date ideas

Healthy Relationships: The Five Love Languages

In my coaching, I have found it particularly useful for couples to understand and integrate the Five Love Languages.  Gary Chapman (author of The Five Love Languages) says that there are five main ways individuals express and receive love.  Each of us has a preference for with language we receive.  We are also each more skilled in giving love in one of these ways than the other.

The trick is that we are most likely to give love in the forms that we most enjoy receiving.  But our partner may have a different preferred language and may miss our attempts at showing our love, or may give love in a way we aren't even realizing!

To clarify your preference take a few notes on the following questions:

1.  What is the sweetest thing your partner has ever done for you?  What made it so touching?

2.  What are the five most recent ways you showed your partner you love them?  How did they respond?

This information will help you determine your preferred love language.  Often we default to our own favorite love language when giving love to our partner.  However, its important to try to use a variety of ways to show your sweetheart you care.  Its even more helpful to learn their preference and try to work in ways they will really enjoy being loved.

The Five Love Languages are:

1.  Words of Love: Sweet things said or written to one another

There are many ways to share words of love.  It's really helpful to share affirmations and appreciations every day.  Tell your partner why they are special to you and what drew you to them.  Help them see how great they are in person and in writing.  Emails, texts, quick phone calls or Skype dates can quickly warm your loved ones' heart.  It can take a little creativity if this isn't your primary love language.  Make a list of all the ways you can tell them and begin making attempts every day.  You might want to make them a card, write it on a cake, read it in a poem, or shout it from the rooftop!

2.  Physical Affection: Nonverbal physical intimacy

Do you hold hands in the movies?  Do you kiss hello and goodbye?  hugging, cuddling, and sex is especially important to partners who prioritize this love language.  Increasing the amount of loving touch you share doesn't take much time, but may require a little thought, especially if this isn’t your primary love language or you didn’t grow up in a physically affectionate family.  Simply sitting close to each other as you watch TV requires no additional time, but can communicate your love loudly.

3.  Acts of Service: Actions providing care for the other

Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an a partner who highly values acts of service will speak volumes. Some of the words they most want to hear are, “Let me do that for you.”  Ask yourself, what chore or responsibility is your partner constantly nagging you about?  Your spouse is telling you this particular task as a really important thing to him or her.  Try it as a starting point for your acts of service.

4.  Quality Time: The gift of your undivided attention

Time is a strong communicator of love and all too often couples spend more time apart than together.   Because we are drawn in so many directions it is especially important to spend real-time focused on each other and your partnership.  In order to increase connection and communication for the partner who especially values quality time there are a few easy ways to improve the quality of your shared time.

  • Set your electronic devices aside for a set time (especially on dates and during conversations).

  • Maintain eye contact when your partner is talking

  • Try not to interrupt

  • Reflect your partners words back to them so they know you hear them.

  • Ask yourself, what your partner is experiencing, and try to confirm their emotional experience

5.  Gifts: Gestures and/or presents as symbols of your love

All five love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speaks the loudest.  This does not have to be a materialistic gesture.  Some of the most meaningful gifts can include tickets to a show you loved together, or a receipt from a date when you were just getting to know each other.  They can be flowers from your yard, or drawings, or poems.  Keep a note of your partners wish list (Evernote can be a great tool for this on your smart phone) so you always have ideas handy.

Understanding the five love languages and the ways they support your love can lead to greater creativity, interest, and most importantly awareness in your relationship.

50 Free and Cheap Super Dates in Portland

Keeping the romance alive can be easier than you might think.  Portland (and the areas close-by) is completely FILLED with great date opportunities for you and your sweetie to reconnect and adventure.  

Here's a list of 50 free summer date ideas (and around) in Portland this summer:

Soak together

There are TONS of incredible hot springs near Portland and across the state.  Hike in and soak with your special someone!  Here's a great list with a map!

Eat local

If you're a foodie you know Portland is a great place to eat.  But the summer produce from local farmers makes it even better for food-inspired folks.  Go to any of the farmer's markets to taste or challenge yourself to see new parts of town by attending all the markets on this map this summer.

Watch a movie

Portland parks shows free movies all over the city three and four nights a week.  Bring a blanket and your favorite movie snacks and watch a silly show with your neighbors.  Here's the whole list.

You can also attend the rooftop movies at Hotel DeLuxfor a more grown up movie night.

Go swimming

There are over 6000 lakes in Oregon.  Start with a visit to any of the lakes on this list of 60 great summer swimming spots!

You can also attend the Chunky Dunk, or Naked Goddess Swim, if that floats your boat.

Picnic in the parks

One of my creative couples started checking off a list of every park in Portland last summer.  Their goal?  Visit every park with a picnic basket.  There are 279 parks in town- so this adventure list could keep you busy for a while!

Attend the symphony

Oregon Symphony puts on a show at Tom McCall Waterfront park for 20,000 Portlanders every summer.  You should check it out.  Here's the deets.

The Portland Festival Symphony puts on five additional shows in various parks throughout the city.  Check out the listing here.

River Festival

Free music and performances at the gorgeous Cathedral Park.  Come dance with your sweetie and celebrate how beautiful the Willamette is!

Eat some berries

Oregon overflows with berries in the summer and there are a lot of fun ways to eat them.  Attend the berry festival, go to u-pick farms near town, or wander one of the great berry picking spots off trails with your honey.


Oregon is one of the best places to beach comb around.  Head to the coast at any of these spots to find agates, jasper, shells and more.

Street Fairs

I cannot believe how many neighborhood street fairs happen in Portland.  It seems like there's one every weekend.  If you've missed the early ones this summer don't worry you can still check out any of these:

Clinton/Division Street Fair

Fremont Fest Street Fair

Mississippi Street Fair

Soapbox Derby

Yes, Portland is home to an annual Adult Soapbox Derby, and if you get there early enough you can watch other adults zoom past- narrowly avoiding fate with hundreds of other onlookers.

Dessert date

Pix patisserie hosts Wednesday beer garden movie nights with free popcorn all summer.  Get something sweet for your sweetie.

Vegas in Portland

Tony Starlight is Portland's best answer to the glory of old Las Vegas.  You can pay for a show throughout the year, or attend the free Fernhill Park show this July.

Support state parks

My partner and I started this adventure list a while ago and it has given us so many beautiful days.  Support the state parks by hiking, camping, fishing, riding through or cleaning up any of the parks listed here.

Concert lunch date

Pioneer Square hosts noon concerts all summer.  Meet your sweetie for a nooner lunch date and check out the show.

Mermaid Parade

Either attend or dress yourselves up (or both) for the mermaid parade this year.  That simple- Mermaid pride!

Smell the roses

If you're into flowers- but not able to buy them consider a trip to the rose garden.  There are thousands of flowers for you and your sweetheart to choose favorites from.  

Obon Festival

The Oregon Buddhist Temple shares a traditional Japanese holiday with Portland each year.  Bring your sweetie and try something different.

See some art

Portland is such a great city for artists.  You can support art in every neighborhood.  Attend Last Thursday on Alberta, or First Thursday in the Pearl.  Or go to one of the free days at the Portland Art Museum.

Fossil Festival

Attend the Northwests Largest Fossil Festival and geek out together over the incredible diversity of rocks, gemstones, and fossils found in our home state.

Go for a ride

Portland Parkways is a program held by Portland Parks and Rec every year to quiet a neighborhood and give space for pedal-powered riders.  Bring your bike and a lunch and watch a zillion toddlers learn to pedal.  

Float the river

There are so many ways to float the rivers in and near portland.  You could attend the Big Float in town or head outside the city to float the Clackamas or the Sandy River.

India Festival

Celebrate Indian cultural heritage with other Portlanders at Pioneer Park- it's totally free.  

Nude not lewd

If your relationship is ready for public nudity, there are two clothing-optional beaches near Portland, Collins on Sauvies and Rooster Rock.  Both have cheap day-use fees ($5 and $7 respectively) so you can really soak in the sun.

Highland Games

Okay, it's not free- but it sounded so fun I had to include it.  Attend the Scottish Highland Games in Greshambecause it's that fun.

Take a hike

Oregon is arguably the most beautiful state to live in.  Get outside together to enjoy the beauty!  Here's a list of 75 awesome day hikes in driving distance of Portland.

positive psychology | couples retreat | relationship coach | couples coach

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC has helped thousands of couples review their growth together, and renew their connection moving forward. 

For nearly 15 years she's specialized in strengths-focused, positive psychology-based relationship advice and coaching to nurture lasting joy and and resilience in her client's relationships.  

She will help you:

  • develop a shared vision and goals- and create actionable steps to move in that direction
  • overcome outdated patterns and establish new intentional, healthy ones
  • strengthen trust or repair it after infidelity or dishonesty
  • connect in meaningful ways during and well after life transitions
  • design rituals of connection that will keep you close for many years
  • break stale or unhealthy communication patterns and learn new skills 

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

52 Cheap (and FREE) Portland Dates Your Sweetheart Will LOVE

Have you run out of date ideas?  It's okay, at some point all amazing relationship artists lose inspiration and steam.  All you have to do to get it back it be open to trying something new, and have a sweetheart who is willing to join you for an adventure.

Do you have those two ingredients?  Great, then read on if you use this as a weekly checklist you should have date ideas for a year!

Let me know in the comments how the dates go!

1.  Go to the library and check out each of your favorite bedtime stories from childhood.  Take turns reading to each other at night- be sure to share the memories you have of reading them as a kid!

2.  Check your Portland City Parks for free summer outdoor movies.  Even if you've seen it before, pack a blanket and some homemade treats for the show!

3.  Check out a star map from the library (or download the free google sky app) and lay under the stars with your sweetie.  Make a wish on a falling star!

4.  Go to McMenamins Edgefield for the afternoon and wander their gardens.  Really, they are beautiful grounds for a picnic or stroll.

5.  Watch the roses bloom in the Rose Garden.  Go in May for the best blooms, or check out other parts fo the park the rest of the year!

6.  Pick (at least) one theme ride from the June Pedalpalooza (I recommend Star Wars vs Star Trek) and take your sweetie for a ride.

7.  Watch the full moon rise together.  Just you two, the moon and a blanket and watch what happens....

8.  Grab your pillows and attend National Pillow Fight Day downtown.  Watch your sweetie kick some feather-filled booty!

9.  Go to the Portland Art Museum on the monthly fourth Friday free admission day.  Find a piece that inspires you and tell your honey what makes it stand out or find a piece that reminds you of them and tell them why.

10.  Check out the Powell's City of Books events calendar to find an author that interest you (or better yet, your date).  They have delicious double chocolate cookies in their coffee shop- take a sweet treat to a reading or two!

11.  Watch the meteor showers.  Make a wish on a falling star!

12.  Have you watched the swifts?  his September thousands of birds will migrate to NW Portland, and you and your sweetie will join hundreds of other Portlanders with picnic blankets to watch the swarm dance.  I promise, if nothing else, the crowd watching is worth it.

13.  Play bingo together.  Cheap grilled cheese and large colored markers.  Need I say more?  Try the East Portland Eagles Lodge, or make a list of all the bingo locations and check them off one by one!

14.  Ride or bike out to Sauvie Island to pick berries.  If you can't make it all the way to Sauvie, the Oregon Berry Festival might be closer!

15.  And after picking berries, go to the nude beach on the northwest tip of Sauvie Island.

16.  If you stay there long enough, you can play in the pumpkin patch.  Take a hay ride, pick a pumpkin, carve a pumpkin, eat funnel cakes, drink cider and have a cozy fall date with your honey!

17. Is your baby a jazz fan?  Take them to the free Cathedral Park Jazz festival and dance the night away.

18.  Portland Actors Ensemble puts on free performances all summer.  Shakespeare anyone?

19.  Have you heard of Kick Ass Oregon History?  Lets just say this is not the history lecture you remember in high school.  These are talks about piracy, sex workers, adultery, and extortion and they are all true about our home town!  Plus they are laced with profanity and take place in a secret basement bar.  Take your sweetie for a history lesson.

20.  The city of Portland hosts concerts in city parks almost every day all summer.  Check this list of concerts in the park, then hit New Seasons deli and you have a beautiful (cheap) concert date.

21.  Take a brewery tour.  Free tours, good drinks, and you will learn a lot about where your beer comes from!

22.  Make a list of five books that changed each of your lives and spend the winter cozy together reading and reviewing the list!

23.  The Oregon Rail Heritage Museum is open and admission is donation only.  All aboard!

24.  Baskin Robbins offers $1 child size cones on Tuesdays.  Check your store for participation or go to Ben and Jerry's for their regular free cone events!

25.  Check out the concert lineup at Sundown at Ecotrust and take a walk over!

26.  If you haven't had enough outdoor summer concerts yet, try the Wednesday Music on Mainstreet series downtown with your honey.  Don't forget to dance!

27.  Do you know how to play chess?  If not, you can learn here and ten teach your partner with the huge pieces at Director Park, or on one of the sets at Anna Banana's Cafe.

28.  If wellness is your honey's thing, take them to Director Park for their Wednesday free Nia Dance class.

29.  More edible (and delicious) mushrooms grow in the Pacific Northwest than anywhere else.  Join the Oregon Mycological Society on one of their fall foraging hikes and see what you two can cook up afterwards!

30.  Even on a tight budget, you can go to the symphony.  Portland Symphony hosts free concerts in the park regularly.  So get dressed up and go!

31.  Make a list of all the farmer's markets in town and attend one a week.  each week challenge yourself to try something new, or bring something new home and learn to cook with it!

32.  Is your sweetie a super hero in training?  Try out the climbing wall in Portland Parks for free climbing for beginners.

33.  Of all the strange (and donation-only) events in Portland, the annual Oregon Humane Society Portland Pug Crawl is one of my favorites.  Take your sweetie to one of the more unusual (thousands of tiny snorting dogs, in costume, at a brewery) events you will ever enjoy together!

34.  Do the Naked Bike Ride together.  At least once.  Just do it.

35.  Make a list of your date's ten favorite movies and then schedule a weekly date night to watch them together.  Rent, netflix, or borrow them from the library.

36.  Try meditation.  There are MANY free meditation sessions throughout the city.  See what comes up in silence for each of you!

37.  If you like garlic, both Festa Italiana and the Oregon Garlic Festival are free in downtown Portland!  Just make sure you bring breath mints!

38.  Free art festivals on the First Thursday and Last Thursday of each month might inspire your own artwork.  First Thursday is in the Northwest Pearl Neighborhood, Last Thursday has a lot more energy and is on Alberta.

39.  Backspace hosts Sunday night Portland Poetry Slam all year.  Go early for a bite, or to write your own piece for the open mic and share your loving words with the whole audience!

40.  Make a list of food carts you have each been hoping to try and start crossing them off on date night when you can.  Cheaper eats and adventure guaranteed!

41.  This city is covered in free public art.  Print the map in this link (or save it on your phone) and take your sweetie on a scavenger hunt for public art of Portland.

42.  Watch some old Wild Kingdom episodes on the internet and make a list of the most interesting animals you see.  Then go to the Oregon Zoo together for $4 on the second Tuesday of any month.  Make sure you see each of your favorite furry (or feathered) friends!

43.  Take your honey to the Museum of Contemporary Craft on the first Thursday of every month for free day.  Get inspired and come home crafty!

44.  Check out the Portland Swap Meet and see what inspires you and your sweetie!

45.  Among other amazing weird events keeping Portland weird, the Adult Soapbox Derby has been going strong for nearly 20 years. Design your own (even if you don't build it) and take your sweetheart to cheer the races!

46.  Portland is one of the most vegan-friendly towns in the US.  Why not try it for a week, the two of you and see how it goes?  Try Vegan Week is an annual event with meet ups and recipes for anyone wanting to give it a go!

47.  Are you a cyclist?  Not only is PDX great for vegans, its one of the most bike-friendly towns around too!  Even if you don't ride, I guarantee the Twilight Crit will entertain you and your date as super fast cyclists speed past you in the night.  If a leisurely daytime ride is more your pace, check out the Portland Parks Sunday Parkways and pedal with half your neighborhood!

48.  You may have noticed hoards of Santas roaming the streets of Portland every December.  Santacon is a bar crawl with a ton of other events where all you need is a red shirt and a Santa hat (you can make your own too!) certain to keep you two smiling.

49.  Leach Botanical Gardens hosts (free for adults) Honey Bee Hikes where you can see wildlife, look at the gardens, and create crafts together.  If you can't make it there, Portland Parks also has regular Ladybug Walks with the same kind of fun!

50.  A couple who stretches together stays together.  So try yoga at one of the free/low cost yoga studios all around Portland.

51.  Play Top Chef in your pantry together!  Dig to the back and pull out three things you never really use.  Now see what you can make together from the mystery box in your own kitchen!

52.  Hike Forest Park.  Even in winter this can be a great spot for you to enjoy the rain and get wet together!

I hope you have wonderful dates all year.  Let me know how your dates go in the comments below!

Keep Your Love Alive: Express Admiration

One quick way to improve relationships is to express authentic admiration regularly. Tell your colleague how helpful their input was on your last project. Let your kids know how proud you are when they do their chores. Notice the small things your partner does for you. Expressing admiration will both help your loved ones feel appreciated, and will help you amplify your happiness.

Five quick ways to express admiration:

1.  Write a note and leave it in a surprising spot for your partner to find (refrigerator, car, bike spokes, purse)

2.  Send a text filled with purely admiration (be specific)

3.  Honor a specific action with a small celebration (dinner, dancing, a toast)

4.  Send it on an old-fashioned post card

5.  Tell them, face to face.