It’s a bit of a boring subject – but one that I think bears repeating. A strong marriage, like anything worthwhile, takes a lot of work, a strong commitment and a consistent maintenance plan.
I think our day to day activities have a bit of a hierarchy. First we have the demands of work and child rearing. These things take the majority of our time. At the next level, we have personal chores which aren’t vital but need to get done such as weekly calls to our parents, washing the car, taking the dog to the groomer, etc. After you throw in going to the gym three times a week it leaves most of us with barely any time for ourselves. The little time we do have we want to reserve for things that are fun or relaxing. On the surface, the idea of adding another ‘chore’ to our list isn’t very appealing – but marriages need to be a priority and can’t just be added to the schedule when it’s convenient or when you are in crisis.
Everything else in our lives – from our teeth to our cars – need to be looked after and maintained. Why should it be any different for the biggest relationship you will ever know? I think it’s vitally important to have at least a once a week ‘check in’ with my spouse to make sure we are on the same page with the events in our lives and to ensure there isn’t some hidden resentment waiting to pounce. We literally have an alarm on our phones to remind us each Saturday that it’s time for our 20 minute ‘marriage meeting’. Marriages are filled with sacrifice and hard work so it’s nice to take time to thank each other for something they did that made the day easier, or to lend an ear to one another as we try to solve a personal problem. A lot of time we don’t realize something is bothering us until we start talking it through and then the 20 minutes turns into a much longer discussion.
Of course, going to a couples therapist is the best way to make sure communication stays on track – but most people tend to just see a counselor when things have gone horribly wrong. Once the crisis is past, we go back to our normal (non- communicative) routine. I think this is a mistake. If nothing else, the fact that there was a crisis (in my case it was marital infidelity) shows that the relationship itself wasn’t strong enough to handle transparency. Our scheduled weekly chats offer us an uninterrupted time to share, reflect, request and practice the not so simple skill of communicating. It makes us feel like we are truly a team and in team like fashion it makes us both stronger as individuals.