All articles on this website are for your information and assistance. If you wish to use them in a publication, either online or in print, please contact the writer, Susanne Alexander. If you have a need for an article on a particular topic, or wish to interview Susanne for a publication, please contact her.
Susanne M. Alexander
You can also learn about relationships and marriage by reading the many on-line articles that quote Susanne Alexander. See links on the Media Page.
Pre-Marital/ Marriage Columnist, www.simplemarriage.net
~ 10 Tips for Unifying Your Family
~ The Gift of Chastity in Marriage
Powerful Partner Prayer
~ Home Improvement Project
~ Making the Most of Moving Together
~ Tips for Marriage-Friendly Time Choices
~ Renewing Our Marital Friendship
~ Having Tenderhearted Talks
~ 10 Guidelines for Couple Decisions
~ Meeting a Mate's Needs
~ Melt Your Honey's Heart with Character Appreciation
~ 24 Keys to Remaining Friends with Your Spouse
~ Getting Married? Becoming Parents? Going Through Transitions
~ 5 Reasons for Creating Your Own Wedding Vows
~ Are You Ready for Marriage? Simple Tool #1: Humor
Newsletter Article, March 8, 2012
Three Ways to Build a Support Structure for Your Marriage
Do you feel at times like your marriage has more threats against it than support? If so, it’s time for you to intentionally build a support structure that protects the unity and happiness of your marriage partnership.
Number 1: Start with ensuring your commitment to each other and your marriage is strong. Re-visit your marriage vows and assess how you are applying them in your lives today. Look at what is going well in your marriage that you want to keep doing. Let each other know each day, “I choose you”. What else would help you focus on your commitment?
Number 2: The next support structure to build is incorporating marital practices or rituals that strengthen connection and intimacy, according to Dr. William Doherty in Take Back Your Marriage. He says intentional connection rituals are social interactions that are repeated, coordinated, and significant. Actions don’t count in this category if they don’t significantly contribute to your closeness. Is there something in the way you greet one another, stay in communication throughout the day, or do an activity together that is a connection ritual?
The guidelines Dr. Doherty recommends for rituals are as follows: Have a clear transition into the time together and a clear exit. If the activity involves a conversation, avoid logistics talk (who did or will do what, where, when); avoid problem-solving talk; and avoid conflict. Focus on checking in emotionally with one another. (Take Back Your Marriage, pp. 130-133)
Couple practices are often very specific to the two of you. You might always bring a small gift back from trips, make the bed together in the morning, or say prayers each evening with a cup of tea. Think about what would enhance your connection in many ways with one another, and then experiment to discover what works well for you both. Remember that a new practice may initially feel uncomfortable or difficult to integrate into your time together. Be sure you try something out enough times to be certain of your response. Also consider how you are treating your wedding anniversary–do you regard it as a very special event?
Number 3: A third area of focus is building family, friend, and community support. As needed, turn to happily married couples for guidance, or to friends who know and like both of you and will be honest but not destructive. Many marital issues are common ones that others have found solutions for. Make sure when you talk to others that you are sharing the positives in your relationship and not just the negatives. Let them know what types of support you are looking for and when they say something that is not helpful or that undermines your marriage.
Dr. Doherty calls us to begin creating “community-based” marriages. This concept can include:
- Being more open about your marriage
- Asking others about their marriages
- Paying people compliments about their marriages when you see something you like
- Asking a couple who are close friends to be partners with checking in with each other about your marriages
- Attending marriage education and enrichment activities (Also consider studying a book about marriage)
- Working with a mentor couple (Take Back Your Marriage, pp. 167-168)
As you pause and review the health of your marriage, consider who and what can support its well-being. The more intentional you are about taking steps to protect and support your marriage, the greater your chances of having a happy, lasting marriage.
Helpful Resource: Marriage Connection Module (Discussion and Action Guide): “Strengthening Your Marriage Bond” Link: www.marriagetransformation.com/store_modules.htm
Newsletter Article, January 10, 2012,
10 Guidelines for Couple Decisions
The article below on couple decision-making was first published on www.simplemarriage.net/couple-decisions.html.
10 Guidelines for Couple Decisions
Here we go again! Every time we need to discuss something, we have trouble doing it without fighting. Help!
Having effective discussions and reaching peaceful agreements that work are often challenges for married couples. Increasing skillfulness in this area will help your marriage mature in a healthy way and stay strong and happy.
For a couple to reach decisions without conflict, new skills are needed. Here are 10 guidelines for couple decision-making that will help you gradually improve:
- Remind yourselves of the importance of love, harmony, and unity between you. Take a pause break as needed throughout the discussion if this becomes at risk.
- Pray together before starting a serious discussion.
- Focus on a common goal. Agree on what the problem or issue is, so you are not trying to solve multiple problems at once or work at cross-purposes by trying to address different issues.
- Avoid being attached to a particular outcome. Determine to discover the truth together. Avoid stating something as absolute fact. Contribute thoughts towards building consensus and watch for when your perspectives coincide.
- Once you have expressed your thoughts and feelings, visualize them going into a central discussion “pot”. This allows the discussion to flow freely without either of you holding on to what you said.
- Encourage and freely share thoughts, feelings, and opinions with love, respect, and kindness. Strictly avoid criticism or domination of each other. Strive to be open to all expressions without taking offense.
- Carefully monitor and modify your attitude and tone of voice. If underneath your words is criticism, disrespect, or sarcasm, your spouse will hear them, even when your words are positive.
- Listen to each other carefully and without interruption and request clarification as needed.
- Strive for unified decisions, even when it takes longer. At times, consider deferring to the other’s solution, but still look at and carry out the decision as a unified couple one. However, avoid deferring regularly rather than taking the time to thoroughly discuss an issue. Thorough discussions usually result in better and more creative solutions.
- Review significant decisions after some time trying them out to assess whether they are working or whether you need to change direction. Stay aware for when you need to involve someone else in a discussion or decision for maximum effectiveness as well.
Decisions work best when you have equal voices in couple discussions, sometimes known as “couple consultation”. It is vital for you both to express what is on your minds and hearts freely. Either withholding your input or dominating the conversation will both negatively affect the outcome. If one of you tends to be more dominant in speaking, you will need to use self-discipline to give the other an opportunity to speak. The less dominant of you may also need to practice assertiveness. Free expression happens when you are both willing to listen patiently to one another and not interrupt.
It is vital to ensure the purity of your motives and intentions in any discussion. If either of you has a hidden agenda—an unspoken intention or goal—or you want to manipulate one another, the couple consultation is on a weak foundation from the very start. Be very aware if you have developed the habit of manipulation, particularly toward those of the opposite gender. Consultation is not a method to get your own way. You will be wise to help one another in changing this pattern, or it will have a consistent negative effect on your relationship.
Author John Kolstoe shares this wisdom about consulting together:
Since its purpose is to find a solution, consultation should not be used just to gain sympathy or to dump on someone. It’s not consultation when talking degenerates into a gripe session or gossip or complaining. These activities merely rehash the problem, making it worse. Rather than letting the anger out, this sort of dwelling on the unpleasant things of life causes delay, magnifies the hurt, and interferes with long-term healing. … In consultation, the intensity of suffering is diluted while the solution is developing. (Developing Genius, p. 201)
While it is normal and healthy for people to have different perspectives, and couples need to learn how to reconcile them, serious and regular conflict is an indicator of a marriage in trouble. John M. Gottman, PhD, and his team at the Relationship Research Institute in Seattle, Washington, have discovered a number of couple communication behaviors that warn of a conflicted couple (The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work). The warning signs are:
- Starting interactions negatively and harshly
- Criticizing your partner’s character (character attack)
- Showing contempt for your partner (sneering, mocking, being superior)
- Reacting defensively to your partner (a form of blame)
- Shutting your partner out and avoiding communication (stonewalling)
- Experiencing a flood of strong physical responses to your partner’s negativity, such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, or sweating
If you are experiencing serious conflict in your marriage, and find that you are unable to build new skills on your own, please consider seeking professional help from a therapist.
Newsletter Article, September 7, 2011, Sharing Character Appreciation –
A Key to Transforming Relationships
Before marriage, the phrase “I love you” constantly pops out of our mouths. Once we are married, we often end cellphone calls with “love you”, but the frequency of loving expressions tends to slow down. You can pick up the pace and express love to your special one’s heart and soul by including what specifically you appreciate about them and what they do.
To start, carefully observe what’s happening, and look for specific positive actions that you appreciate or admire. Perhaps she remembered to put a tool back after using it. Maybe he washed her car without being asked or reminded. He helped her father with a building project. She took his mother shopping. He helped a child with homework. She got a great promotion at work after completing a project. Whatever you observe, make sure that you are sincere in applauding the action.
Next, link the action to a quality of character. This takes more skill. Some excellent qualities to consider connecting to actions are:
When you use qualities like these in an acknowledgement, it spreads light into the recipient’s heart, encourages them to be aware of and keep practicing the quality, and creates a positive bond of appreciation or love between you.
Here are some examples using the above list:
- “You were very caring with your friend Justin today when he shared he was diagnosed with cancer. I appreciate what a compassionate friend you are to people.”
- “Your courage in asking your manager for a raise today was totally awesome. I love that you are so confident in your abilities that you could approach her with your request.”
- “Thank you so much for helping me out with cleaning up this mess. I was feeling overwhelmed, and your patience with organizing everything made all the difference.”
- “I appreciate how thoughtful you are in our relationship. Making sure we have coffee every morning, carrying the laundry baskets to the basement, and getting the oil changed in my car make our lives together smoother and easier.”
This practice is called using Character Quality Language. Remember to observe, be sincere, include at least one character quality, and be specific about the actions involved.
Now step back and think about the effect you can have on your children when being consistent with a practice like this. As parents, we have a primary responsibility to rear our children to have good characters. We can influence the development of their qualities by modeling good character to them, by encouraging them to practice character qualities, and by using Character Quality Language with them when we observe their successful behavior.
Newsletter Article, July 25, 2011 - Commitment to Your Relationship or Marriage
Commitment confidence – big stuff to think about on the relationship and marriage front.
I recently asked a group of singles in a workshop where their confidence level was about being successful at marriage. The response? Very low. So, what’s in the way? How do we raise our ability to commit in the first place and then stay committed over time?
Interestingly, some research indicates that by debunking the myth of there being only one “soul mate” for each person on the planet, people may begin freeing themselves up to commit. When we aren’t 100% certain that the one with us is THE ONE, we have one foot in the door and one on the way out of the relationship or marriage. And, if we run into someone else and think, “Oh, maybe this is my soulmate instead”, infidelity to the first person can result. In reality, there are many people we can successfully marry if we are both committed to making it work.
An even bigger issue is the blanket of negativity laying over society from the high divorce rate. Watch a family destruct, and it’s definitely grounds to think twice about marrying. More insidious though is that we have a lot of people who have never observed a happy marriage close up and have no clue how to create one. Building our confidence under these circumstances isn’t easy, but it’s certainly possible. There is a wealth of relationship and marriage education resources to help. I’m enjoying doing workshops again and seeing the confidence levels notch up. I know from experience that it’s possible to fail at one marriage and happily succeed at a new one.
When I coach someone through this challenge of resisting commitment, particularly before marriage, I start with having the person write down their history of making and keeping all types of promises. When we look at our ability to pay bills on time, consistently keep appointments, and maintain friendships, we can usually see that we are better at commitment than we thought. We find confidence in what we’ve done well.
Of course, a key foundation piece is ensuring we are committed to a good person in the first place. The key in dating and courting is getting to know one another’s character. This means getting involved in a variety of activities with many people. You can then be confident that you know whether your partner is honest and truthful with you and with others, compassionate with someone who is sick, patient with children, responsible with their finances, and more. You need to talk about your expectations for how you will each behave after marriage and whether each is willing to sacrifice enough independence to be partners. Both of you have to figure out whether you are compatible enough, solid enough, skillful enough, and loving enough to stick it out with marriage for the long-haul.
Are there warning signs before marriage that commitment resistance is happening? Broken promises, lack of closeness, uncertainty about feelings, or excuses can all be signs. One man I considered dating kept using the word “maybe” and listing everything else he needed to do instead. Red flags! Once we are married, signs could include boredom, lack of interest in conversation or physical intimacy, spending a lot of time with other people, and lots of complaints. These are all signs that it’s a good idea to get some help.
Commitment is a quality of character. We can choose to strengthen it through patient practice, which definitely requires the quality of courage as a partner. What’s then possible? A true companion for all of eternity that we have created a soulmate relationship with through shared values, abiding love, and experiences.
Links to books that include commitment:
Before Marriage: http://www.marriagetransformation.com/store_BecomingeBooks.htm
After Marriage: http://www.marriagetransformation.com/store.htm for Pure Gold: Encouraging Character Qualities in Marriage and Oro Puro: Desarrollo del Carácter en el Matrimonio (Spanish)
Link to radio show with Susanne Alexander about commitment:
I hope and pray that your relationships and marriages are blessed and happy. Please let me know whether I can help.
Susanne M. Alexander, Relationship & Marriage Coach;
Character and Couples Specialist
Newsletter Article, June 1, 2011 - Creating Powerful Husbands and Fathers
There is a recurring question in my world—where are the men who can be good husbands and fathers? I am not sure that is the question to ask. After reading a book entitled “The Truth About Men, Be the Man You Want to Be” by Howard J. Fox (www.howardjfox.com), the question on my mind is: “What do men and women need to do to help men be powerful husbands and fathers?”
After much experience with men’s groups, Fox has become a staunch advocate for the importance of creating communities of men. Men together in groups can benefit one another and help each other understand (and forgive) the influence their fathers had on them. He says, “Today, men live such separate lives that there is little opportunity for the natural growth of masculinity. …[T]he only measure of manhood in practice today is consumption: the more money spent and the more toys possessed, the bigger the man. There is no contemporary measure of the masculinity, character and spirit that truly defines a man. …This has a detrimental effect on boys. Boys used to learn to become men from the men around them…. Mothers have a great influence over boys as the nurturer and primary parent in the house, but fathers today rarely take an equal role.”
Often as men grow up, they often lose contact with their friends and don’t form close bonds as adult males. Fox says, “As men, we don’t learn the skills that are necessary to keep our friendships alive, yet without other men, without their spirit and support, we have trouble renewing our own masculine spirits. Then we have our ‘mid-life crises’ and we harm our marriages, put our children through hell, and later wonder what happened.” He encourages male involvement in recreational activity but also says that men need more than just hanging out together to maintain a healthy adulthood. They also need to be bravely honest about fears, build trust, and seek advice about living as men.
In a world without clear standards and guidelines, it can be hard for individuals to form their own commitments for how to behave. Men together can help call each other to honesty, faithfulness, spirituality, responsibility, and more.
And women? It’s up to the females to encourage and support reasonable “man time” and not be jealous of a little time away. Fox also encourages women to be understanding about their men needing a space and time to occasionally be alone to regroup. Constructive and supportive time with other men or man-time alone can help a partner or spouse be more present and committed to his role when returning to his family.
I’ve just touched on the richness of this book, which I wish for all the men I know to read. It’s yet one more way to support and promote healthy marriages and families.
Susanne M. Alexander, Relationship & Marriage Coach
[Direct quotations are from the introduction of the book.]
Newsletter Article, May 3, 2011 - Creating Marriage Transformation
(Hopefully Along with Prince William & Kate)
When we chose the name Marriage Transformation back in the spring of 2004, we noticed that it was very rare for the transformation of marriages to be spoken of. Gradually over the years since, I’ve noticed more Google hits on the term. However, it was a surprise and a thrill to have the concept of marriage as an act of transformation be part of the royal wedding ceremony between Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton at London's Westminster Abbey, Friday, April 29, 2011. Our message is spreading!
Reverend Richard Chartres, Lord Bishop of London, said a number of things in his formal address to the newlywed royal couple that are important for all of us to consider and follow, and so I quote them here for your reflection.
“Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves. … In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.
“A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.
“It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. And people can dream of doing such a thing but the hope should be fulfilled it is necessary a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.
“You have both made your decision today – “I will” – and by making this new relationship, you have aligned yourselves with what we believe is the way in which life is spiritually evolving, and which will lead to a creative future for the human race. …
“Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform as long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom. …
“As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive.
“As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can practise and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.”
With warm regards and with the hope that you are focusing on transforming your relationships and marriages,
Susanne Alexander, Relationship & Marriage Coach
Character & Couples Specialist
Author of All-in-One Marriage Prep: 75 Experts Share Tips and Wisdom to Help You Get Ready Now (www.allinonemarriageprep.com), and yes, a copy did go in a palace direction....
p.s. If you want to see the video of the presentation, you can go to this link:
p.p.s. Marriage Transformation is a trademarked term for commerce.
Newsletter Article, April 5, 2011 - Choosing Character Qualities
I have had the privilege of doing more character coaching with individuals lately. It has helped me see an aspect of character more clearly: We often automatically choose to practice some qualities without realizing that there are better choices for the circumstances.
For example, often when we are in a difficult situation, we often think the best strengths to apply (or the best weaknesses to strengthen!) are Patience and Perseverance. These are often vital qualities to help us get from the start to the end of a difficulty. However, they usually don’t speed up the resolution of a difficulty, and so they may enable you to stay stuck in the problem. Here is a character path that may help you more forward instead:
1. Start with Acceptance. Once you accept that a situation is exactly the way it is, you can stop resisting and denying it, and you can relax and look for solutions.
2. Practice Flexibility. You will probably have to try approaches that are different from what you have done in the past and consider new alternatives and resources.
3. Try Joyfulness. Sometimes the ability to overcome a difficulty becomes more possible when we tune in to an inner sense of joy and spiritual delight, despite any outward circumstances.
4. Practice Creativity. Solving a problem requires looking at many possible solutions, and creativity can help you see new ideas that will also help you and others to grow.
5. Courage & Confidence. Once you see a possible new direction, consult with others to help ensure it makes sense, pray for guidance, and then step forward into action.
When a challenge arises in your life, it’s an excellent practice to determine what character qualities to apply or strengthen. Carefully assess which ones will be most effective. You can see more information about various qualities on my new Character webpage: http://www.marriagetransformation.com/character.htm.
Newsletter Article, March 1, 2011 - Some Truths About Friendship
As I keep engaging in conversations about the importance of friendship generally, and its importance as a foundation for happy relationships and marriage, I’ve been assessing my own view and experience of friendship. The essay that follows is the result of some of my musings on this topic. Enjoy! And feel free to share the link…
Some Truths About Friendship
Copyright 2011, Susanne M. Alexander
The truth about friendship is that sometimes it is the size of a dime and sometimes as large as a continent. Sometimes it starts small and goes somewhere big. Sometimes it stays small. Sometimes we don’t notice that it’s a friendship until it’s gone somewhere for awhile.
Sometimes the connection is intense and brief. It serves its purpose in the brevity of space and moment and need. We may never see the person again, but he or she lingers in the layered storehouses of our hearts. Perhaps at some age in the future our spirit paths may cross again. Some friendships instead are enduring, whether we are always in the same area or there are gaps in time and place. In a moment, it’s as if we were never apart. Give us a few hours, and the days, months, and years we were separated are compressed into intense understanding, familiarity, and connection. It doesn’t matter if we are eating cereal, drinking tea, or having a 5-course meal at a fancy restaurant. It’s the connection that matters, not whether we are eating rice, or soup, or even chocolate ice cream. Well, maybe it does make the connection better if chocolate is present!
Sometimes friendship is in the gesture of offering a golden flower, sometimes it is a bouquet full of color and fragrance, and sometimes it is a field of purple lavender or wild white daisies. Friends might then stand and share the sight together and smile.
Sometimes friendship is awkward and stumbling, and sometimes it’s as smooth and flowing as warm maple syrup. Sometimes we wonder whether we are friends when the mood turns slightly sour and we don’t quite measure up. Sometimes we know it just doesn’t matter how poorly we behave in certain moments, because we both know that we’ll improve, and love doesn’t care if things are messy in the moment.
We see beyond the polite surface of our friends to sense the pain that lingers there. We might not understand it. Perhaps we view it like the ball of water that balances on the head of a pin–it’s only really that size. But perhaps to the other it’s the size of a lake or at moments even an ocean. And the words don’t exist to express what it’s like to be where there is nothing but water and pain. We might think that flicking the ball of water from the pin and letting it scatter and absorb into the garden will be what’s best. Why dwell on such a little pain after all. But it’s actually impossible to flick an ocean.
Sometimes we think that friendship means it is safe to say anything we want. It’s better though when friendship means we must be ever conscious of the respectful boundaries and be gentle in our thoughts, opinions, judgments, words, help, caring, and concern. With friendship there is a hand that holds, lifts, and guides. Its connection allows us to breathe and just be. Sometimes we can’t be there for a friend in the way we both would like. Sometimes the angels must handle what we cannot.
Sometimes we can say to a friend that we need them, but at the same time we are able to leave open the gate for them to choose. Sometimes we can pray for friends and know that an invisible thread connects us to their lives and journey, and we’re walking the path with them for awhile. Sometimes our journey would be the pace of a backwards turtle without the prayers and guidance of friends that help set us in the best direction, nudge us along, and sometimes plop us into a wagon to speed up the pace.
Sometimes there is music in the friendship. Our hearts soar with the beauty of it. Other times the friendship feels like a bag of rocks. We wonder about the burden of carrying the weight. But if we don’t, then perhaps the bag is added to three more on our friend, and we know then we can manage to carry just one. Sometimes friendship means that our friend’s heartache and anger are ours. We share the righteousness of the experience together.
Sometimes when a friend calls, there is joy in the greeting, sometimes we are wary of hurt or demands. And sometimes there is the gift of being told straight out and bluntly that what we are thinking, doing, or saying is a pile of crap.
Sometimes a friend will ask how we are and when faced with “I’m fine” will know to ask, “No, how are you really?” And then listen and encourage us while our heart bleeds for while. Sometimes when we feel just a little bit (or a lot) crazy, a friend can help us see the difference between the peanuts and the cashews and just how much sanity is really in the bowl of nuts.
Sometimes friendship is a knowing look and smile because you both get what is happening and no one else could or does. Sometimes friendship means that our friend’s pain is more important than our own. Sometimes we agree to support each other through mutual pain. There are moments when the only thing that separates someone from completely falling apart is a giant, life-sustaining hug from a friend that enfolds and weaves the ragged ends back into beautiful cloth.
Sometimes friendship seems like too much work. We wonder whether it’s worth the effort. Then sanity waves its flag, and we know that living without friendship would cause the leaves of the plant of our hearts to wither and die. But, the plant does need to be watered. Neglect, carelessness, and shoving it into a dark corner can cause it to gasp and die.
Friendship isn’t a contest where we sneak a look on Facebook and see if one of us has more friends than the other. It’s an interesting phenomena actually that it really is possible to have some level of friendship with every soul on the planet. Because it’s a spiritual thing, yes? When our thoughts are spiritual and positive towards everyone out there, no one is very far away.
The gift of friendship, true friendship, is that it creates light. We light up each other’s world with laughter, insights, support, and caring. It’s that light, really the glow from our souls, that tells us true friendship doesn’t die. It’s forever.
Newsletter Article:Dating Ideas!
Susanne M. Alexander
Hi! I am asked at times for dating ideas for couples to do, both before and after marriage. Dating is an excellent activity for getting to know one another as well as for staying connected. Below are the dating ideas that are included in the eBook Becoming Character Partners. Remember the dating ideas apply for married couples too!
At times couples have difficulty thinking of activities to do together. The lists below will give you a wide range of possibilities.
• Take nature walks or stroll along a beach
• Visit art galleries or museums
• Visit amusement parks
• Share photographs
• Throw a party
• Watch television or movies
• Go shopping
• Study and discuss religious or spiritual resources
• Exercise at a fitness center
• Play board, card, or video games
• Listen to music
• Take a class in and/or practice meditation or yoga
• Take an educational class
• Walk with or care for a pet
• Visit the library
• Pray together
• Spend time with friends
• Go dancing
• Spend time with family
• Attend a concert
• Listen to a band at a restaurant, coffeehouse, or night club
• Attend religious gatherings, worship services, conferences, workshops, or summer schools
• Do home/yard work and repair
• Attend a sporting event
• Read a book aloud to each other
• Participate in a book club
• Do homework or study together
• Go out for tea, coffee, a meal, or dessert
• Have a picnic
• Go to a movie
• Participate in a hobby-related event
• Go to a comedy club
• Participate in a Toastmasters International club (learn to give public talks)
• Attend an exhibition or show (boating, jewelry, health, home & garden….)
• Help with a home repair project
• Visit elders
• Plan a meeting or a conference
• Teach a children’s class
• Care for children
• Handle taxes/finances
• Volunteer with a local civic organization
• Join or start a committee
• Plan and host a devotional/prayer meeting
• Facilitate a spiritual study class for junior youth, teens, or adults
• Participate with a neighborhood association
• Tutor after-school children
• Build or decorate
• Create an art project
• Share family recipes and try out new ones
• Write an article, story, poem, song, or book; participate in a creative writing workshop
• Plant and tend a garden
• Do a jigsaw puzzle
• Refinish furniture
• Make a movie
• Sing songs or play musical instruments; join a chorale group
• Make clothing or jewelry
• Build sand or snow sculptures
• Write letters or emails to each other
• Learn and practice a new language
• Design a website with graphics
• Take photos; frame them; create a screensaver
• Paint a portion of a home
• Play cooperative games
• Ski cross-country or downhill
• Play volleyball or other group sports
• Explore caves
• Go canoeing or rafting
• Climb hills or mountains
• Play tennis or other racquet sport
• Ride bikes
• Rollerblade or ice skate
• Ride horses
• Fly kites
• Drive in a road rally or race
• Play football/baseball/soccer
• Snorkel/scuba dive
Enjoy your time together! And if you want to add to your fun, visit our new website www.funnymarriage.com!
© 2011 Susanne M. Alexander
Given the divorce and cohabitation rates the way they are, it’s time we question the popular but mythical belief that there is only one “soulmate” out there somewhere for everyone. People are approaching relationships with the view that someday they will meet “the one.” It’s much better to think about creating a soulmate relationship in marriage with someone compatible with you.
Think about what believing in these terms sets up. As a single person, you have to hunt and hunt on an endless round of dates, with the constant refrain in your head: Is it him? Is it her? Most people have no substantial clue what or whom they are looking for to even be able to recognize that they have found “the one.” This approach has you focused on the romantic goal of falling in love, with little forethought about what’s important to you in a lifelong mate. And then how do you turn off the voice in your head that starts second guessing and asking, “Well what if I’m wrong?”
It’s very difficult for someone to establish and sustain a relationship or marriage when they are always wondering in a little back-of-the-mind voice whether they maybe made a mistake, and the person really destined for them is still wandering around. Maybe he’s in China for all they know. Maybe there was a wrong turn a few streets back, and she’s sitting in a different restaurant. It’s a recipe for starting marriage without full commitment and with one foot in divorce court already.
The term “soulmate” implies that the partners are rising above physical attraction and that there is indeed a deep and spiritual bond between them. The common belief is that one has to find a soulmate. It is good to involve your soul in the quest for a mate – praying to be guided through the process of meeting and recognizing a potential mate is a good thing. But, overall, is wise to believe that a soulmate relationship is created. When you think you’ve found a soulmate but you have had little opportunity to share life experiences, the relationship is probably based on complementary emotional needs. You may be two survivors of previous bad marriages or troubled childhoods, or maybe just two lonely people who are overwhelmingly delighted to discover that the other accepts them.
Marriages are strongest when set on a foundation of friendship and compatibility. In spiritual terms, developing a soulmate connection will follow naturally when people are with someone they are friends with, love deeply, and can live with and raise children with peacefully. You take time to discover and develop your spiritual bond, likely with mutual prayer, worship, and practicing qualities of character, such as kindness, compassion, and faithfulness. The possibilities of finding someone to have this type of relationship with are far more realistic than the idea of there being only one person that matches up with you.
Exploring compatibility and creating relationship harmony is a process that takes time and requires a lot of communication. You can read relationship books together, attend relationship skill-building classes, and more. You can participate in activities together that support your exploration of compatibility and character. It doesn’t require living together (the latest research actually shows that cohabitation is no predictor of later marital satisfaction and longevity). Becoming soulmates requires that couples do real things together, not just sit in a movie theater or go dancing.
Participating in community service projects together will let you know quickly about each other’s character and ability to sustain marital life through difficulties. Can you have complex discussions with each other and successfully solve problems together? If you spend time with children, you will clarify whether you can become effective parents together and what your beliefs are about discipline. Can you cook a meal together peacefully--and serve it to your parents?
Once you are confident you have the possibility of being eternal soulmates, and you are seriously talking about whether to marry, it’s then a great idea to find a coach or trained mentor couple and go through a formal relationship assessment. One of the best is PREPARE from Life Innovations. See www.marriagetransformation.com/coaching.htm for details.
When partners are friends and trust, love, and commit to each other, when they learn how to join their lives successfully as marriage partners, they can become each other’s soulmate. Within marriage, you engage in a lifelong process of nurturing your soulmate bond.
© 2010 Susanne M. Alexander
Susanne M. Alexander is the author of All-in-One Marriage Prep: 75 Experts Share Tips and Wisdom to Help You Get Ready Now, www.allinonemarriageprep.com. This new book contains helpful advice on all aspects of preparing for marriage, including becoming soulmates.
Newsletter Article:Hold Me Tight!
Susanne M. Alexander
There are many relationship books that I pick up and think – same old thing. If I’m instead highlighting and underlining, I’m excited. This was my response to Dr. Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight, Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Ever hear of Attachment Theory with kids? – if they feel secure with you, they can explore the world. Well, welcome to the theory applied to couples. Dr. Johnson says the attachment view of love is radically out of line with the common idea that adulthood “means being independent and self-sufficient.” Instead, we all need to be able to turn to a partner for emotional support, and this is actually a source of strength, not weakness.
When you have a secure connection with a loved one, you:
- Are better at seeking and giving support
- Able to roll with hurts and are less likely to be aggressively hostile with anger
- Understand yourself better and like yourself more
- Are more curious and more open to new information
- Are more open to new experiences and flexible
- Are more confident about solving problems
- Are more likely to successfully achieve your goals
The seven conversations Dr. Johnson addresses are designed to strengthen or rebuild the unity between you as a couple, stopping “demon dialogues,” holding each other tight, forgiving, and bonding. I hope it’s a book you’ll track down and read – soon!
Speaking of forgiveness, there’s some new research from PREPARE/ENRICH you may be interested in, and they’ve included steps for seeking and giving forgiveness:
© 2010 Susanne M. Alexander
Workhop - Chinese Audience
Below are links to a handout from a 2-hour mini-workshop on marriage called an "English Corner", in Richmond, BC, Canada, December 2010. The participants were Chinese who are learning English. A translation was then done by the participants and others (thank you!) and is provided here with the English version:
Marriage - English Handout
Marriage - Chinese Translation of Handout