Making the Most of Holidays Together

Hel-lo holidays! Whether you’re escaping the cold for warm shores or shacking up in the wilderness for a bit, holidays can really test a couple’s bond.

Sadly, most couples will end up fighting at some point, which can be really upsetting when you’re trying to have a good time together. But when you think about it, on holidays you’re around each other 24/7 with little to no time alone; you may be immersed in a completely different culture, unable to speak the local language; you may find yourselves having trouble negotiating public transport while out of your comfort zone…

Depending on how well you deal with that kind of stress, you can see how it can be a recipe for conflict.

In order to make the most out of your precious time off, follow a few easy rules to help you get through the holidays unscathed.

1. Work out what you want from the holiday

Make sure you have this discussion ahead of time. I’m a sit-by-the-pool-and-do-nothing sort, but my husband much prefers to explore. We usually have a day on/day off arrangement so we can both get what we need to out of a holiday. Talking about what you want before you actually go on holiday will influence everything from where you actually go, to what you do when you get there. Planning the holiday this way is part of the excitement, so put some effort into it.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Holidays are not the place for nagging, moaning, or criticizing. Try to look on the bright side throughout the holiday to ensure you have a great time. Make the effort to be extra-nice, turn any upsets into adventures, and keep a smile on your face—even if your flight gets delayed (time for a wine at the airport!) or you aren’t sure where your taxi driver has dropped you off (a chance to explore new territory!).

3. Be a million miles away

If you’re on a holiday, you are there to get away from your everyday lives, so make sure you switch off. Set up email autoresponders back at home, switch the mobile off, and focus on your partner—and on relaxing yourself. You may also get the urge to have deep and meaningful conversations while you are away, but focusing on your financial problems or any of the other big issues from home will only leave you frustrated. Talk, but focus on the here-and-now to keep yourselves in the moment—escapism on a holiday is not only healthy, it’s the whole point.

4. Get some alone time

It’s important to strike a balance and spend a little time alone as well. Take yourself off to the day spa or golf course alone, spend some time reading or shopping by yourself, take walks solo… Being around each other all day, every day can be a bit too intense.

5. Spice it up in the bedroom

Two words: Holiday sex. (Need I say more?)

Happy holidaying, lovebirds! Tell us about your favorite holiday together…

5 Festive Date Ideas

Off the back of the couples’ holiday survival guide, I thought you might appreciate some suggestions on festive season date nights.

Plan a couple of these in the run-up to Christmas so you and your sweetie can spend time together alone among the chaos! A relaxing night alone for the two of you can be a soothing balm among the shopping crowds, family arguments, and financial strain of Christmas time.

Festive dates

Image copyright Tomasz Trojanowski -

At the very least, find something that the two of you love doing and turn it into your own Christmas tradition—something to look forward to each year, just for you and your relationship.

1. Ice skating

Gliding over the ice hand-in-hand, all rugged up in your mittens and scarves? Anyone who’s watched the couples’ skating at the Olympics knows it’s pure romance on blades. If you’re not quite Torville and Dean, you can settle for shuffling your way around together, holding each other up.

At any rate, cold noses and a warming hot chocolate or eggnog afterwards will definitely up the romantic ante.

2. Christmas movie marathon

Snuggle on the couch together and hold your very own Christmas movie marathon. Instead of popcorn, make your snacks mince pies and warmed, spiced nuts and get into the spirit of the holidays with a classic (It’s a Wonderful Life) a romance (Love, Actually) or even a comedy (Bad Santa) if that’s more to your tastes.

3. Christmas lights

Go for a late-night stroll or drive and check out all the Christmas lights around your neighborhood. They really are magical.

4. Attend carols night

Find out when your town or city’s carols night will be and go along to add your voices to the chorus. Singing is a great way to boost your mood and release stress.

5. Volunteer together

Your help is needed—go together to a soup kitchen or a toy drive and lend a hand. The real meaning of Christmas is found in these places.

Do you and your partner have your own special Christmas tradition? Tell us about it!

Surviving the Holiday Season: a How-to Guide for Couples Everywhere

I can’t quite believe I’m already writing about the holiday season, but ignoring it until the last minute is what gets me into trouble every year. So if the shops have declared it holiday season (and believe me, they well and truly have), then I guess we all need to start planning.

Oh, the cumulative pressure of the holidays on a couple. There’s really nothing quite like it.

Done right, it has all the makings for disaster—the financial pressures of gift-buying and party-throwing; the family pressures to have a really lovely time together even though, after just a few hours, they’ll drive you batty; and the sheer exhaustion from fighting crowds while shopping, spending meticulous hours planning, cooking entire turkeys and eggnog, and partying into the night—and then doing it all over again.

In order to get through it unscathed, take heed of these practical tips for surviving the holiday season.

1. Spend time together, alone

Among the chaos, make sure you allocate a moment or two to yourselves, to breathe, decompress, and enjoy each other’s company. Start a tradition you both enjoy that you can look forward to each holiday.

If you’re really busy, make your alone time productive too, by baking together in the kitchen with a bottle of wine, or wrapping presents on the lounge room floor with your favorite tunes on in the background.

2. Start shopping now

The later you leave the shopping, the longer it’s going to take (hideous lines) and the more money you’re going to spend (quick, we’re running out of time to decide on a present! Just get that!).

Sit down together now and make the full list of family members you need to buy for and how much you’re going to spend. If you really do start now, then online shopping is perfect—there are no lines, the gifts are delivered, wrapped, to your door in time for Christmas, and you can easily track what you’re spending as you go.

That means less arguing over who was supposed to get your in-laws presents, and less financial stress at the last minute. Plus, you won’t be too tired come the celebration days of the holidays.

3. Be a mind-reader

Understand that when your partner is stressing, it will rarely be about you.

Learn to read what’s going on for them—whether their family is getting to them, they’re overwhelmed with the number of things they have to get through, and so on.

Don’t bite back. Support them as best you can by offering to help, diffusing the situation, and letting them vent. Open and honest communication is crucial during stressful times.

What about you? Any great tips for helping survive the holidays together, besides chugging eggnog?

How to Know When to Seek Relationship Counselling

If your car broke down and there was smoke rising from the bonnet, would you try and fix it yourself? Or would you have it towed off to a mechanic to make sure the job got done properly?

It may not be the most romantic metaphor, but you can compare a long-term relationship to owning a luxury car.

It needs to be looked after carefully, filled with a particular kind of high-octane fuel, taken for regular spins, and have its oil and water levels checked constantly.


When your luxury car needs servicing, you don’t try to do it yourself. You send your precious vehicle to a specialist mechanic who knows how to fix it correctly.

Then why is it that, at the sight of smoke coming from our relationship’s bonnet, we don’t take ourselves off to a relationship “mechanic” for help?

Why do so many couples insist on blindly trying to fix it themselves (often not armed with the right tools or the user’s manual), instead of asking for help?

Couples counseling, unfortunately, has a bad rap. Seen as the domain of the philanderer spouse and almost-divorced, a couple usually has to find themselves in serious turmoil before they turn to a psychologist for help.

But what if we went much earlier to see counselors?

What if—what if—we went for yearly “maintenance” tune-ups so that any potential problems were caught early enough to manage effectively?

When there are issues in your relationship that you are struggling to resolve yourselves, why not ask an expert for their advice?

You may just save your relationship.

The stigma

Because of the general public perception of what counseling “means” for a couple (read: divorce, problems, break ups), it can be hard for people to make the leap and seek out help early.

Going to counseling also means having to admit there’s a very real problem in the relationship—something that can be hard to face.

But the first step to solving any problem is to recognize it. And thinking that you should be great at being in a relationship is a fallacy.

People don’t automatically have perfect relationships. Just because you have problems in yours, doesn’t mean you are “not meant to be together” or that you’re with the wrong person.

Look at it like any other small hurdle in life—able to be solved, and a good learning experience.

The other good news is that often, after seeing a therapist, couples will realize that their problems aren’t quite so overwhelming as they once thought. With the correct strategies in place and a new perspective on the issue, suddenly the unsolvable becomes completely manageable.

How to know when to go to counseling

There are several indicators you can look for to tell you when it might be time to seek counseling, which I’ve taken from Relationship Journey:

  • You want to learn skills and tools to have a good or even better marriage or relationship.
  • Or, as soon as one of you thinks you need it, even if the other person doesn’t think so.
  • Or, you feel stuck and what you have tried on your own is not working.
  • Or, one of you feels emotionally or physically and sexually disconnected, and can’t seem to change it on your own.
  • Or, you fight or withdraw or refuse to address issues of conflict.
  • Or, you think your partner is what is wrong with the marriage or relationship.
  • Or, you are thinking you might be happier with someone else.

Basically, if you’re not happy, or you’re sure something is wrong and you can’t seem to fix it yourself, go and find more information about it.

How to find a good counselor

Finding a good counselor is paramount. Make sure the person you choose does specialize in relationship counseling—it’s a very different model to individual therapy. If you’re not sure, ask them on the phone how much of their practice is dedicated to relationship counseling.

Make sure the therapist knows that you and your partner are there to work on your relationship, not to be coached through a break up or divorce.

Every counselor has a different style and approach. There are those who are pro-marriage, who will advocate for your marriage and fight to help you save it. For me, this would be the most preferable style of counselor to find. You don’t want someone who is anti-divorce (sometimes, in extreme cases, this may be the only solution), but you don’t want someone who is quick to jump to that option either, or who will put the idea on the table even when it’s the furthest thing from your mind.

There are those who are marriage-neutral and will simply help you list pros and cons for saving the relationship or letting it go. Again, I would prefer someone who would help me fight for my relationship.


If counseling seems too extreme for you, or you are uncomfortable with the idea, consider finding some relationship education courses to attend. These are run by qualified relationship educators and can offer some great insights into relationships and give you new tools to help manage your own relationship in day-to-day life.

What are your thoughts about relationship counseling? Have you ever tried it? And if not, would you?

Do You Make These Relationship Mistakes?

It would be brilliant if relationships came with an instruction manual. They could work something like a car’s dashboard—warning lights flashing early enough in advance so you could pull out the manual and see what was going wrong and how to fix it.

In reality, there are many, many mistakes we can make along the course of our relationship. Most of them, we don’t pick up until it’s too late. Many can be avoided with a little effort and forward-thinking.

Here are three common mistakes that may just sound familiar.

Sky-high expectations

Oh boy, am I a sucker for this one.

I have to work really hard to keep my expectations in check, especially around big life events—like my wedding.

You see, I often have this vision in my mind of how things “should” be (usually colored by stupid Hollywood rom-coms, I’m ashamed to admit) and when they don’t play out perfectly, I can get a little (read: a lot) cranky.

For instance, after my wedding I expected the honeymoon period to last for months. As blissful newlyweds, I thought we’d be surrounded by a special loving glow, wouldn’t be able to keep our hands off each other for months, would stare into each other’s eyes for hours (okay, that one I’m joking about, except for one teensy, soppy part of me that would kind of relish it) …

In reality, it was only day three of our honeymoon when my husband got food poisoning and the dream was instantly crushed. I was left walking the beach at sunset alone while he broke out in cold sweats back in the hotel room.

Having unrealistic expectations will only lead to bitter disappointment. Be realistic about things. Your partner is not a mind-reader. Of course there are certain reasonable expectations that every relationship needs to survive: fidelity, intimacy, and trust are but a few. Next time you’re feeling disappointed or let down in your relationship, ask yourself if your expectations were realistic or not.

Letting romance slide

It all starts out great, with romantic dinner dates and bunches of flowers. But there comes a point in every relationship when suddenly it’s less wooing and more leaving the toilet door open.

Romance is a beautiful thing and we do need to work hard to keep it around after the first stages of love disappear.

I bang on about this all the time. “Romance” is really just code for “making an effort.” The very nature of romance is that it’s impractical, thoughtful, and often spontaneous. When we no longer have endorphins to inspire our romantic gestures, we need to dig a little deeper to bring it out.

Go and do something romantic and impractical and spontaneous for your partner today. It can be as simple as a text message telling them you love them, or as elaborate as telling them to dress up and meet you in town, then surprising them with tickets to a show.


You and your partner must keep talking. Always. Otherwise you’ll turn into one of those couples you see in restaurants who sit there in silence, poking their food with their forks.

Keep in the habit of having discussions. About anything and everything. Sit and read the newspapers together and chat about stories in there. Find some conversation-starters, and turn to them when it’s been a boring week. Have a little break away from each other for a night or a weekend so you have something to talk about when you reunite.

Verbal communication and socializing is one of the great joys we have in life. Stay in the habit and you’ll be firm friends forever.

These are just three common mistakes in relationships. Got any more for us?

Moving In: Your How-to Guide

Years ago, it used to be that you would get married before you moved in with your partner. Not so anymore, as people everywhere opt to “try before they buy” when it comes to living a deux.

Sure, it sounds like a sensible idea in theory—you know upfront if you’ll be compatible, not to mention the financial convenience of the arrangement—but studies have shown that it doesn’t always work that way in reality:

Psychology Today reports: “To help figure this out, let’s look at what research on living together might tell us. Well, most studies done from 1995 forward showed that couples that lived together before marriage had higher divorce rates as compared with couples that didn’t. Other findings included poorer mental and physical health, including depression, especially for women.

“One explanation for these findings is that the burden placed on women is not compensated for in a living together environment. Since women are known to do the lion’s share of housework, the thinking is that a woman would go from taking care of her own place to having to do the housework and other domestic errands in the two-person apartment or house that she shared with her boyfriend. All this extra work occurs without the benefit of the financial and emotional security that comes with the commitment of marriage.”

I moved in with a boyfriend once. We were both very excited about it—our new little apartment was fantastic. I was barely out of university, and finances were somewhat strained between my measly graduate salary and his fledgling business.

Things were a little tough. But then, they almost always are. The big mistake came when after only three months, he panicked and moved out. We broke up.

Then, when he was at a comfortable distance from me again (i.e. in a new house) he came asking if we could get back together.

The key here, in my opinion, is that we weren’t committed enough to making it work.

There are going to be potholes while you settle in to life together. I think it takes a good six months to iron out the kinks. If you’re not committed to making it through those obstacles, it’s all too easy to cut and run.

Let’s talk about how living together usually goes.

We aren’t always in the habit of talking seriously about moving in first. What is more common is that someone’s lease is up, or someone’s flatmate announces they’re moving overseas and there will be a forced change to the living situation. At this point, of course it makes sense to move in together. You’ve already been spending four nights a week together, someone is no doubt living out of the boot of their car and sick of it and not combining rent payments just seems crazy, right?

Decision made. The truck is hired and the co-habiting can commence.

First there’s the obligatory honeymoon phase: you rush home to cook dinner together and snuggle on the couch to watch movie marathons in your domestic bliss.

Then slowly, the glow fades and it’s all flannel pyjamas and wet tea bags on the sink. You argue about his ugly armchair, her stuffed toy collection, and whose turn it is to do the laundry.

It’s the harsh reality of living with another person, but with a little strategic foresight it doesn’t have to get out of hand. And: it does get better.

Learn to bend before you break

Battles over which way the toilet roll should hang and in what order the cutlery sits in the drawer aren’t massive, life-changing events.

Learn to adapt. Let the little things go so you can save your energy for the real arguments—like scrubbing the shower.

Have a proper discussion about finances

Sit down before you even move in together and come up with a solution for how you will manage your finances.

There is generally a spender and a saver in every relationship. Let the saver take charge of the finances. But the spender should also be very active in the planning and keep an eye on the books as well.

You may want to join your finances, or keep them separate and contribute to a shared pool. Either way, you need to work it out ahead of time to save the arguments—money is the biggest factor in most relationship arguments. For some handy tips on how to budget as a couple, take a look at this three-part series.

Get access the tools you need

Many couples have one thing they swear has been their “relationship saver”—dishwashers, a cleaner once a fortnight, a man cave. If you really are at a stalemate over a particular issue, think laterally to solve it.

Keep making an effort

I found when my now-husband and I moved in together (after we became engaged, as I had learned my lesson the first time) that we became an instant old, boring, married couple. It was suddenly waaay too easy to sit on the couch in our tracksuit pants every night watching mindless television. Dinners went from candlelight at the dining table to pasta in a bowl on our laps.

Keep making an effort with your partner at home. Schedule date nights, cook the occasional gourmet meal, and don’t change straight into your sloppy clothes as soon as you walk in the door.

A little effort goes a long way, and it is your spirit and attitude to living together that will get you through the hard times.

Any other words of wisdom from our readers when it comes to living together? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

4 Cozy Fall Date Ideas

Fall is the perfect season for lovers. After all the beach weather and parties of summertime, Fall is a great segue into cooler months that mean cozy nights on the couch and comfort food cooked in your own kitchen.

To make the most of this visually spectacular, romantic time of year, here are four Fall date ideas for you to try.

1. Go apple picking

Apple picking

Copyright Maridav -

It’s harvest time for this crisp, ripe fruit! Find a nearby orchard where you can take out a basket and pick your own shiny apples.

Once the hard work is done, stop for a cider at the orchard (I guarantee they’ll have a café that makes the most of their wonderful produce there), then head home to bake apple pie from scratch. Don’t forget to pick up the vanilla ice cream on the way!

2. Have a picnic

It’s a shame to let all those leaves put on such a show if no one is around to appreciate it. Rug up, find some extra blankets to snuggle in, and head to a picnic spot among gorgeous trees.

Take mulled wine or hot chocolate in a thermos, some pumpkin pie and gourmet cheeses. Make some time to build piles of leaves and jump in them while you’re at it.

3. Enjoy football season

Football is back! Spend a night watching your local college team play while huddled in the bleachers under a blanket with some burgers and fries. Even if football isn’t your thing, pick a team and cheer hard. Getting into the sporting spirit is guaranteed to warm you up.

4. Scream!

Get into the Halloween spirit early with a classic horror movie marathon at home. Snuggle on the couch with popcorn and candy while you shiver at the likes of Hitchcock and Kubrick.

All that adrenalin may just get your heart racing … in more ways than one!

How do you like to spend cool Fall days with your sweetie?

On “Fatherless Children”

Fatherless children have been getting a lot of bad press lately.

The British PM, David Cameron, blamed the London riots on a lack of solid male role models and has declared himself ready to “tackle fatherless children.”

In the increasingly-heated debate about same-sex marriage, the conservatives are holding up the same card, claiming children without fathers are much worse off.

This was most recently seen in the case of Australian Senator Penny Wong, who shared the happy news that she and her partner are expecting a baby, only to be met with vile comments from conservative religious groups about gay parents violating a baby’s “human rights” and saying that children “generally did best if raised by a mother and a father”—to mention a few.

Actually, they’re wrong.

A first-of-its-kind study from 2010 showed the exact opposite—two mothers equates to well-adjusted, better behaved, smart children. Sometimes moreso than in the traditional nuclear family model.

Regardless, words like those the above are not fair on single parents around the globe, who are doing their best to raise children on their own when there’s no option for a second parent to be involved.

I was raised by a single mother from the age of seven after my father died. I am not rioting in the streets. I am not suffering from behavioural issues and I was not a difficult teenager.

Children do not need fathers. Or mothers, for that matter. They need love. And the more of it they have, the better.

A family is what you make it.

My family was just us girls—my mother, my little sister, and me. We loved each other and looked out for each other.

My extended family—godparents, uncles, aunties, surrogate mothers, and fathers—all stepped in. I never felt alone. I never felt the need to rebel, and certainly never to set things on fire.

Rather than twist the research to serve prejudiced views, I think we can extrapolate a little further to say:

Children fare best when their parents take an active interest in their lives, when they feel supported, and are encouraged to flourish. It doesn’t matter who that comes from, so long as they are loved.

FeelGooder Asks: How Do You Keep Your Relationships Strong?

I’m always fascinated when I meet people who have reached their twentieth, thirtieth, or fiftieth wedding anniversaries (or longer!) and are still together. The first question I always blurt out is: What’s your secret?

I love the answers. No one has ever told me it’s easy. My own grandmother tells me that she and my Pa always had fun—that was their key. And it’s true. They were always laughing, pulling stupid pranks on each other, telling jokes, organizing costume parties, and so much more. They adored each other and they loved to laugh. I make it a point to keep playing in my relationship as much as possible.

On Valentine’s Day 2010, the world’s longest-married couple took to Twitter to share their wisdom and advice in bite-sized pieces for the younger generations, who were all invited to tweet questions.

The Fishers' Twitter stream

The Fishers' Twitter stream

Together 86 years, Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher (with the help of a technologically-savvy young thing somewhere) delivered their gems of marriage insight to the World Wide Web.

When you are more than 100 years old, I’d say you’ve seen nearly everything. They struck me with their calmness and certainty in what they have, and the sheer solidarity of what it takes to get through almost a century together.

When asked how they knew they were right for each other, they said: “We grew up together and were best friends before we married. A friend is for life—our marriage has lasted a lifetime.”

And when asked about the hard relationship times they said: “Remember marriage is not a contest—never keep a score.” They emphasise teamwork and a willingness to do what needs to be done.

These days, they enjoy sitting on their porch talking. After all these years they haven’t run out of things to say to each other.

What advice would you give to someone asking how to keep their relationship strong? What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from someone else? What do you do in your own relationships to make sure they survive the distance?

Is Marriage Really That Difficult?

Another celebrity marriage has bitten the dust this week, with the announcement of J.Lo and Marc Anthony’s split.

Headlines around the world are proclaiming the couple fell victim to the clichéd Seven-Year Itch, which scientists revealed a few years back to be nothing more than “we’re bored with our marriage.”

In further alarming statistics, there has been a spike in younger couples (under 30s) who aren’t even making it past the four-year mark in their marriages—the media last year coined the “three year glitch” for these attention-deficit couples who seemingly decide to splash out on a white wedding with all the trimmings, then up-and-leave when things don’t go their way.

If you’re not willing to compromise and you still have time on your side, there’s no compunction for Generation Y when it comes to divorce.

Certainly, our modern society has no stigma attached to divorce. So we have this new trend of practice marriages—”starter marriages”, which are a dry run for the real marriage that will come later in life.

Except it’s not a dry run. It’s the real thing.

You’d think the easier option for the warm-up would just be to move in together without signing the papers, pledging commitment, and making your family buy you expensive towel sets and fancy toasters.

But you have to ask yourself: is marriage really so difficult that you can’t last more than 36 months before contemplating divorce?

Are couples weighing up the pros and cons far too late? Shouldn’t you be sure before you walk down the aisle?

And once you have wed, shouldn’t you do everything in your power to try and make it work before divorcing? Is three years a long enough time to say you really gave it your best shot?

There are obvious exceptions—cheating, lying, abuse are all valid reasons to end a marriage.

But studies showing that couples are more annoyed by their partner’s weight gain and spending habits are what really get me. These aren’t marriage-dissolving issues, surely?

Author Christine Meinecke has hit the nail on the head with her book Everybody Marries the Wrong Person. Every marriage will move from infatuation to disenchantment, she says. And there is no “right person” out there. Marriage cannot succeed without mature love, which is self-responsible.

“Self-responsible spouses do not try to change their partners. Instead, they focus on managing their own insecurities and dark moods, expectations and reactions.”

What genius. Don’t blame someone else for your problems. Be self-aware and be prepared to self-improve. This will obviously work only if your spouse is willing to do the same.

Marriage is hard. I don’t think anyone goes into thinking it will be easy. And you only have a marriage just as long as you’re both willing to work at it. But that’s the point of marriage. That’s exactly what you’re committing to do—work at it, no matter what.

What do you think about three-year marriages? Are couples less willing to try and make it work these days?