I always enjoy when people ask how long my spouse Michael and I have been together. Upon the mere mention his name, it is reported that I begin to glow. Well, for the record, Michael and I have been together since 2007….not a very long time by many people’s standards, but just long enough to have learned life’s most valuable lessons about love and partnership.
In 2005 I had a huge paradigm shift in my thinking about a love relationship. I realized I was living a full life: I was part of multiple active social circles, the ground work was in progress for an innovative new business, I answered only to myself and lived in a general state of satisfaction. Although one of my friends suggested I lower my standards for finding love (yes she actually said that), I realized my potential mate would have to be a pretty fabulous man to inspire me to adjust my lifestyle. Needless to say, I rank Michael as the most special person on the planet to have accomplished that mission. I consider myself blessed daily that he’s in my life. However, maintaining our healthy relationship is work. Michael and I couldn’t be more different, and a less evolved Deborah would have broken off this continuing romance back in year one.
For the love-curious, allow me to offer half-a-dozen techniques I’ve used to maintain this healthy relationship and keep that glow on my smiling face at the very thought of my blessed situation.
My Dishwasher is My Lover
I never take Michael or his contributions to our household for granted. I make saying “thank you” a priority and actively appreciate everything he DOES do. In our household, I cook and Michael cleans up. I ALWAYS say “thank you for doing the dishes”. He usually says “but, that’s my job”. I continue to say thank you because I want to acknowledge that although it is his role, I’m grateful for his partnership-strengthening efforts.
The Mindful Incentive
I look at our relationship as having begun as a brand-new picket fence. Every time either of us says something cruel or demeaning to the other, it’s like punching a hole in the fence….an irreparable hole. This is motivation enough to not burst out in anger, but to wait until a tense moment has passed so I can address the issue with loving kindness. The fence is still looking pretty sweet!
Scrap The Scoreboard
We look at our relationship as a partnership. We’re a team, and in making decisions, we look at what’s best for us as a couple as opposed to “you got your way last time, now it’s my turn”.
Who Wrote The Book of Love?
I act to fulfill his needs and preferences when it comes to showing love, not giving him what I’d like to receive. Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages was an eye opener when I read it in the early ’90s. I apply its message not only to my love relationship, but also with all whom I meet.
Aww, Isn’t It Cute?
Very early into our relationship I realized that Michael and I were different creatures. Some things he did drove me crazy. I was panicked…”This is never going to work”, I would tell myself. And then I made the conscious decision to fall in love with his quirks. It was a bit of self-brainwashing and a lot of analysis. I accepted the fact that every person has a million quirks and that in a love relationship, it’s unfair to ask the other person to change. I now joke lovingly when he falls into some of his patterns or says things that used to drive me crazy.
It’s The Thought That Counts
I never forget how the little things go a long way. I imagine his smile when he reads the scribbled love note stuck on the mirror for him to find when he gets up. I can vicariously feel his delight when he finds a piece of chocolate stashed into a bag he’s taken for lunch. I wish I could be a fly on the wall when he comes home to a “just because” greeting card when I’ll be away for a few days. These little gifts make us both feel cherished, and take no time at all to prepare. The return on investment is priceless!
Become mindful of your partner’s needs, respect the sanctity of the gift of love, and tell us what you do to maintain a healthy, loving relationship.