Want to show your significant other you care, but don’t want to do the traditional dinner with champagne, roses and chocolate? Here are some fun ideas to celebrate an alternative Valentine’s Day:
Dinner and a Movie Night
Skip the hassle of going out by having a romantic dinner and movie night at home. Stream a few of your favorite movies or TV shows and order in pizza or takeout. It’s a wonderful way to spend some quality alone time together. If watching something isn’t your thing, try playing a board game or another favorite activity.
Plan a Staycation
Austin is a top vacation destination and just because you’re a local doesn’t mean you can’t act like a tourist! Downtown is a great place to spend an afternoon or evening sightseeing. Hit up the Capitol Building, walk around UT’s beautiful campus, check out some local museums and galleries, or watch the bats at dusk. And just like a good tourist, make sure to take lots of pictures!
Grab a beer and a few quarters and you’re in pinball heaven! Pinballz Arcade has tons of machines from all eras and every interest. Even if you’ve never played before, there’s something for every skill level. If you have kids, there are also plenty of kid-friendly games to keep the whole family entertained.
Thrift / Vintage Store Treasure Hunt
Take advantage of Austin’s amazing thrift and vintage stores by taking your Valentine on a treasure hunt. There are tons of cool finds to be had and it’s easy to make a little game out of it. Try to find the most outrageous, cheesy, or fun item and whoever wins gets to decide the next activity or meal.
Day After Celebration
Still want to go out for a fancy meal with champagne, roses and chocolate? Make a dinner reservation for the day after! You’ll miss the crowds and overpriced set menus, but still have a fun and intimate celebration.
Roughly 50 percent of people voted for one party and 50 percent for the other party. That’s quite a split! How do we have healthy discussions about such divisive topics? Here are 5 ways to respectfully discuss an opinion:
Set some ground rules
In order to have a healthy and productive discussion, some basic rules need to be established and followed. Together you can come up with a few simple rules like no yelling or interrupting and limits on how long one person can speak at a time. If anyone fails to stick to these rules, call a timeout and then resume.
Having a discussion or debate can often mean disagreeing. Although it can be hard at times, it’s best to remain as objective as possible when it comes to heated topics. Try to remove yourself from the emotions by sticking only to the facts.
Keep an open mind
You may believe the other person is crazy for thinking the way they do, but they may think the exact same thing about you! Give yourself a chance to understand them better by listening, putting yourself in their shoes, and requesting the same in return. Avoid asking questions like “How could you possibly think that?” and instead try questions like “What led you to that conclusion?”
Find common ground
Even if your opinions are at opposite ends of the spectrum, you can still try to find some common ground and go from there. If the other person says something you agree with, let them know! Agreeing with each other on certain points won’t invalidate your opinions, but rather can help facilitate a thoughtful discussion.
Don’t take it personally
If it seems like the discussion isn’t going anywhere or has become unproductive, it’s perfectly fine to wrap it up by agreeing to disagree. The goal of your discussion isn’t to change anyone’s mind, but rather offer your point of view and allow the other person to offer theirs. Sometimes you just may not see eye to eye and that’s OK.
With such divisiveness today, it’s important we take the time to show others respect for their beliefs. We can all be both opinionated and open minded!
Being a single dad can often be as tough as it is rewarding. Just like single moms, you probably wish for more hours in the day to get everything done. Here are a few of the unique challenges of being a single dad:
Spending Time with Friends:
It’s hard enough to grab a beer with your friends when you’ve got a partner that can look after your children. When you’re a single dad, it can sometimes feel all but impossible to find the time – and a reliable babysitter! Although you may feel guilty for spending time away from your kids, it’s so important to take time to reconnect with your friends and loved ones. Plan it in advance and you’re sure to find a good babysitter and take the night off.
Taking Time for Yourself:
Maybe you’ve struggled to find time to relax, or start reading a book you’ve been meaning to get to, or there’s a football game that’s been sitting on your DVR for way too long. Just like it’s important to connect with friends, it’s also important to take some time for yourself to recharge your batteries. It’s not only good for you, but your kids as well. Try getting in the habit of setting some time aside every week for yourself.
When you’re a parent, dating no longer involves only you; you have to now think of your kids as part of your social life. Is this person I’m seeing going to jell with my family? How will they fit into my life? These are important questions to ask yourself when you feel it’s time to date and when it’s time to introduce someone to your kids.
Being a single dad can mean juggling a lot of responsibilities on a daily basis: working, being a full-time caretaker, nurse, disciplinarian, and role model. At the same time, struggling to have quality family time and alone time. It’s a fine balance, but ultimately these challenges can be the most fulfilling and rewarding.
Deciding to get married is one of the biggest decisions a person can make and premarital counseling is one of the wisest. But premarital counseling doesn’t have to be for couples only – singles can get just as many benefits!
Here are 3 reasons to try premarital counseling when you’re single:
1. Get to know yourself
Getting to know yourself is a great way to figure out exactly what you’re looking for in a mate – and what you’re not. It’s hard to make a commitment to another person without knowing exactly who you are and what you bring to the table. Counseling will help you reflect on your fears, dreams, needs, values, and other issues that are easy to avoid until it’s too late.
2. Figure out your deal breakers
Relationships require compromise, so it’s essential to figure out what your deal breakers are before beginning one. Discussing important issues before making a commitment to another person gives you the opportunity to openly and honestly figure out what matters to you most. Whether it’s having children or sharing the same religion, having set standards will give you the confidence to go after what you want and pass on what you don’t. You’ll save time and potential heartbreak.
3. Gain communication skills
One of the biggest concerns many couples bring to premarital counseling is problems with communication. Healthy relationships are built on honest and open communication, so why wait until you’re with someone to improve your communication skills? Get a head start through counseling and you’ll also likely see an improvement in other aspects of your life – at work, and with family and friends.
Having these important conversations before committing is the best way to ensure your relationship will start out on the right page. In the meantime, try to enjoy being single! If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, go for it. You’ll come back refreshed, recharged, and ready to open your heart.
Individual and Couples Relationship Counseling
The daily routine for a single parent is the same for a married one, except you’re handling everything on your own. Being a single mother can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also present some unique challenges. Here are 4:
Taking Time for Yourself
Maybe you feel guilty for wanting to take time for yourself or you’ve been told it’s selfish, but being a parent doesn’t mean you have to completely give up a personal life. Getting enough time away from your children is not only important for you, but for them as well. It will allow you to reconnect with who you were before becoming a mom and come back refreshed and recharged. Take at least one hour a week to do something for yourself – whether it’s a hobby, hanging out with friends, or taking a relaxing bubble bath.
Dating can be a challenge for anyone, whether they have children or not. Many moms struggle with deciding the right time to introduce a significant other to their children or even finding the time (or childcare) to go on dates. Whatever the situation, it’s always a good idea to set dating rules and abide by them. This may mean waiting at least 3 months before introducing a significant other to your children or staying friends after you’ve broken up to allow time for your children to adjust. And most importantly, any potential mate should understand that your children are your priority.
Many single mothers are the sole earners for their family and with that comes added stress and anxiety about money. Financial concern is possibly one of the biggest sources of stress that single mothers face since it is tough to plan expenses while working and raising children. Finding quality childcare can also be a struggle for working moms. If you don’t have extended family available to help out, your pediatrician or neighbors will likely know someone trustworthy and reliable you can count on to help relieve some of the burden.
In addition to financial stress, it can also be difficult to juggle so many career and personal responsibilities. Trying to achieve a work-life balance can be a major challenge, especially in this day and age where work can often follow us home, but doing so can include getting enough quality family time. Try to set aside some time every day to spend with your children – whether it’s reading together, playing a game, or doing an arts-and-crafts project. Just as taking out time for yourself is important, so is time together with your children and it can often help restore balance.
Being a single mom isn’t easy. While it can be difficult at times, the upside is showing your kids what a strong, resourceful person you are, which makes for a great role model. Counseling can be a great place to explore these challenges that many moms face everyday!
Having common hobbies or passions can help you and your partner deepen your sense of connection, intimacy, and friendship. If you’ve fallen into a rut and are looking to rekindle the romance or sense of adventure in your relationship, here are 10 passions you can do together.
1. Exercising / Sports
Exercising is a great way to spend quality time together while benefiting your health. You’ll feel supported and motivated, while strengthening your connection. If you’re into a sport (like tennis or golf) but your partner isn’t, try getting them some lessons.
Get some excellent one-on-one time without distracting phones, television, or computers by getting away from it all. Go for a walk, swim or fish, or play some games. If it’s a chilly night, cuddle by the fire and roast s’mores.
3. Cooking / Cooking Class
If you’re tired of the same old "dinner and a movie" date night, try a cooking class together. It’s a fun way to learn new recipes and techniques, and you may even learn your new signature dish! Once you pick up some new techniques, you can start a weekly or monthly tradition of cooking a new recipe together.
Hiking is the best way to get out and enjoy the beauty of nature! Pack some water and snacks, a camera, and in a short time you’ll be enjoying the spectacular views together.
Traveling together can strengthen the bond between you and your partner and enrich your togetherness as a couple. Try picking a place neither of you has been before so you can explore and experience the local culture together.
6. Wine / Food Clubs
If you both enjoy wine, joining a club is a fun way to expand your knowledge and try new wines that you two may never have considered. Or try joining a food club to discover new ingredients and flavors.
Volunteering is a wonderful way to spend time together while making a difference in your community. Decide on a mutual interest or if you have different interests, you can alternate so you both get to do what you want.
8. Local Museums / Art Galleries
Museums and galleries consistently offer new and exciting exhibits for a variety of interests and cultures. Pick a subject that inspires you and the two of you can make an afternoon of it.
9. Learn Something New Together
If there’s something you’ve been meaning to try or learn, invite your partner to join you! Chances are, there’s a class at your local community college or a group class available in your area. You could take an art class, dancing lessons, or even catch a show at your local planetarium.
10. Laugh Together
Laughing together is great way to create fun, lasting memories and increase happiness and intimacy. Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes by strengthening your immune system, boosting energy, diminishing pain, and protecting you from the damaging effects of stress. Try watching a funny movie, seeing a comedy show, or doing something silly like miniature golf or karaoke.
Think of something I missed? Add your idea to the comments!
Relationship counseling for couples and individuals
I have clients telling me how hard it is date and find new relationships. They ask me where they can meet a nice, “normal” guy or girl these days. This got me thinking about places that are safe and comfortable for people to be themselves while also meeting others.
So here are 10 places to meet new people that I came up with!
1. Coffee Shop
Coffee shops were made for socializing! Grab a drink, a good book, and keep an eye out for someone that sparks your interest. If you have a favorite coffee shop, it's easy to make friends with the baristas. Tell them you're looking to meet someone new and they may already have someone in mind. And if they don't, they'll think of you the next time someone cute walks in.
2. Dog Park
One of the best things about Austin is that it's an incredibly dog-friendly city. There are tons of dog parks, so no matter where you live, you’ll find one within a reasonable distance. Dogs are wonderful icebreakers because owners are always happy to talk about their dogs. Even if you don’t have one, you can still have fun dog watching and maybe you'll see a cute dog (and owner)!
Going to the gym can be a great place to meet someone, especially if you go on a regular basis. Strike up a conversation between workouts by asking them for advice or if you play a sport, ask them if they'd like to partner up to play a few rounds. And just like with the coffee shop, if you make friends with the employees they may introduce you to other cute members.
4. Meet-up Groups
There are hundreds of meet-up groups happening constantly that cater to a wide variety of interests. Find a few that appeal to you and you're sure to meet lots of new and interesting people. It's all about expanding your connections and joining some meet-up groups is one of the fastest ways to make this happen.
If you're looking for the intellectual-type, your local library is the best spot to check out. It's easy to open up a conversation by asking for recommendations for a genre or author you like or commenting on a book someone is reading. Once you start chatting, you can invite them to take a coffee break together to discuss your favorite books.
In addition to weekly services, your local church or synagogue likely holds various social gatherings to encourage a strong sense of community among its members. Attending these gatherings is a great way to get to know the other members in a non-formal setting.
7. Friends (who know you well)
Your friends are the best endorsement when it comes to meeting other people. You two are friends for a reason, so chances are you'd get along with someone they're friends with! Don't be shy about asking them to introduce you to someone they think you might connect with.
8. Your favorite hobby/passion
Another great way to meet someone is to just do what you love. You'll meet others that share your passion and even if you're not interested in them in particular, they may be able to introduce you to someone. Try joining a club or an intramural sports team and you'll start meeting people right away.
9. Hike and Bike Trail
When the weather is nice, you'll find lots of people taking advantage of all the wonderful hiking and biking trails in Austin. Once you've started chatting with someone you're interested in, you could make plans to hike or bike that trail together.
Pick something you're passionate about and you'll likely find an organization in your area that would love to have you as a volunteer. Not only will you be opening yourself up to meeting new, like-minded people, you'll be doing good as well.
Have another idea where to meet people that I haven't mentioned? Let me know in the comments!
We all strive to find a healthy relationship but how do we know if we are in one? It can be pretty clear when you are in an unhealthy relationship but it can be harder to know when you are in a good one. Even healthy relationships can be messy and painful sometimes. It’s important to look for and appreciate the great parts of a healthy relationship. These 6 signs can indicate that you are in a healthy relationship.
Laughter- Can you think of the last time you and your partner shared a laugh—maybe at a movie, maybe something your child did, or maybe even at the ludicrousness of the fight you are having about the right way to load the dishes? Don’t take yourselves too seriously. Find ways to spend time together with your partner that encourage you to have fun and forget about stresses that may be filling up your day.
Healthy communication- Communication about the big things and little things in our lives are equally important. Do you have deep conversations with your partner that challenge the way you think about life? Can you let your partner know that it drives you crazy when they squeeze the toothpaste from the middle or that is can’t be that hard to put the dirty clothes in the laundry hamper? Don’t settle with status quo; push each other to continue to talk even if the conversations might be difficult. There is a good chance you can find a deeper connection by engaging in continuous and improved communication with your partner.
Healthy sex life- Do you have a sex life that works for both of you? If not, can you talk with your partner about your feelings and thoughts about sex? Sex can be a sensitive topic for many couples because stress and life events can drastically change sex in the relationship. Create ways for you and your partner to get excited about sex again.
Allow each other to be individuals- As important as it is to be close with your partner, it is just as important to allow for your growth as an individual. Do you have your own hobbies, jobs, exercise, girl time/guy time, etc.? This time apart can remind you of why you love to spend time with your partner. It can also allow you to grow as an individual and increase your self worth.
Fight fair- All couples argue! What is important is how you fight and how you make up. Allowing each person to express his or her frustrations, taking turns, and eventually making up, help make fights healthier. And finally, the best part of fair fighting is makeup sex!
Make time together a priority- As busy as we all are today, scheduling time together might be the most important thing we can do to create and maintain a healthy relationship. Going on dates, finding a hobby to do together, and just being near each other is so important in the continued growth of all couples.
There isn’t a manual for the perfect marriage because every couple is different. What might work for one couple might be a disaster for another. Communication and adaptation are the cornerstones for building a strong relationship. As individuals, we are constantly changing, which means that couples are always changing. So how we adapt and continue to grow is what makes a couple even stronger and happier.
Check out www.completeminds.com or call 512-569-7009 for more information
Disclaimer: The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. Reading articles and content on this website does not constitute a therapeutic relationship.
Ever wonder why you, or someone you know, remain in an unhealthy relationship? There are times the love and affection may be gone, and we know the relationship is unhealthy and even dysfunctional, yet we stay. As a therapist, I’ve seen a number of reasons people continue to stay in unhealthy relationships.
Kids – Having children together is one of the main reasons people stay in a relationship that may be unhappy or dysfunctional. The majority of couples who share the responsibility of parenting don't want their kids growing up in a “broken home,” and having to be shuttled back and forth, from parent to parent. After all, it's not the child's fault if his or her parents decide to split up. Most parents of school-age children try to stick it out for the kids until they’re adults heading off to college, while others choose a time when the kids are grown enough to actually comprehend the situation. If this is you, ask yourself, “Do I want my child to observe his or her parents carrying on a loveless marriage?” Whether or not you’re ready to leave a relationship, marriage counseling can help you work through your concerns, including co-parenting, and make a decision that’s best for you – and your family.
Finances – Another primary reason people choose to stay with their partner or spouse, despite being in an unhappy relationship, is due to their financial situation. If one person in the relationship makes, or controls, all the money, it might be incredibly difficult for the spouse or partner to leave the relationship without having money of their own. We all begin relationships with high hopes of a lifetime of love, but we can’t predict in advance how a romantic partnership will turn out. It’s important to not only maintain your own financial reserve or source of income, but to be able to have an open and honest conversation about how money decisions will be made. A financial planner can help you assess your financial situation as a couple and plan for future contingencies.
Low Self-Esteem – It's not uncommon for both men and women to find themselves stuck in unhealthy relationships due to their own low self-esteem. If you feel that you’re not worthy of true love and respect, you might settle for someone who seems “good enough” but isn’t really the right person for you. You may not be making these decisions consciously, but may be repeating patterns from childhood that keep you stuck in dysfunctional, or even abusive relationships. Ask yourself, “Do all my relationships seem to look the same? Do I repeatedly find myself in relationships where my needs aren’t met or my rights violated?” If so, exploring these issues in individual therapy can help you get a clearer sense of who you are, and what you need and deserve, from your romantic partner.
Fear – Dating may be enjoyable for some people, but others prefer to always be in a relationship in order to feel secure in life. Fear of loneliness, and not being loved, is a fairly common reason people stay in unhealthy relationships. Sometimes we’re just terrified of being single yet again. If you and your partner have been together a long time, it might feel incredibly scary to imagine being alone, and entering the dating pool once again. If this describes your relationship, ask yourself, “Do I want to be ruled by fear? Or do I want to open myself up to true love and intimacy?” Therapy or life coaching can help you explore ways to take action towards your relationship goals.
Codependency – Often, people with codependent tendencies are drawn to one another and end up stuck in dysfunctional relationships. Each person may feel that they can't fully function without the other, and due to convenience rather than true love and caring, they continue to stay together. Codependency is particular common in relationships where addiction or substance abuse is present. If you’re in a relationship where your partner is addicted to substances, such as alcohol, or processes, such as sex or shopping, consider exploring your own codependent tendencies in therapy. A support group such as Al Anon, which puts you into contact with others experiencing the same relationship dynamics, can also be helpful.
Guilt – Feeling guilty is yet another reason people choose to stay involved in unhealthy relationships. If you’ve broken your partner’s trust in the past, by being unfaithful or lying, you may feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. You may be continuing in the unhealthy relationship because you feel you “owe” your partner something. If this sounds like you, ask yourself, “What do I owe myself?” While it’s important to honor your commitment to your partner, you also want to get in touch with what’s best for you. And if there has been a betrayal in the past, it’s crucial you and your partner receive couples therapy to work through the infidelity.
As a therapist, not only have I seen these relationship dynamics, I’ve helped individuals and couples work through them. You may be able to resolve your own relationship situation in a way that feels satisfying to you. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional.