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Part Four: Dating and Vacation Ideas in Summer: Planning VS Spontaneous; Resurrecting a Rainy Day

One of the main reasons I became a marriage therapist is because my marriage is one of the things I’m best at!  In thinking through my gifts and abilities and what do I have to offer the world, I kept coming back to the simple truth that my marriage was one of the best blessings in my life.  Yet around me were people who dumped their marriages for the slightest of reasons.  It’s a sad fact that many people don’t know how to enjoy life.  I view therapy as largely mentoring and setting a good example.  Look, if I can do this, you can, too!

This morning I was encouraged by an article I read about Minnesota Twin Outfielder Torii Hunter, who just turned 40, who takes younger major league baseball players under his wing and mentors them, not just in baseball, but in life.  The Minnesota Twins played the Los Angeles Angels a while back and the article highlighted Hunter’s ongoing relationship with the Angele’s phenom, Mike Trout, and how Trout was mentored by Hunter when Hunter played for L.A. and how they still keep in contact.  The article went on to say that there are a number of up and coming players whom Hunter has guided and encouraged and he continues to do so with new, young, up and coming players.  The article is pretty uplifting and I’d invite you to check it out.  It highlights how I see my work with couples: demonstrating by my life how to get through life with joy and infuse your life with joy.

Vacation should be a time of joy.  You’ve heard the advice “There’s a time and a place for everything: a time for peace, a time for war; a time to plant, a time to harvest”?  It’s from the Biblical book, Ecclesiastes, from chapter 3.  Check it out.  You might recognize the passage as The Byrd’s used the lyrics from that wonderful poem for their famous song, “Turn, Turn, Turn.”  Implied in this passage is the notion of having the wisdom to determine the difference: When is it appropriate to do what?

On vacation, this is NOT the time to get into arguments or to prove a point or to be selfish or to obsess on something.  PEOPLE:  It’s a time to chill!  Leave your issues at home.  Leave your resentments at home.  Better yet, pray to the Lord to help you forgive.  Your resentments will tell you your spouse is at fault and will convince you, you are not responsible for your marriage being awful, even though you do not lift a finger to make your marriage better.  Resentment lies to you and tells you it’s not worth trying, so you don’t and then it ruins your life and your marriage and then if you are foolish enough to run away from your problems and divorce, you take your resentments with you.  Resentments turn you into a 2-year old who can only see life from his own point of view.

A better approach is let your resentments go.  Vacation is a good time to practice this!  Leave your disagreements at home.  Let it all roll off your back.  Decompress.  Quit thinking about work.  Quit worshiping your marriage failure.  Be a force for good and positivity.  Sleep in.  Experience new things.  Create memories.  Take pictures.  Make love.  Hold hands.  Cuddle.  Sit silently by a campfire and watch the constant change of the fuel slowly shifting.  Be mesmerized.

And shift gears when it rains.

You might wonder why I’m telling you about my wife and my trips this summer?  Because one of the biggest and recurring problems I’m seeing in my office is couples who have NO IDEA HOW TO HAVE FUN and BE FRIENDS with their spouse!  NO IDEA!  They never grew up in a family that had fun.  Everything is serious, serious, serious.  There’s no joy.  There’s no discovery.  There’s no relaxing.  Everything has to be perfect or it’s a crisis.  Woe is me…I’m going to ruin your life.  If I can’t be happy (and I can’t), then I will make your life miserable.  Then they take this self-absorbled, everything-in-life-needs-to-revolve-around-me and everything-has-to-be-perfect-or-I’m-in-a-bad-mood and pack it along with them on their vacation and they keep taking it out and using it as a club:

Recuring dialog in my office (hundred’s of times):

Me: What would make you feel close to your spouse?

Client: If we had affection.  If he (or she) would touch me.  He never touches me.  Our relationship is so cold.

Me: Do you touch him?

Client:  Of course not.  Our relationship is so cold.  It would be hypocritical for me to touch him if I don’t feel it.

I hope you can see by this little example, that resentment has taken this person’s wisdom away.  It has gone and blown away into the wind.  Which came first: the resentments to tell you to not reach out to your spouse or somebody not touching somebody for whatever reason?  Vacation is NOT the time to harbor resentments.  It’s hand holding time.  It’s cuddle time.  It’s laughter time.  It’s explore new things time.  It’s forget your problems time.  It’s go with the flow time.

Be careful.  If you do this, you might end up liking your spouse!

Okay, enough with the lecture.  On to how to take a rainy day and turn it into a sunny day, whether or not the sun shines.  That’s what happened to us on the day we discovered Elkader.

The story goes like this:

We were camping with family and it was raining and raining and then the rain stopped, but the forecast said more rain was expected.  The rest of the family were tenting and the thought of camping in the rain wasn’t appealing and they decided to go home.  So here my wife and I are in our camping trailer in the middle of a rainy day all by ourselves when the plan was to chill with our extended family that day.  All of a sudden the plans changed.  We had to be spontaneous instead!  We could have spent the day in the camper reading or chilling in our awesome screen tent (actually, this would have been a wonderful time!), but we both spontaneously said, hey, let’s go explore.  This is a new area of Iowa we don’t know anything about.  We’ve never been here before.  Let’s check it out.  Fortunately we had a copy of the “Iowa Byways” brochure from the Iowa Travel Board, or whatever it’s called, and we looked it over and lo, and behold, our camping area was smack dab in the middle of one of the Iowa Scenic Byways!  No way!  So we hopped in the car and had our little “Byways” map and went to see the sites.

If you live in Iowa or come through Iowa on your way west or east, you must grab this little magazine.  Check it out.  I’m guessing most states have a copy of this sort of advertisement to tell people the great views in each state.  There are national byways, too.  One hundred and fifty of them.  We have a book of them in our travel trailer and used it on our recent trip to Michigan (More on that trip on another blog.  Check out Amazon for a number of books on this topic that must be in your travel library).

The “Byway” we were on was called “The River Bluffs Scenic Byway.”  It’s 109 miles altogether and has a loop with two legs.  We did the loop.  We didn’t have time to do the two legs.  We’ll save that for another day.  We had our brochure map which we followed, but we also noticed there were signs on the highway pointing to where the Byway turned next.  A lot of thought has gone into these routes and they take you by some of the greatest sights in our great country.  A rainy day, turned into one of our most memorable vacation days.  In my next blog I’ll tell you the details of the trip.

Here’s the lesson:  If something happens on your vacation that upsets the plans, go with the flow and have fun anyway!  The flat tires and the car problems and the rain or the heat can create a unique opportunity for fun!  Plus it’ll show your children how to handle adversity!

The plans change?

It’s opportunity, Baby!

To see the first blog in this series on Planning vs Spontaneous click here.

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