According to my magical happiness tome and my spiritual diva guide, Gretchen Rubin, February is the month to Remember Love. Her suggestions for working on her marriage are categorized as follows:
a) Quit nagging. This is pretty self-explanatory, and I’ve actually been doing this fairly successfully for a while. I find I’m much happier when I just let go and take care of myself and my actions, rather than worrying about what everyone around me is doing. I try to look at it as successfully managing my stress levels. The more I nag, the more my blood pressure rises and the higher my anxiety goes, so I stopped. Mostly. After all, nobody’s perfect.
I wasn’t sure how my little experiment was going to go as there was a part of me that viewed my inability to motivate action with my nagging as a sort of personal failure. Occasionally I think if my husband truly loved me he would do as I asked instead of ignoring me. Am I alone in having that thought once in a while? Probably. Nevertheless, I decided to try not nagging for a week and see what happened. The funny thing is the very things about which I had been nagging him began happening – WITHOUT ME EVEN HAVING TO OPEN MY MOUTH!
I gave it another week and got similar results. So I’ve kept my experiment going for a few months now, and I’m finding that more gets done when I keep my mouth shut and just take care of my own business. When I nag, not a whole lot gets done. It’s quite liberating, and I know my husband appreciates it because he smiles a lot more.
b) Don’t expect praise or appreciation. I’m pretty good with this. I keep my house clean for me, not for anyone else. I do the laundry not because I want people to be appreciative of the fact that they have clean clothes, clean towels and clean sheets, but because I want clean clothes, towels, and sheets, and it’s just as easy to do everybody else’s stuff when I do my own. Plus, I want my child and my husband to look neat and clean, but again, that’s my issue, not theirs. It’s taken me many years, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m OCD about my living space, and the craziness I impose is for myself alone. Consequently, I don’t expect a thank you when I clean up the kitchen after dinner or put clean clothes in their drawers. I do things because I want to, not because I want people to thank me. It’s just how I roll.
c) Fight right. Many years of dysfunctional relationship and lots of psychoanalysis during my teens, twenties and into my thirties has made me hyper-aware of how to fight so that it’s constructive instead of destructive. There are certain lines you just don’t cross, even with a spouse, or perhaps especially with a spouse. Children grow up watching their parents interact, which includes sometimes disagree or fight, and I don’t want my child to learn bad communication and interaction habits from me. I want him to learn how to cherish the people he loves, and if there is a disagreement, how to resolve it in a way that both parties feel heard and appreciated.
Of course, nobody’s perfect, so this will be an on-going project for the rest of my life. After all, I’m only human.
d) No dumping. Finally, something I’m great at! I don’t dump anything on my husband because I know he’s got his own concerns and stresses at work, plus a whole host of other weighty things on his mind. Consequently, unless it’s something really important or something that requires his counsel, such as decisions regarding our child’s education or medical care, I talk to my girlfriends, my sister, my mother, and leave that stressful part of my life behind when hubby walks through the door. He doesn’t need to hear how I’m wondering if I’m a bad mother because I don’t arrange enough playdates or because I do too much for our son.
e) Give proofs of love. This is hard because we’re both so busy, but that’s no excuse. A quick hug and kiss in the morning, a note tucked into his wallet, a brief touch just to say “Hi, I’m here,” can make all the difference in the world, can easily brighten a day. I know my husband sometimes feels – like every other man whose wife is preoccupied with preschool age children – that I’m distracted and am so focused on our son that I take him for granted and forget about him, so I need to change that. I’m going to start hugging more; hugging relieves stress, after all, and boosts feelings of closeness. Everybody can use less stress and more feelings of closeness. I’m also going to figure out a way for us to spend some more time alone, other than late evenings after our little guy is asleep.
I can’t forget why I fell in love with my husband in the first place. After all, the life I have now, the life I love, my miracle boy … none of that would have happened without my husband. So I devote the month of February to showing my husband just how much he means to me.