Dr. Michelle Golland: The firestorm around how they got to NYC and the issue of spending taxpayer money is not one I care to address. However, I do believe seeing the First Couple going out on a date night is a good thing for all of us who are married and struggling to maintain connected, happy relationships -- while managing the chaos of work and family.
As a relationship expert, I hear many couples who sit across from me say, "I just don't know him anymore" or "All she cares about is the kids and keeping the order of the house." My first question is, "How often do you go out alone as a couple?" The most in-distress couples are the ones that can barely remember the last time they actually went on a date. This is a serious problem in a marriage. I also don't accept the issue of not having money for a babysitter or someone they can trust. We should all have a few people we will leave our children with and who would be willing to swap kids for a night so each couple could get a date night out.
Barack Obama made a promise to his wife, Michelle, that after the campaign was over he would take her to a Broadway play. As our president, he made good on his promise to his wife. We should be proud of that fact. As partners, we make promises to each other that if not fulfilled can fester and create resentment and anger. I believe to be successful at our jobs and in our family life we need to keep the "couplehood" of our lives high on the priority list. It is easy to let this get pushed down by work commitments and the schedules of our children's busy lives, but once it is off the list I promise you that you will find yourself on your way to a disconnected and unfulfilling marriage.
We can take the lead from our First Couple and make our marital relationships one of the most important parts of our lives -- if not the most important. I believe in my own marriage, and I tell this to my couples all the time: "You are an example of what it means to be a 'husband' and what it means to be a 'wife,' not just parents." Our kids learn what they will want in their relationships from us. I know I want my daughter to want a man who will be affectionate towards her, respect her opinions, value her as a mother, wife, and woman. She sees this in our marriage -- it is not just a wish for her, but is now an expectation for her future.
"Date Night" is not just about getting away from the kids, but creating a new history and new stories together as a couple. The reason many couples divorce when the kids go off to college is because they no longer have anything to talk about and have totally lost their couple connection: they have focused only on their identities as "parents," not as "partners." The First Couple can be an example of how we all need both, no matter how busy or hectic our lives can be -- we must make our marriage a top priority. I now will say to my couples, "If the First Couple can find the time and energy to go out on date nights, then I am sure we can find a way to get you two out alone regularly."
|Dr. Golland is a USC graduate and a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY#16974). She works with adults, teens and is an expert in the field of marriage and relationships. Dr. Golland has given her expert advice on CNN, HLN, MSNBC, ABC, and Fox news. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and wonderfully exhausting two children.|