There are oh so many habits that can really damage a relationship. I know. Thirty plus years of marriage has taught me a thing or two about what can kill the romance and create walls of animosity.
Habit one is too much familiarity while habit two is too much autonomy. What? Sounds like a classic dichotomy.
Let me explain.
Growing up with three siblings and two parents in a home with only one full bathroom meant that there was an open door to that sacred room in order for all of us to get on with our day on time. It was not uncommon for one of us to be in the tub, one of us to be sitting on the porcelain throne and another to be brushing our teeth or hair. I never thought much about it. We were a close family and always on the run. We did what we had to do with our limited bathroom space.
But then I got married. I wondered why my husband was so freaked out when I would barge in the bathroom when he clearly wanted his privacy. He said that it was just too familiar and that a closed door meant just that. A closed door.
Along the lines of too much familiarity came me coming home and donning the grubby sweat pants and crocs shoes. I’m home. I want to be comfortable. I want to pass gas, eat my Klondike bar and put my feet up on the coffee table. Not romantic. Not sexy. Not endearing in any way.
I began to pay closer attention to what my husband did when he too came home from a long day at work. He (like Mr. Rogers putting on a new sweater) puts on a new shirt. He never passes gas in front of me. I don’t even know if he has burped in front of me. He is classy. He is proper without being stuffy. He is tidy and neat. He is a joy to see and spend time with. Now I still like to be comfortable and I still own crocs, but I try my best to show some decorum for him. I want him to be as excited to see me at the end of the day as I am to see him.
Now, onto bad habit number two. I have mentioned this in other posts but it deserves a repeat. Too much autonomy can kill a marriage.
When we were first married we actually prided ourselves on being these cool, independent and separate people. We must have glossed over the books in the Bible like Genesis, Matthew, Mark, and Ephesians. They all talk about two becoming one flesh.
I loved going to out of state triathlons with my runner friends and he loved going on three day weekends to white water kayak. Now let’s be clear. I was doing a lot of out of state races in order to qualify for the Hawaii Ironman. I do not know how to kayak on white water. There are times when it is totally appropriate for a couple to do their own thing. But for us, it was so habitual that we spent very little time together and I missed the way we spent every waking moment together when we were first dated. Surely there must be some middle ground between suffocating each other and just becoming two people who occasionally bump into each other when one of us was feeling amorous.
The problem was we were almost always going our separate ways and eventually become more like roommates with benefits instead of people who supported each other and their activities. How much fun would it have been for him to attend one of my qualifying races and cheer me on?
Eventually, we learned to support each other. I love going on those three day weekends where he still gets to do his white water kayak thing. I find a place to run or ride while he is playing on the water. At the end of the day, there is still plenty of time for us to enjoy dinner together, cuddle by a fire pit, go over how much fun we had during the day and snuggle down together in the sleeping bag. There have even been times where he sacrificed his kayak day to rent a “duckie” to take me on the white water with him. Did you catch that? With him!
Finding the happy medium between familiarity, (which often breads boredom) and autonomy (which often leads to independent lives) is the key. Come up with two things you can do today to become more involved in the life of your love. Often times it is the little things done over time that make the biggest difference.
If you feel that your wife is always off with her friends or your husband is always playing golf then perhaps it is time for a free 20-minute call with your favorite relationship coach (me). I am here for you. Let’s find a way to enjoy and promote the person you vowed to love forever.