The Garage:

High Impact Resources for Guys


What is the Garage?

The Garage is a place where guys can get practical-minded, action-oriented help to begin turning a faltering relationship, or a struggling stepfamily around. You won't find anything very fancy or frilly here. Just practical tools, strategies and resources that will get things heading in the right direction.

Feel free to browse and sample. If you have a question or would like to see us add resources that are more pertinent for your particular concern, email us. 

Greeting Cards:

Greeting cards have been around for a long time--and for good reason. Sometimes, a greeting card is the only thing that will give you a chance of escaping the dog house. At other times, the right greeting card will "sweep your partner right off her feet" and into your arms.

Here are three 'tried and true' greeting cards you can print out. They all have the same cover page (as shown). The text (which is nicely formatted on the card you will print out) reads as shown in the boxes immediately below. 

Cover Page Little Things* Teach Me* My Partner in Life*


I just thought I'd let you know that I was thinking about you--and the things that you do that I think are so sweet...things you aren't even aware of...things that others might never appreciate--even if they were to observe them, as I have. Things you do naturally...things I would never spoil by telling you what they are.




Will you tell me how to love you?

Will you show me all the ways?

Will you teach me how to love you?

Will you start with me today?



To My Partner In Life:

You are certainly a wonderful mother, stepmother and wife.

I am so happy to be able to share my life with you.

With love,

* (c) Silver Tongue Greeting Cards

You can print these cards out on a normal (8.5 x 11 inch) sheet of paper. Just right click on the title, and select "save target as" to get a printer friendly version. There are guide lines to help you fold them neatly.

Keep in mind that your partner is very likely to value a card that you made especially for her much more than a purchased one. However, you mustn't forget to sign it. Most women won't react well to any card that is given to them unsigned.

Application: Try leaving the card in a conspicuous place so she'll find it and then have some time to reflect on it before you are back on the scene. With luck, the passage in the card will help her to open up her heart to you. So, be ready to use the opportunity that materializes to heal any hurts and/or strengthen your relationship with her.

Click here to see our current collection of greeting cards. Click here to send us an idea for a greeting card.

For additional (commercially produced) greeting cards designed with stepfamilies in mind, visit


Most guys are drawn to buying logical, practical-minded gifts--things that will help their partner get through her day, like a new frying pan, a good set of carving knives, a vacuum cleaner, or perhaps a GPS for her car. Guys usually feel that the more expensive the gift, the better it is. Thus, a GPS is clearly a superior gift to a frying pan.

Women, on the other hand, are drawn to gifts that make them feel special, and express feeling rather than logic. To them, a last minute gift pales in comparison to one that you spent a great deal of time considering. This is because your partner wants to know she is special to you and to believe you were thinking about her all the while you were trying to decide upon the "right" gift. In fact, she wants you to convince her she comes first in your life. 

What to Do: Begin by giving up on practical gifts. Next, get some help with selecting a gift for her. Enlist a sister, a daughter, a professional shopper, or a friend who knows your partner's tastes, sizes and interests well. Follow their advice.

Here's a little info you can also keep in mind: 

In  a recent survey of close to 600 women, 27% of them rated travel (including very short "day" trips) at the top of their gift list. Presumably, travel is fun for a woman because it ensures time socializing with others, and also time away from the routine of day-to-day chores. [Hint: If you want to try a travel gift out,  book a quick getaway, or reserve a retreat to a local spa. Most women like it a lot better when their partner takes care of the arrangements--especially arranging a sitter for the kids--so spare her the planning.] 

Second to travel is jewelry. Rings are the most popular jewelry item followed by earrings, necklaces and then chains. A big hit with moms and grandmothers are rings and bracelets with their children's (or grandchildren's) birthstones.

Predictably, clothes and flowers also fared well in this survey, but a substantial number of women indicated that they would, in fact, like technology gifts such as digital cameras. Here however, their interest in gifts of this nature seemed to relate predominantly to the ability of these devices to keep them in touch with their loved ones.

Gifts that women least wanted were sports and outdoor equipment, bar and entertaining accessories, and equipment for the car.


Flowers are a special category of gift. Most women love to receive a gift of flowers because they serve no purpose other than beauty. So when you send flowers to a woman, she knows that you are trying to do something romantic and sweet. Flowers truly are a "just because" gift; so anytime is a good time to send a bouquet of flowers to your partner. Adding a note with a sentimental message (such as: "Beautiful flowers always make me think of you.") will help her to see that you are a wonderful, and sensitive guy.

Heads up: Different kinds, colours and numbers of flowers convey different messages. For example, a red rose stands for passion, a white rose for purity, and a pink rose stands for grace. A single rose stands for simplicity.  In full bloom it means, "I love you" or "I still love you". A bouquet of roses in full bloom signifies gratitude. Two roses taped or wired together to form a single stem signals an engagement or coming marriage, and so on.

What to Do: Relax, there's no need to learn or remember all of these details as long as you are willing to ask your florist (or Google) about the most appropriate purchase for the occasion, but keep in mind: a) that bigger and more expensive isn't necessarily better, and b) flowers are a gift you can buy often.


Open your ears wide for this: Dating is simply one of the best ways to keep your relationship with your partner healthy and vibrant

It is commonplace for couples to gradually reduce their frequency of dating as the reality of living together (i.e., kids, diapers, careers, mortgages, etc.) sets in.  With this, the couple relationship is likely to grow stale and stagnate, leaving both partners feeling there is no fun, excitement or romance in their relationship. The absence of fun, excitement and romance in a relationship puts that relationship at risk. How? Either or both of the partners will be inclined to look outside the relationship to find these things. 

You need to begin dating again--and you need to go out on a date with your partner at least once each week--from now until forever. Below is the formula you should follow. Your partner will absolutely love it. 

Dating Rules:

1) Regular time: Pick a regular time for your date and "set it in stone". In other words, do your absolute best to keep this time each week for your date. If, for one reason or another (e.g., a tornado, house fire, a medical emergency, and things of this order) you need to move the time, return to the original time ASAP. Having this time carved out for your date is a weekly message to your partner that she is "number one" in your life. Remember what you read in the "Gifts" section above?

2) Odd week - Even week Rotation: One week the female arranges the date; the next week the male arranges the date. When you are doing the planning, it's your job to plan a date that your partner would like to do. [This is very important because your partner will be thinking you have her in mind the entire time you are planning the date. Again, this tells her that she is special in your life.]

3) Important Considerations:

  • Your date doesn't have to be expensive. (It could be a walk in the park, a trip to a coffee shop, window shopping, a picnic, etc.)
  • It doesn't have to be long. (It could be as short as 30 or 45 minutes.)
  • It can be a surprise. (Dates that are a surprise are always great--especially if you take care of all of the details.)
  • If you need some help to plan a date your partner will love, you can get ideas from friends. You could also ask your partner for a list of dates she would love--or you could even plan the date with her. But surprises are usually best because they add the ingredient of excitement and novelty.
  • No kids or other couples are allowed. If you want to do something special with the kids and/or another couple, do it at a different time. Your date is with your partner.
  • While on your date no "problem talk" is allowed. There are lots of other times you can rant about the kids, your boss, the tax code, and etc.
  • The central task while on your date: Just hang out and talk. Rediscover what's incredible in your partner and your relationship. Goof around. Be silly. Have fun.


Getting Started: 

Keep this in mind: The vast majority of hundreds of women who have been introduced to this idea simply love it.

Click here for a list of great ideas for a date.

Right click here (and select "save target as") for a printer friendly greeting card that will ask your partner if she'd like to go on a date with you, and a second document that will introduce her to the information presented above. All you need to do is:

a) print them out,

b) give her the "You are invited out on a date" card

c) plan a date she'll love, and

d) on or after the date, give her the second document that explains the dating rules--or you could simply explain them to her.   


A central key to turning a troubled relationship around, is establishing effective communication. Effective communication requires active listening. Most guys have no idea of how to listen actively. [This is the primary reason women are often overheard saying: "We have a communication problem."]

Getting Started: Click here for a step-by-step guide on active listening.

Dos and Don'ts:

Click here for a collection of Dos and Don'ts that will give your relationship a boost.

Need Marriage Counselling?

Most guys usually refuse to see a counsellor until their partner is committed to ending the relationship. Obviously, the chances of bringing a relationship in that state back to health is close to zero.

What to Do: Take this short survey to see what shape your relationship is in. If your results fall in the green zone, you probably don't need counselling.

If your results fall in the yellow zone consider this home-study option. It will teach you and your partner everything you need to do to ensure that your relationship is on the right track and stays there--and all in the privacy of your own home.

If you are in the red zone, you should begin in counselling with your partner ASAP. Hesitant? Consider this: An excellent relationship therapist is a lot less expensive, and usually much more helpful, than the cheapest of divorce lawyers. Click here to see a cost comparison.


  • This guide will provide you with the general information you need about counsellors and therapy. 
  • This short video (1 minute 37 seconds) will tell you how to determine if a counsellor has an appropriate skill set to work competently with a stepfamily. 
  • This international directory lists Stepfamily Counsellors who have been certified by the Stepfamily Foundation of New York. 
  • This site lists family therapists in Canada and the USA. 
  • Here's another directory that will help you find a therapist in Canada or the USA.


We intend to build on to the Garage each time the Stepfamily Foundation of Alberta web site is updated. If you have a question, or would like resources added that are more pertinent for your particular concern, email us. 

The information contained on this page is for the personal use of stepfamily members visiting this web site. All other use, reproduction, distribution or storage of this work, in whole or in part, by any and all means, without the express written permission of the author, is strictly prohibited.


Stepfamily Foundation of Alberta