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June 16, 2015

Celebrate Your Connection

darondickens-300June 16 is a very special date in the Dickens’ household. That is the date my wife, Margaret, and I got married. It was not only a special day, but also one that I was unsure if I would ever see! My wife and I dated for a long time, so when we decided to get married it was not a rash decision. Being older than most we had the luxury of having witnessed and been a part of a lot of our friends’ weddings. We took full advantage of this and made June 16, 2007, a day we would never forget.

The problem is, when we remember our anniversary every year, it is rarely on June 16. It’s usually on June 20 or 21 or sometime in August. I know stereotypes would have us believe that the bumbling husband is always the insensitive dolt who forgets his anniversary. I don’t know if that is true in your house, but it is certainly not the case in mine. I’ve been the culprit at times and my wife at other times.

What is the problem? Are we insensitive? Are we incapable of remembering dates? Do we not actually value our marriage as we profess to?

The fact is that there are a lot of reasons why these things happen. It is easy to pin it on one thing or another. It is easy to say it must be because we are male or female or American or born in this generation or that. People are complex and do things for a myriad of reasons. It happens, so, rather than playing the blame game or assuming you know the real reason behind someone else’s behavior, focus on what you can do about it now. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Set a special date to celebrate your anniversary regardless of whether or not it is the actual date. We do this for national holidays and children’s birthdays all the time. There’s an actual date and then a date of observance. Most of the time we observe the holiday the following weekend. My wife and I are especially busy this time of year. My wife’s a teacher, so in early June she’s transitioning to the summer and our kids’ new schedule. Our anniversary would come and go, and we would feel bad and guilty and unloved for the first couple of years. Then we decided to do something about it. Now we celebrate June 16th, that joyous day when we shared our nuptials with all our friends and family…on July 4th. By then we have firmly shifted to summer mode, and it’s a date we know we’ll be together. It’s also happens to be the day we got engaged, but that’s just a happy coincidence.
  2. Make this something both of you can actively participate in and enjoy. Although it is a stereotype that the husband is always the one who forgets, there might be a good reason for that. The wedding anniversary should celebrate the union of the two of you, but often it ends up focusing on remembering the wedding itself. The wedding can be a fairly female-centric affair. Grooms are often little more than props who are told to stand here or to stand there. Make sure that the anniversary time has elements that both of you can enjoy. My wife and I started going to a baseball game a few years ago. After experiencing several years in the beginning where we sat around looking at our wedding book and watching our wedding video (which often ended with me falling asleep), I asked for a change. Unfortunately, for a year or two after that it fell to me to think of something different that would both live up to her expectations and be tolerable for me. It was only when we sat down together and made sure we did something that we both could celebrate around that the connection really took hold.
  3. Create a tradition on that date that keeps it alive and vital. When I talk to couples about their woes around this day it is often about how they spend it. The pattern that many feel almost forced into is one where the wife has been looking forward to it with great anticipation. The husband is expected not only to treat the date with equal excitement, but also do all the planning to make it as special as her expectations demand. Whether this is your pattern or not, it can be very easy to find yourself just “phoning it in” by going out to dinner. That can become a stale, boring activity. What if, instead, this was a day you calibrated your marriage? We all get caught up in the day-to-day routine of life and its craziness, especially if you have kids. What if you treated this day as a chance to do some special tradition that helped to connect the way you did on the day of your wedding? Maybe you keep a photo album, and each year you each bring a photo or item representing your favorite moment from the past year. You can talk about why that day was fun or special as you plan how to have more of those types of experiences in the future. Maybe it is a special book where you write down something you would like to do as a couple in the next year or a dream you have for the future. Each year you not only record the new dream, but also look over what you wrote the previous year to see how you have grown and changed (or maybe have drifted and need to recalibrate). If you are very courageous, maybe you share one thing about your spouse that you have loved seeing or experiencing in the last year and one thing you didn’t enjoy.
  4. Add to the vows you made on your wedding day. I read some research about the stress of wedding planning and how the number one element of the wedding that couples felt stress and fought over was the creation of their wedding vows. This does not surprise me. When doing premarital work with couples this seems to be the area that neither has much experience at. Many just Google the most commonly used marriage vows and use those. Vows, however, can hold some very important ideals. Vows are about who you hope to be as a couple and what you specifically are agreeing to bring to the table. Vows often focus on the lifetime of your marriage rather than that one day. Why, then, do we rarely give them a second thought after the wedding ceremony? What if, having experienced another blessed year together, we added a vow to our spouse? What if we spoke about the couple we still want to be and pledged to bring more to the marriage with each passing year?

The most important factor for celebrating your anniversary, of course, is intentional connection. Hopefully these suggestions can help you take a stagnant date on the calendar and make it a meaningful celebration of that connection.

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