I read an article today about how American parenting is killing the American marriage. I have to admit that it rings pretty true for us. We consistently struggle to keep our grown up relationship more than just merely afloat. We love our babies fiercely, which translates to time and energy and adoration and joy. It’s hard work and it leaves very little left over for the love of our lives at the end of the day. Mom says “it’s a season”. Friends of ours call it “roommate syndrome” and “survival mode”. Whatever you call it, it feels pretty yucky, if you ask me. You know you’ve reached a crossroads when you don’t know what to do with yourself on a date.
I admit that I have high standards for relationships. I started thinking about how Tim and I have worked hard to have a healthy, open communicating relationship. We’ve poured over books, articles, video clips, and honest conversations with friends in the last four years. There are two things that made a noticeable difference in how we feel about our relationship, especially in the busy seasons of life.
1. Ask the other person what makes them feel taken care of
This is loosely derived from The 5 Love Languages (which I did not love) and it’s interesting how different our reactions were to this question. Tim’s things: when we have dinner together, when he has clean underwear and socks, when I rinse off the dishes, when the bed is made. My things: when Tim takes the kids so I can take a leisurely, leg-shaving bath, when he fills three Ball jars of water for me each morning before I get up, when he leaves espresso in the pot before he heads to work, when he takes out the trash and loads the dishwasher every day without fail. These are the things that keep our house running smoothly, and they’re also the things that we do intentionally because we know it makes the other person feel taken care of. Sometimes that’s enough to get us through the day with ten minutes to spare for a relaxed conversation.
2. Make a list of ten things that make you feel loved
The concept here is to be able to surprise your partner, which also goes a long way toward getting through the not so smooth days. Some of Tim’s are flavored creamer (no joke–we never buy it), a foot rub, playing a game together, going to Menards, pepperoni pizza (which we never eat), and a guilt free nap. Some of mine are Talenti gelato, a manicure, takeout and a movie, Saturday morning excursions and coffee, time to read by myself, or a guilt free tv show binge.
Have you ever asked your partner what makes him/her feel loved? The answers can be surprising. Ask! And even if you think your love doesn’t need it, show up with a surprise once in a while.