishing on a deeper level.

That’s right. If you’re watching Netflix for eight of those hours, that’s not going to help, because you could do that at home. So you need to do it where it’s like: Wow, we are so unhurried, we have this huge swath of time. Because we don’t have responsibilities, we’re not looking at social media or at news. We have all this time to talk to each other, do an activity we love together, whatever. So that’s super important to unplug during your getaway.

Yeah, just seeing the sunset, or just being in this place of being together and what occurred there. Well, it is interesting, as we’re talking, this is likely incredibly supportive for any couple. Also for the couple that’s experiencing perhaps conflict or difficulty or challenges, this is still really important, and it might be difficult to overcome any protective layers, blocks, things that are running interference. Is there anything you want to say to people who feel like this might be harder to reach or access, given the dynamics? 

Yeah. I think the same rhythm of this effort to daily connect and to date and to get away, we want to make it. That if you play this movie, and if the relationship dissolves, where’s that going to take you? That is not necessarily the place you want to go either. So if the intention is we’re going to make this relationship work, then these rhythms of daily connection and weekly dates and yearly getaways, they’re going to push the needle towards that for you. So don’t give up on that. I would say, make that expectation low, and here’s what I mean by that. So when you go on the date, don’t expect like: Oh my word, this is going to change everything! Like, we’re going to go on this date, and all of a sudden, it’s like an interpreter will be with us, and we’ll all of a sudden begin to understand each other. Then you’ll come home and you’ll be disappointed, and you’re like: Ah, there was no magic, and they’re still the same person, blah, blah. But you have this faith, that no, as we do this, we will connect and we will get better at this, and we’ll get 1% closer to each other. If you keep becoming 1% closer to each other, in two years, you’re going to be like this is a different marriage. 

So hang in there with that long-term love, hang in there and keep doing these things. Don’t expect that instant feedback of like: Whoa, that fixed everything! But just look for that 1%. Atomic Habits, James Clear, he just talks about that 1% of growth. Really, in marriage, that helps us so much I think, instead of thinking like, you’ve got to leapfrog from awful marriage to like: Wow, we’re so insanely happy together. But to realize that that 1% growth over time of: Yesterday, I would have been really upset about that. But today, I’m like: You know what, you have a lot of stress at work, and you’re probably just kind of so rude today because of that stress, and I’m just going to not fight back right now. That’s just like, well, that was a huge gain of what just happened there. So you do that over and over again in time. So just keep working this process of connecting daily, of dating, of getting away regularly, and you’re going to see good things happen in your relationship over time.

Yes, over time and the progression. Arlene, one of the things I’m hearing as you’re speaking about just continuing to be in the practice of this, that it’s a focus. That the intention of connecting and dating and getting away, that the focus is on that. So perhaps in a situation where a topic gets raised, and it’s a sensitive topic, and it could be like: Okay, kids aren’t around, let’s talk about this. But it’s almost as if like: No, let’s put a pin in it. This isn’t about let’s process things that are really difficult. Maybe it is, I don’t know, maybe it is a good time. But help me if I’m hearing you, that there’s the focus and the priority and the intention that gives direction. That it’s not about: Okay, here’s the chance to pick a bone with my partner, or give them critical feedback, or those type of things. The focus is about connecting and bonding. Is that right?

So in terms of date night, like this kind of daily connection and this date night and this getaway, this is like, let’s make this positive. So you’re right, let’s make these experiences positive. But obviously, I’ve heard it said that we can make the small things big, but we can make the big thing small. 

Free Woman Sharing Blanket With Man Stock Photo

“All these little small things, it’s okay, don’t be annoyed about every single little small thing. But then on the same token, the big things that you really do need to talk about that will matter two years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, and then you put that under the rug, that’s going to be a monster in five years.”

So I’m not saying don’t talk about hard things, don’t bring it. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying, during date night, during vacations, make that pleasant. But then, when everyone’s fed and people are happy, be like: Hey, honey, there’s something on my heart that I really want to talk to you about that’s really bothering me. Is this a good time? Or would you rather me talk to you about this tomorrow? Give your spouse that leverage, and a good person – which let’s assume you’re married to a good and decent person – they’re going to say: Oh, I want to know what’s bothering you? But you know what, to be honest with you, really, this is not a good time for me. So let’s do this tomorrow. That’s fine, and then you do need to bring up those hard things. When your mother did this, and you defended her, I felt like you left me in the dust, or whatever it is. So those things need to be talked about; they must be talked about. But a date night might not be the right time.

No. I would suspect and feel that it’s true, in a lot of cases, that when the glue, the bond, and the connection is stronger, there’s more resource and resilience to do hard things and handle it. It’s a little bit more love in the bank, if you will. 

All right, and I know we’re winding down here. I also just want to ask, do you recommend both partners to be on the same page or in agreement about this connection time? I know that when one shifts, that often shifts the dynamic. I’m just curious what you think.

That’s a sweet question. Because I think in any issue of marriage, it’s always easier if you’re both on the same page. So any issue you talk about – money, sex, communication, anything – it’s like, the more we are on the same page, the easier this is going to go. So all of these things will be more lovely if both people are like: Oh, that makes sense, let’s do that together. But if there is just one person that’s listening to this and is like, I’m going to do these daily connections and these dates, and the other person is like, why do we have to change anything, everything’s going fine. Then, you as that instigator, let’s say, you can do these things, and you can make the daily connections. You can say: Hey, look, I want to spend more time with you. I’m going to plan a little dinner date, is that okay? You can do those things. I think that your partner will, as long as they are not smothering or guilt-inducing, that you’re like: I just planned this date for you, and you haven’t planned anything for me in two years, what’s wrong with you? Then that’s probably not going to be very pleasant for that person. But if you make it winsome, and just the whole point of it is not to make the other partner feel guilty or like a loser, but the point of it is, I just want to spend more time with you because I love you and I care about you. Then I think your partner will feel that motive and will enjoy that experience, and will probably start returning in kind what you’re doing to them. 

So don’t be afraid to be first. I know a lot of us, we feel like: Well, I’m not going to do that until you do that toward me, because what have you done for me lately, and I do this, this, and this for you. Just that whole attitude, it just gets us nowhere, because it just puts us in misery. So instead to say: You know what, I am willing to go first to say the nice thing, and I don’t need you to reciprocate right now. I’m just doing it because someone’s got to start, and I’m happy to do it. In time, that will be reciprocated back to you.

Yes, well said. I love that. Don’t be afraid to go first. Was there anything you want to touch on that we didn’t get to?

We’ve covered a lot of ground, which I’m so glad. So MarriageWeek.org, you can find out about National Marriage Week. Statistically, marriage is good for us, it’s good for our nation. We’re so into happiness right now, and what Brad Wilcox and that research shows is that if you have a college degree, you have a boost of I think 84% in happiness. Or 64 actually, 64% in happiness. If you’re college educated, that’s a 88% boost in happiness. But if you’re married, just plain married, you get a 151% boost. And if you’re happily married, you get a five times percent boost than the general public, a 545% happier. So we don’t hear about this in the news; we hear that marriage is hard and marriage is bad, because you’re going to end up in divorce, and it’s difficult, and it’s just a piece of paper. But the social science is showing otherwise, that when you’re in your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and you are in a strong and happy marriage, you are far and above happier, more stable, healthier, financially more well-off, all those things, than the general public. 

Free Man Kissing His Fiancee on the Cheek in the Garden Stock Photo

“It’s not saying you have to be married to be happy. But it’s showing that us thinking that marriage is irrelevant to the younger generation is probably a mistake, because marriage has a great value to society.”

So that’s been kind of fun to find out about. So MarriageWeek.org. Then, my name is Arlene Pellicane, so you can look for my books at ArlenePellicane.com.

I’ll make sure to have those links on today’s show notes. Thank you so much for everything you’ve shared, and all the resources you’ve mentioned throughout the show that can be found on MarriageWeek.com. Then, also your books. Is there a book you want to mention that you want me to particularly highlight?

You know, we kind of talked about technology. So the book I’m going to point you towards is Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life. So it’s just the idea of is your spouse more interesting than your phone, are the real people in your life getting the short end of the stick? So how do we get that technology in balance, so that our relationships are not taking a hit from technology? So that book is Calm, Cool, and Connected.

I’ll make sure to have that link on today’s show notes. Thank you for the tips and the specific encouragement that you’re giving us here today. It’s been a pleasure to have you.

Thank you so much, Jessica.

Signing Off

If you have a topic you would like me to discuss, please contact me by clicking on the “Ask Dr. Jessica Higgins” button here. 

Thank you so much for your interest in improving your relationship. 

Also, I would so appreciate your honest rating and review. Please leave a review by clicking here

Thank you!  

*With Amazon Affiliate Links, I may earn a few cents from Amazon, if you purchase the book from this link.

Please leave a Comment

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication.

Stop the criticism loop, learn new ways to communicate
and strengthen the connection with your partner.

SEND ME THE FREE GUIDE

Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching