Remember when love was new?
Oh, what a feeling!
We couldn’t get enough of each other. We did little things to please each other. Just to put a smile on each others’ faces.
Then life happened.
We married. There were bills to pay, planes to catch, careers to grow, kids to raise, home maintenance to tend to …
We dipped our toes into the pond of wedded bliss. We waded deeper and deeper, until eventually, we were up to our necks in life.
Thirty-two years is a long time to be married (thirty-six if you count four years of dating.)
I’ll admit I’m kind of a relationship advice junkie – I love diving into what makes relationships work. My favorite movies dig deep into emotional chaos. I love to see the good and the bad of commitment.
I think that side of me has grown stronger every year. Maybe that’s why I took so easily to being an entrepreneur, jumping into the world of sales and marketing. Marketing and psychology go hand in hand. It’s all about connecting with other people.
After three decades with my husband, I could fill books with the ways we’ve gotten on each other’s nerves.
But after three decades together, I think we’ve figured out the best ways to deal with each other when we don’t see eye to eye.
When people ask how we’re still together, I tell them quite seriously: we decided not to get divorced.
I mean that in the best way possible. We’ve taken divorce off the table. That means we walk away from petty crap. (You know what I’m talking about. You can’t be in a serious relationship without having a bunch of trivial stuff happen between you almost every day. Like leaving the toilet seat up. Or missing the hamper by a mile. Or using a certain voice. You get it. 😉 )
Mistake #1: He’s The Problem
He didn’t do the dishes. They were clearly dirty, right there front and center sitting on the counter.
He didn’t fold the towels. The laundry basket was overflowing.
He no longer talked about my appearance. Didn’t he notice my new dress?
All I could think was:
He suddenly changed.
Here’s the truth. It wasn’t just him that changed. We react. We feed off of one another. We reap what we sow.
The first step in coming back together was realizing neither of us were mind readers. We both were busy with life. And by expecting him to do things I thought were important, I missed the stuff he was truly doing for us, our family, our marriage.
Instead of doing the dishes, he was helping our daughter with her homework. He didn’t fold the towels, but he did throw another load into the washer. He may not have noticed the new dress because he was too busy paying the bills.
So I started noticing.
Thanks for doing the dishes.
I love that new cologne.
And suddenly, he was happy to see me. He started noticing me.
Mistake #2: I Made The Wrong Choice
Have you ever looked at another relationship and wondered why yours wasn’t as good?
Maybe a celebrity couple – wow, look at how much love they share.
Or someone else in your family – they seem so happy.
Why can’t you be like __________
The grass is always greener …
What if I made the wrong choice?
Providing you indeed did get a great spouse, you’re not going to find one better. If you head out looking for a different love, you’ll eventually find the same quirks.
That brand new love is fabulous. That’s what pulls us together. But eventually, that fades away, and you’re left holding it together.
It’s not that someone else would be better. It’s that you’re no longer trying as hard with the one you’ve got.
Never stop trying to please the one you’re with. You can’t let yourself go because you’re married.
One of my favorite movies is The Story of Us with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s about a couple married for fifteen years who are trying to determine if they should divorce or stay together. There’s a scene at the end where they agree to come back together; to remain married. It’s perfect. (I found this on Wikipedia – don’t know if it’s 100% accurate, but close enough to make my point.)
Katie: I want to go to Chow Funs.
Ben: I thought we agreed we couldn’t really talk at Chow Funs.
Katie: I know.
Ben: Are you saying Chow Funs because you can’t face telling the kids? Because if that’s why you’re saying Chow Funs, don’t say Chow Funs.
Katie: That’s not why I’m saying Chow Funs. I’m saying Chow Funs because we’re an us. There’s a history here, and histories don’t happen overnight. You know, in Mesopotamia or Ancient Troy or somewhere back there, there are cities built on top of other cities. But I don’t want to build another city, I like this city. I know where we keep the bactine and what kind of mood you’re in when you wake up by which eyebrow is higher. And you always know that I’m a little quiet in the morning and compensate accordingly. That’s a dance you perfect over time. And it’s hard, it’s much harder than I thought it would be. But there’s more good than bad, and you don’t just give up! And it’s not for the sake of the children. But God, they’re great kids, aren’t they? I mean, God. And we made them! I mean think about that! It’s like there were no people there, and then there were people and then they grew. And I won’t be able to say to some stranger: Josh has your hands. Or, remember how Erin threw up at the Lincoln Memorial? Let’s face it, anybody is going to have traits that get on your nerves. I mean why shouldn’t it be your annoying traits? And I’m no day at the beach. But do I have a good sense of direction, so I can at least find the beach. Which is not a criticism of yours; it’s just a strength of mine. And God, you’re a good friend, and good friends are hard to find. Charlotte said that in Charlotte’s Web, and I love how you read that to Erin. And you take on the voice of Wilbur the Pig with such commitment, even when you’re bone tired. That speaks volumes about character! And ultimately, isn’t that what it comes down to? What a person’s made of? Because that girl in the pith helmet is still in here ‘bee boo bee boo’. I didn’t even know she existed until I met you and I’m afraid if you leave, I may never see her again. Even though I said at times you beat her out of me, isn’t that the paradox? Haven’t we hit the essential paradox? Give and take, push and pull, yin and yang. The best of times, the worst of times! I think Dickens said it best, it’s the Jack Sprat of it ‘He could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean’. But that doesn’t really apply here. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m saying Chow Funs, because I love you.
Ben: I love you, too.
Mistake #3: Too Many Expectations
Remember your first request as a newly married couple?
Honey, could you pick up the dry cleaning on your way home from work?
After years together, that honey-do list starts to resemble something Santa Claus would have trouble with.
Now, I’m not saying anyone should be let off the hook for not pulling their weight around the house. You’re a team, and teams should work well together.
But that’s the key; you’re a team. You each bring to the table your own set of valuable skills.
Have you ever given your spouse a job, only to correct them every step of the way, and criticize their approach and the outcome?
Women are horrendous at doing that.
I hated folding towels. So Andrew said he’d do it. He folded them this way and that, placed them on the shelf in the linen closet.
Me: They’re all wrong. You should fold them like this.
Him: Then you do it.
Did it matter how they were folded? Not in the least. So I let him fold them his way.
I was out for happy-hour awhile back. A woman next to me was out with friends, destressing after a day caring for her infant. Her husband called multiple times. She explained everything: how to make a bottle, what toy she liked, what jammies to put her in. It went on and on.
I bit my tongue. It wasn’t my place. But I sooo wanted to tell her to lighten up. Put the phone away and let him handle it all. What’s the worst that would happen?
He wouldn’t kill his child. She might not have been in the right pjs. But she’d be warm, fed, and loved. Does anything else really matter?
What’s more, their relationship might even become a little closer because he’d feel more competent in the job he’d done with her. He’d probably want to do it more.
And that’s really what this is all about.
We all want to feel like we have meaning in each others’ lives.
Especially the one who means the most to us.
You can’t forget that.
You have to do little things, just because.
Like a text that says: Love You!
Or a hug – why not?
Or a plan for the weekend – because you can! Even if it’s just a picnic in the park.
It doesn’t take money. It doesn’t take much. It just takes a decision to put them first. To remember all of the perfect reasons you chose him as: