How Honeymoons Can Help Strengthen Relationships

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What is a “Solo-Moon” and How Taking a Honeymoon with Your Spouse Can Strengthen Your Relationship: A Response to the NYT Article “Honeymoon Do We Part”

As I scrolled through the morning headlines last week, I came across an article printed in the New York Times describing several couples who had blissfully parted ways to enjoy a much needed break from reality, after enduring the stresses associated with their weddings. While I have explored the benefits of solo vacations, I had never considered the idea of couples separating from each other, to relax on independent vacations, following the reception of their wedding. To say I was intrigued, is an understatement! With a quick google search, I realized that taking individual honeymoons (also known as, “unimoons or solo-moons”), is more common than I expected!

The NYT article does a great job exploring some of the pros and biological factors of taking trips, as well as the sociological evolution of the meaning of marriage. However, I wish the article distinguished more between honeymoons and general vacations. A honeymoon isn’t just “any” vacation, it’s an opportunity for a person and their spouse to reconnect after weeks/months of stress, and for them to begin to create their identity as a pair. Absent from the article was mention of the need to connect and begin to build shared experiences as a married couple. Travel, whether near or far, offers an opportunity to bond and build a strong foundation of compromise and support, as well as fun, as they embark on this next stage of the relationship.

But what about couples who have been together for years or even decades, before tying the knot? Haven’t they already developed a strong sense of “we/us”? The answer is yes and no. While couples who have lived together and/or spent significant amounts of time in a relationship likely have a strong identity as a couple, the question is, do they have a strong identity as a MARRIED couple. Everyone has reasons for tying the knot, however, regardless to the reasons, when couples decide to walk down the aisle, they are acknowledging that marriage is a new step or stage, and that it is adding something to their union. What better place to explore that new dynamic than in a new environment, or while experiencing something new, with their partner?

Looking at Gottman Therapy, we know that the goal of relationships is shared meaning. To reach shared meaning, couples must build love maps, share feelings of fondness and admiration, turn towards one another, manage conflict, and work to have a positive perspective towards one another. All of those steps are difficult to attain, if the couple consistently pursues individual endeavors over activities as a couple. On the other hand, should couples decide to take their honeymoon as a pair, each level of the Sound Relationship House, can be nurtured and fostered throughout the trip. See the list below, for more details about how taking a honeymoon as a couple can help strengthen your foundation.

It can be hard to put aside personal desires and individual needs to compromise with a spouse, especially with the added stress that can come along with travelling. However, the benefits of taking the honeymoon as a couple, instead of parting ways, can provide stability at a pivotal point in the relationship, and allow the couple to build a strong foundation for which to grow their marriage. Rest assured, there will be TONS of occasions, throughout their lives together, to develop their individuality, but they will only have one chance to relish in the glow of this newest union!

Ways that Honeymoons Enhance Relationships -

  1. Enhance Communication: Without stress and prying eyes, you and your partner are able to talk freely with one another.

  2. Process the wedding together: You spent thousands of dollars on the “big day”, but hardly had a chance to recap the experiences and perspectives from throughout the night. This also gives you and your partner a chance to “relive” the moments from your wedding, and find out what really stood out to each of you.

  3. New Experiences: Vacations, particularly to new places, allow you to experience somewhere/something new. These experiences allow you to gain new perspective, which can be used later in negotiating stressors in your personal life, a greater mental bank for mindfulness, and can help both you and your partner gain empathy for others

  4. New Dreams- As you enter this new phase, you and your partner may feel more secure in expressing dreams and desires or exploring further into the future, especially now that the two of you are bound together in matrimony. There is now an additional layer of security when being vulnerable.

  5. Rituals of Connection- Honeymoons allow you and your partner to build memories together, and encourage you and your partner to create a joint vision for the future. Events/Meals/Destinations experienced during this time can be used for decades to come, to unite and ground you as a couple, and to help reconnect you, when you feel distant in your relationship.

  6. Reduce stress- Let’s face it, weddings are stressful. Taking time away from your everyday life allows you to live in the moment, and re-energize before facing the “real world” again.

  7. Validation- Couples often say that the wedding went “by in a blink of an eye”. It’s hard to feel like anything has changed, particularly if you have been together for a while, immediately following the wedding ceremony. By introducing yourselves as a married couple, hearing people gush over this exciting time (think hotel staff, restaurant staff, excursion guides, etc), and reading cards of well wishes, helps validate that this event is a positive milestone, and allows the magnitude and joyous sentiment, sink in!

LifeTip: Mind Over Matter

Photo by  Ben Sweet  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben Sweet on Unsplash

Ever heard of the phrase “mind over matter”? This phrase refers to our mind’s ability to conquer infinite limitations brought on by external factors - our environment, the situations we are in, the challenges we face, our interactions with difficult people, and even mental/emotional barriers we experience. The idea of our mind being able to conquer the challenges we often experience throughout our lives, sounds quite appealing; however, as powerfully resilient as our minds can be, they can also be equally as self-destructive.

Our brains are an extremely unique organ in our body. In therapy, we often talk about the connection between our mind and our body. We draw attention to the way our body reacts to our emotions, thoughts, situations we are in, etc. to provide us more information on our experience and how to respond to such reactions. In considering the idea of “mind over matter” we may target our thoughts as a point of reference to the mind-body connection.

For example, perhaps I notice I’m having the thought, “I’m never going to get all of this work done.” If I sit on this thought I may have a second thought, “I should be able to do this” ...and so on. These thoughts may bring on emotions such as anxiety and distress. I notice that I experience anxiety and stress as tension in my shoulders or feeling a “pit” in my stomach. In this scenario, my distressing thoughts affected the way my body reacts (i.e. muscle tension and pit in my stomach). This is one example of simply how much power our thoughts have over our bodies and our emotional experiences. Maybe you have had a similar experience with unhelpful thoughts. Sounds unpleasant, right? The good news: while our minds can be extremely powerful (in this example in a self-destructive way), they can also be quite powerful in moving us forward when we learn how to manage our thoughts.

Life Tip: It’s helpful to first practice observing your thoughts. What thoughts come up for you? Are they encouraging, discouraging, neutral? Are they facts? Are they based in reality or in your emotional experience? Once we practice observing our thoughts with a nonjudgmental stance, we can begin practicing strategies to manage the thoughts that are unhelpful or do not seem to serve us. We might first notice the thought and ask ourselves, “is this a helpful thought?” We are not necessarily challenging the accuracy of that thought, because in the moment it might feel real. It is likely more realistic to evaluate the helpfulness of a thought rather than its accuracy. Another strategy might be to simply notice the thought you’re having and create distance between yourself and that thought. For example, I notice that I’m having the thought, “I’m not going to get my work done.” This allows me to take a step back, simply notice the thought, and let it pass; rather than becoming that thought or allowing it to impact my emotional experience.

Always remember: Thought challenging strategies take practice! They might not work the first time, the second time, or even the third time - so try not to feel discouraged if you struggle to challenge distressing thoughts. When in doubt, refer back to some simple thought challenging tips:

    • Practice observing your thoughts, without judgement!

    • Ask yourself, “is this a helpful thought for me to have?” If the answer is no, move onto another more helpful and productive thought

    • Create distance between yourself and the distressing thought you observe - call a thought just that, a thought, and do not let it define you or your experience

    • Practice grounding techniques (i.e. deep breathing, 5 senses) when your thoughts get ahead of you and attempt to bring yourself back to a more emotionally neutral headspace

Mind over matter works for those who work on it. Believe in your ability to change your inner dialogue to be more helpful and productive!

LifeTip: Connection

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Since the bombings that have occurred in Austin, I have really started to think about human connection. True connection. I happen to live in a neighborhood where two of the bombings happened and it was terrifying for obvious reasons. Fear was the biggest emotion to consume me, however, as I sat with this fear and explored it I began to think about the others who may be sharing this feeling with me, my neighbors. As I thought about the people literally closest to me, I had a realization: I don't know who is living next door to me, across the street, down the street or anywhere in my vicinity that could be sitting with this as well. Yes, I know their faces, their cars, their general schedules but that's it. As I sat with this a little longer, I began to wonder what it would have been like to know them before, during, and after these events. Could I have or would I have walked next door and checked in on them? Would they have checked in on me and my family? Would we be sharing our feelings together? I know I am not alone in this because others have shared a very similar story.

So what does it mean to know that I am not the only one who does not know who they live next to? To me, this is a very large sign that we need to CONNECT with each other--our neighbors, our community. We live in such an isolated society, even though we are more "connected" than ever because of social media. How does this even make sense?!? 

Many of us are using social media platforms to share tiny bits of information about our lives with others in order to "connect," but in reality, we are distancing ourselves from REAL LIFE-- from TRUE CONNECTION. Could you imagine knowing your neighbors' names instead of knowing what that person you met once at a networking event is eating for dinner? Or knowing what your neighbor does for a living instead of knowing where that person from high school went on vacation with their "perfect" family of four (you also know each family member's name) that you never really liked anyway? Maybe you do know what it's like to know your neighbors, so you may have insight on this, but if you don't, what do you imagine this could look like? What do you imagine this could look like when there is danger nearby? Just the idea of knowing the people that surround my house causes a shift in my body to feel a little calmer, feel a little safer.

I recently finished the book, Lost Connections, by Johann Hari, and there is an excerpt I want to share with you because it has really resonated with me in the wake of the Austin bombings. In this excerpt, Hari is writing about John Cacioppo's research on the effects of the outside world on the brain in regards to loneliness:

Protracted loneliness causes you to shut down socially, and to be more suspicious of any social contact, he found. You become hypervigilant. You start to be more likely to take offense where none was intended and to be afraid of strangers. You start to be afraid of the very thing you need most. John calls this a “snowball” effect, as disconnection spirals into more disconnection. Lonely people are scanning for threats because they unconsciously know that nobody is looking out for them, so no one will help them if they are hurt. 

YES. So much YES. As I read on in the book, I learned that this can change. With a little bit of effort, this snowball effect of loneliness can be reversed through face-to-face connections. By having conversations with your neighbors, your friends, and your family, you can decrease loneliness and feel safer. The great thing about neighbors. specifically, is that you have many opportunities to connect with them since they live in such close proximity to you. So, why not begin the connection with them through conversation? To give you a chance to feel a little safer and a little more connected. 

For those with social anxiety, I see you. You can do this. I can help you or you can find someone that can help you. For those who do not have social anxiety, please be aware that human connection may be scary for some, but you can be there to help them when they are ready. We are wired for connection,  y'all.*

Much metta.

*It has taken every ounce of me not to quote Mr. Rogers, so feel free to do so now. 

LifeTip: Rejection Absolutely Hurts

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Rejection can feel like that worst feeling in the world, no matter how old you are or how you may feel like you have it “all together.” Humans are a hardwired to desire to belong. Looking at our evolutionary history, it is programmed in us to seek out connection for survival. Thousands of years ago, we would not be able to survive alone without the support of a group of people. Now we may not need the connection for survival in the sense of staying alive, but our brains are still programmed for seeking it out.

Besides all of the thoughts and feelings that try to justify what happened or question ourselves as an individual, what exactly happens to us when we are rejected? Well, we experience physical pain. Rejection is painful and our brains process it as such; It is the same pain we experience when we are physically injured. A study that looked at various individuals who were rejected from playing a game with two other people noticed that the dorsal anterior cingulate and anterior insult had increased activity. These two regions of the brain are the areas that process physical pain. So, being rejected by friends or having your heart broken is processed similarly to breaking a bone.  

What can you take away from this? First, your feelings are justified and valid because your feelings are real to you, however, your hurt feelings now you have some science to back you up because your brain is processing this rejection like physical pain. Secondly, this pain and experience can motivate some of us to seek out better connections, better ourselves by self-reflecting on one’s contribution to social situations, paying more attention to social cues, and evaluating interactions more carefully because there is still hope for real connection. For those without hope, they may react with anger and hostility because they do not see a reason to try and improve their situation, which will further isolate them, but there is still longing for connection. However, there is still hope!

Joining a therapeutic group is one option that can be very helpful for individuals with or without hope for connection after being rejected. These spaces are created to feel safe and foster healthy relationships and conversations with the assistance of a therapist. It is a microcosm of the “real world,” so group members can practice expressing feelings and act out in vivo situations with other group members and take what they have learned and apply it in their personal lives.

Yes, rejection is awful. Yes, it is so painful (science has your back). And, yes, there is hope for finding connection again.


LifeTip: The DNA Journey

If you took a DNA test today, you might be surprised at the results. This video shows just a sampling of individuals who were shocked to find that their cultural heritage spanned across countries and even continents, and in this case, knowledge is power.

Our brains are built to categorize the world around us, and often we view others through a lens of difference, when in fact, we have more in common than we could ever imagine. Which begs the question, would we be so quick to stereotype and separate ourselves if we knew how much we actually had in common with one another?


LoveTip: Our Hour

The transition into parenthood can be a rocky one. Albeit wonderfully filled with the happiest moments of your life, many often find themselves experiencing some of their lowest or most frustrating moments as well. Caring for one or more little ones (or teens for that matter!) can also take a toll on your relationship, and finding the time to focus on your connection to your partner can seem like a daunting task between meals, work, soccer practice, alone time, sleep, etc... So why not start small?

The concept of "Our Hour" is simple. It's one hour a week to spend with your partner. The point is to connect free of distraction, so we suggest tabling your cell phones and screens. Use your hour to put on a record and listen to music, whip up a fun meal, take a walk and hold hands instead of babies, dream together, discuss, laugh, dance, you name it! The point is, that you are intentional in making time for your relationship.

Why not start this week?! Sit down with your partner, break out the calendars, and give yourselves something to look forward to! We wanna hear your ideas for how you'd spend "Our Hour" with your partner. Share below!

The beauty of friendship

With all the talk about relational aggression and so-called "mean girls" in the media, we feel it's vital to reflect on the aspects of female friendship that are loving, special and strong. A recent article in Darling Magazine captured this beautifully:

We can laugh, cry, connect, converse and empathize. We can teach and mentor one another. We can be moved to action, or we can just rest among one another. 

In our girls' groups, we're blessed to witness this beauty of female friendship. Girls are in a unique position to understand what other girls are going through, because they've been there too! Girls get how tough it can be to fit in, to make new friends, to balance school, family and social lives. When we share laughter and tears with other girls, we feel connected, understood and supported. When we reach out to offer a shoulder to cry on to another girl who's struggling, we create deep bonds and feel happier and stronger as a result. We can learn so much about who we are when we connect with other girls.

While our friendships may not always be easy, female friendships are so very rewarding. Find ways to nurture your girlfriends, and you will find that you are building resilience and growing stronger. How can you be a good friend today?

Daddy's Not-so-little Girl

Are you a dad struggling to keep your connection with your daughter as she is growing up? It is possible to maintain a strong relationship during the tween years, but you can also expect that relationship to change and evolve as she does.

Fathers play a crucial role in helping their daughters develop trusting, healthy relationships and a positive self-image. As your tween enters puberty, it's natural to experience some distancing. Dads and daughters have to navigate creating a new relationship as she becomes his not-so-little-girl, and it can be challenging for dads to watch their daughters exert their newfound independence. One of the greatest gifts a dad can give his tween daughter is the space to discover her new self while letting her know that her dad is still there for her whenever she needs him. Trust us, she will!

With Father's Day approaching, here are some ideas for dads and daughters that will help you keep that connection and score some points with your tween!

  • Take your daughter AND her friends (2 or 3) out for brunch on the weekend.
  • Make something together - visit a garage sale and repurpose a piece of furniture for her bedroom!
  • Have a movie night at home during the school week - let her stay up just a little bit longer than usual! And of course, let her choose the movie (with no grumbling from Dad) and a special snack.
  • Take her and a friend to Blues on the Green, Unplugged at the Grove or a Central Market music night for some free fun and great music!
  •  Go sweat it out with paintball! This is a high-energy game that girls and their dads are sure to love. After the game, grab a sno-cone together to cool off and relive the highlights!

Visit for some other great ideas and advice!