It's our 23rd Anniversary this month. I'm 46-years-old next month. Half of my life has been Kara's. She's also 46. Half of her life has been mine.
I think that's something. In my work I am often amazed and saddened by the amount of self-centeredness I see in marriage. It seems simple: when I got married that meant my life was no longer just mine and no longer about just me. It was about her and about us. As a result, I spend a lot of time throughout the year looking for ways to make Kara feel special and know she's loved. I also teach about "Valentine's All Year" as I believe we don't need to wait just one day a year to make a big deal out of our relationships. Why not go above and beyond throughout the year? Great companies work hard to win their customers over and over and over—they don't wait for just one day each year to market themselves to their customers. Great brands, of course, don't just market, they offer a quality product and experience. And from that they create brand loyalty. I decided GREAT relationships could, and should, do the same. A long time ago, I decided I would keep working to win and woo my one marital customer. I've found it's a fun way to stay focused on her and us throughout the year and makes our anniversary and Valentine's something especially enjoyable to look forward to.
Each year I do the following five things for Kara every anniversary. I guess you could say this is all part of my "Marital Marketing Campaign." So far, she's still buying! :-)
1. The Anniversary Playlist
Throughout the year I collect love songs specifically for our next anniversary. I especially prefer love songs that speak to commitment, dedication and behavioral love, not just romantic or feeling-based love.
So if you're a romantic sap, like me, then enjoy these 33 gems—some old, some new, some popular, some obscure. And if you like these, look for my prior years' playlists for many, many more.
1. Lady (You Bring Me Up) • The Commodores
2. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) • Talking Heads
3. Never Tear Us Apart • INXS
4. You Are The Everything • R.E.M.
5. Emulsified • Yo La Tengo
6. Wondr'ing Aloud • Jethro Tull
7. Just the Way You Are • Bruno Mars
8. John And Mary • IIIrd Tyme Out
9. Wagon Wheel • Old Crow Medicine Show
10. Three Minute Positive Not Too Country Up-Tempo Love Song • Alan Jackson
11. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To • Frank Sinatra
12. The Way You Look Tonight • Fred Astaire
13. Cheek To Cheek • Fred Astaire
14. Steppin' Out With My Baby • Fred Astaire
15. S Wonderful/End • Fred Astaire & Audrey Hepburn
1. eye know • de la soul
2. That's How Strong My Love Is • Otis Redding
3. My Baby Just Cares for Me • Nina Simone
4. Let's Stay Together • Al Green
5. I Say A Little Prayer • Aretha Franklin
6. I Found You • Alabama Shakes
7. January Wedding • The Avett Brothers
8. Question • Old 97s
9. Naked As We Came • Iron & Wine
10. Besame Mucho • Chris Isaak
11. Dos Gardenias • Buena Vista Social Club
12. She's The One • The Ramones
13. Lovely Day • Bill Withers
14. Old Love • The Rocket Summer
15. Right Down The Line • Gerry Rafferty
16. Try Me • James Brown & The Famous Flames
17. Wedding Song • Bob Dylan
18. I'm Sticking With You • The Velvet Underground
2. The Anniversary Logo
Many moons ago I once considered becoming a graphic designer. I became a therapist instead. However, I've long dabbled in graphic design and most of my own marketing and design materials. It's fun. And I've designed all our anniversary logos.
I also teach a workshop called "Creating the GREAT Relationship Brand" on how to use branding, marketing, and customer service concepts from business in our own relationships. So, several years ago, I came up with the idea of creating our own brand for our relationship. And while I do a different logo each year, the actual brand aspect that remains constant in each iteration is the "I ♥ Kara".
I put it on the back windows of our vehicles as a vinyl sticker. Over the years, friends and locals have come to look for it and anticipate the next year's, "Are you doing a new one this year?" Yep!
3. Bouquet of Roses
One red rose for each year we've been married and one yellow rose for friendship. We were friends before well before we ever dated and we've been friends through all the love, arguments, ups and downs.
Friends first and friends last.
4. A Fancy Dinner
Kara's fortunately easy to please and for many years we didn't have much as students and then even after I graduated I was the primary breadwinner working as a therapist for mental health agencies (which don't pay much), so the budget has always been tight. We often couldn't afford a fancy expensive dinner. I realized, a long time ago, though, that putting aside $10 each month means $120 I could spend on my baby once a year to take her to a really nice restaurant. So even though we were poor I found a way to splurge, too, and add a real exclamation point (!) to our anniversary. It's easier now, financially, thank goodness, but even then we found a way to make it special.
Kara's an amazing cook (aka "Culinary Wizard") and knows and appreciates fine food. It's fun for me to watch her enjoy an especially well-prepared meal by an amazing and talented chef. Her anticipation while reading the menu and taking in the ambience is palpable. When the dishes arrive she exults in the presentation and flavors. She knowledgeably explains how the food was prepared. Her refined palate can distinguish the subtleties of the various ingredients. She teaches me what the terms and fancy words mean. It's a real joy to eat with her. It's well worth the expense.
Some of our favorites we've gone back to year after year are The Blind Dog (casual fine dining in Park City), Franck's (French cuisine in SLC), and last year we happened upon Faustina's, which we're going to enjoy again this year.
5. A Getaway
When we were first married, we liked to just wander around, window shop, look at antique shops, sit in bookstores and read. We didn't have to buy anything (and often couldn't anyway). We just enjoyed "palling around" together. When the kids were little and we couldn't afford an overnight getaway, we would still getaway by getting a babysitter and taking the whole day off together. As the kids got older, with the help of our flight attendant friends(!) we were able to get some buddy passes and go to Disneyland, Hawaii and a Cruise for our anniversaries. Those were especially fun anniversary trips.
This year it's a simple "staycation." We're heading up to Salt Lake City and while we'll stay in a nice hotel this year, most of our time will just be "palling around" wandering the streets and shops of SLC. No matter where we go, simple or fancy, cheap or expensive, that's the main thing: We just enjoy being together. That's all that really matters.
That's how we do it. But there's no "right" way. What works for each couple (simple or complex, cheap or expensive) is the right way. So what are some of your favorite anniversary and/or Valentine's traditions, memories, activities? Comment below.