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You Don’t Bring Me Flowers

Valentine’s day is fast approaching. I know because this is the time of year that I start to feel the dread coming off in waves from my men friends.

“Should I get her chocolates? Nope, she’s watching her figure.”
“Dinner and a show? We both need to get up early for work the next day.”
“A dozen roses? May as well admit you forgot until the drive home.”

Husbands (the ones who remember Valentine’s day at all) face an annual quest to find the perfect gift. The one that will make her heart melt. The one that will let her know how much she is loved. The one that will get them laid.

It was so easy in the early years of dating and marriage. A group of hand picked wildflowers, a chocolate bar and dinner at (insert your favourite one-level-above-McDonald’s-sit-in-restaurant here) was a gesture so grand that she would be talking up your romantic skills to her girlfriends for weeks.

Now it seems like a chore. Where has the romance gone?

Once again Vanessa and I were listening to the oldies station on the way to church and the heart wrenching love song by Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers came on.

It’s a beautiful sounding song, unfortunately it is a real downer. It speaks of a couple whose romantic flame is all but extinguished. He doesn’t bring her flowers, She doesn’t write him love songs. Sex is perfunctory. And he is pretty sure that he wants out.

What went wrong?

In the beginning there was fire and passion, now they barely know each other. Longing for the past and afraid there is no future. Can they ever recover?

Well, of course!

As long as you are willing there’s always a way back to a healthy functioning marriage.

The couple in the song have failed to maintain their Love Maps (You may have noticed by now that I’m a really big believer in the power of Love Maps.) and, what’s worse, they have moved on to taking each other for granted. Each longing for what the other used to do to make them feel special, and neither willing to make the first move to give the attention their partner craves.

What does this have to do with Valentine’s day? Everything.

Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity for Husbands to decide to show their unbridled love for their wives. If only they knew how.

Well here’s the key…. Don’t guess. Ask!

Seriously, just ask. I promise they are dying to tell you EXACTLY what they want.

This is the most important thing… Ask them today, right now if you can. Ask them what would make this Valentine’s Day the most special, most romantic, most memorable one they’ve ever had.

Then Listen.

Without judgement, without butting in, without any negativity (If the words “Wow, that’ll cost a fortune.” or “You’ve got to be kidding.” come out of your mouth, just move yourself to the couch until July.) Ask for clarification, take notes. give her your undivided attention. After that there is only one thing you have to do to win at Valentine’s Day.

Do EXACTLY what she told you to do.

Nothing more, nothing less. Do it all. Start planning as soon as you finish the conversation (Do. Not. Wait.) Do it with a smile on your face and glee in your heart, and this will be the Valentine’s Day to end all Valentine’s Days.

Until next year.

Making Time To Talk

“We need to talk.” The most dreaded sentence a husband can hear. All men know instinctively that nothing good comes after these words. Our reaction is coded in our DNA through thousands of years of ancestral memory.

The irony is, we really do need to talk. Often. Attentively. Deeply.

To create and sustain a super strong marriage, couples need to communicate well. Not just about logistics, but about their needs, dreams, and yes, their feelings.

Talking about ourselves, how we feel about what’s going on in the world, (what’s going on in the house for that matter) about our dreams, our regrets, our favourite movie, about anything really, with our spouses is how we build those love maps. The bigger the love map, the bigger the relationship can grow.

However, many couples can barely find the time to say hello to each other throughout the day, let alone have a meaningful conversation about anything. What to do?

The answer is surprisingly simple. Make time. It’s important.

I can feel the eye rolls from here. “How do we make time? Our schedules are already full.”

My solution, do things together as much as possible and talk then.

Find times when you are together anyway (if you aren’t already in the same place for at least a half hour every day, take a hard look at your schedules, something needs to change.) and spend that time talking to each other.

Vanessa and I love to take car trips together for instance. It gives us time to really get into a topic while we drive. Over the years the conversations we’ve had in the car have been the catalyst for some of the biggest decisions we’ve made as a couple.

Make it your goal to spend at least 15 minutes a day just talking and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you grow together.

Escape

After listening to reruns of America’s Top Forty from the ’70s on the way to church for the past few months (thanks Max FM) my wife decided to create a playlist based on that music for the house and long car rides.

One of the songs that made the cut was the Rupert Holmes classic “Escape”, (you probably know it better as the Piña Colada song.)
For those of you who didn’t click the link to take a walk down memory lane, and may not know the premise of the song, here is a quick synopsis:

The singer (man) is in a rut in his relationship with his lady and decides that he wants someone new. He checks out the classified ads while reading the paper in bed one night (this is long before Ashley Madison was a thing) and finds his perfect match. He responds with his own ad and arranges a face-to-face at a local bar for the next day. At the bar, waiting in anticipation his “escape” arrives and (spoiler alert!) it’s his “old lady”! She sits down with him they laugh as he realizes that he had the perfect match all along.

So why do I bring this up?

Good question.

What the hero(?) of the song and his wife (live-in girlfriend? This isn’t made clear.) have failed to do is work on their Love Maps.

Gottman Sound Relationship House
Love Maps are the foundation of the Sound Relationship House as defined by Marriage Researcher John Gottman. I speak about them in great detail in my day long Marriage Foundations Workshop as well as in our Couples VIP weekends and my one-one-one coaching. (In case you hadn’t guessed, I think this is pretty important.)

A love map is essentially how well you know your spouse. The larger the love map the stronger the foundation of your marriage, period. Expanding the foundation that your marriage is built on allows you to build both a more stable relationship and a much bigger one as well.

We have “love maps” for everyone in our life, from the Server at Tim Horton’s (you know their name, that they work at Tim’s and they got your order right) to your co-workers, to your friends and relatives, and, of course, your spouse. The closer you are to someone, naturally the larger the love map and the bigger/stronger your relationship is with them.

Your relationship to the guy at Tim’s doesn’t need to be very strong to get your morning coffee, so the love map (foundation) is small. You know more about your co-workers’ lives and your relationship with them is stronger. Even more with your friends and (hopefully) the most with your spouse.

Take some time over the next few weeks to expand your love map for your spouse. Use questions like; “Who were your best friends growing up?” “What did you want to do for the rest of your life when you were 10.” “Who are your 3 best friends now and why?” And maybe even “Do you like Piña Coladas?”