Thursday, August 25, 2011

Relationship Rules

Figure I'd keep with yesterdays theme and broach the subject of relationships and rules of engagement.  Like yesterday, I can only speak from my own experience, but, like yesterday, I bet many of you can relate.

Let me say this first.  For the past two years, I've been in a new kind of relationship.  I feel lucky to be remarried.  I think it's wonderful that people get married, and stay married until death us do part, however, that didn't work out for me the first time.  Where I find myself now, is in the position to have the marriage I always wanted.  In the years that followed the ending of my first marriage, I have learned a lot about me.  There are things I do well, and there are things I can improve on.  Hindsight is 20/20, and I feel fortunate that I can use that knowledge and use it to make my second marriage better.

For MJ...I love you with all my heart.  You see my short-comings, and love me any way.  I still believe we are trying to create the relationship we have both longed for.  I am lucky to have such a willing partner.  We have our days...but so does everyone else.  You are my inspiration to be a better person, a better wife, a better partner.  Thank you for being you, it is who I've been looking for all my life.

Ok, shake the mushy off, and lets get to it.  First, I'd like to point out something that may have gone unnoticed by some...I've always found it interesting myself.  Our vows, the one's we make before God, say until death do us part.  Ever notice it doesn't say "death from natural causes", it just says death.  There's a saying I picked up from my mother that I really really love!!  "I'm gonna kill'em and tell God they died".  Well, husbands and wives, be warned.  It's kind of up to interpretation on the whole "death do us part", I'd feed a bit of dinner to the dog first if you think your spouse has had about enough of you...Just sayin'.

Seriously though, relationships are work.  You know those little old couples that have been married 65 years and still hold hands??  They have worked very hard to get to that point.  It's not easy, no matter how easy some couples make it look.  There was this couple I knew back in the early years of my first marriage.  They were "The Happy Couple".  There was a group of us, and we all talked about how happy they always were.  How they had the perfect life and marriage.  So we were all floored when they told us they were getting a divorce.  WHAT??!  See, we never know what goes on behind closed doors.  It's the rare couple that airs their dirty laundry for all the world to see.  Don't look at another couple and wish you could have a marriage like theirs.  Look at your own marriage and make it what you want it to be.

If I was to make a list of all the "rules" that would make a perfect relationship for me, it's probably be pages and pages.  But my goal is not perfection, it's happiness.  The journey is what I find most important.  What can I do to make myself better, therefore making my marriage better??  I have narrowed it down to ten, seems like a good number, worked for God...

#1 Put your spouse's needs before your own.   "What??  Are you kidding??  What about me??".  I figured I should put the hardest one right at the top.  Really, it's a simple concept.  Try to make your partner happy every day.  Give as much as you have, and expect nothing in return.  Haven't you always wondered what it would be like to have someone completely devoted to your happiness??  Well, why not create that for someone you love?  I admit, it's a bit of a Polly Anna idea...BUT, what if you both followed this rules for a week?  Don't you think you would both be fulfilled at weeks end?  Talk with your spouse, agree to do this little exercise over the weekend and see what it's like.  We as humans are pretty darn selfish, and it's hard not to get sucked back into that selfishness from time to time.  So, designate a "Selfless Week(end)", even a day will make a difference.

#2 Learn your partner's love language.  There is some book about Love Languages, you can even Google and find some test thing to figure out what yours is.  Find the test and send it to your partner (with an attachment of your test results), then tell them to send it back to you.  This is one of the most important things!  There are something like five, mine happens to be tied between Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation.  That's a fancy way of saying it makes me really happy when you unload the dishwasher, or say thank you for cooking dinner.  It's important to know what makes your loved one tick.  You can bring her flowers every day, but if she really wants you to unload the dishwasher...well, the flowers just won't cut it.  Conversely, if you unload the dishwasher, and she wants flowers, you're name is still mud.

A side note to women:  M.a.k.e your husband take this test.  We sometimes think "Oh, we just feed them and show them some skin from time to time" and that will make them happy.  Not always the case...though I doubt many would turn that down.  They may need us to be their cheerleaders, tell them how wonderful they are, how safe they make us feel, they might even like for you to bring home a six pack (instead of flowers).  Hell, they may not even know what makes them tick!!  Honestly, and don't tell them I said so, I think men are more complicated than women.  I mean, we're complicated as women (who wouldn't be with hormones going all over the place??), but at least we recognize we are complicated.  Men think they are easy, when in reality, they are not.  Oh if it was so easy as to just feed them and have sex!!

#3 Random acts of kindness.  In our house, there are MJ jobs, and SJ jobs.  A month or so ago, I decided to do an MJ job and mow the front yard.  He works, likes to sleep late on the weekends, so when he gets around to it, it's usually 3PM and a billion degrees outside!  Who wants to do that?!  I, on the other hand, am up early, when it's still cool.  Weekends aren't as special to me, because I don't go to a paying job.  So, I mowed!  It is such a rare thing, my mother wrote it down on her calendar. (shakes head)  Later, after MJ got home (I was not home), he sent me a text "Someone mowed our yard!!".  I'm thinking maybe he thought our yard got mixed up with another one that had a service.  I told him it was me, and he was so thankful, it made my day.  Week before last, I did it again.  He wasn't as excited about it that time, but (See Rule #1) that's not why I did it.

MEN - READ THIS:  Some Saturday, tell your wife to take the day off and go spend a few hours doing whatever it is she does, sans the kids.  Or, if you have a wife like me that would rather just have some peace and quiet at home, take the kids out for a few hours.  As mothers, we sometimes forget how to take care of ourselves, claim some "Me Time".  It's a wonderful thing, and will mean so much, I promise!!

#4 Listen.  "Put your listening ears on", it's one of my favorite Judge Judy sayings.  Recently, I was trying to explain to Maverick what listening really was.  Listening isn't being quiet until it's your turn to speak.  Listening is, well, listening.  It is focusing on what the person is saying, watching their face, catching the inflection of certain words.  It's not projecting what you think they are saying, it's trying to understand exactly what they are saying.  Listen with your heart, stop for a moment and just let your partner say what they need to say without reacting, or offering advise.  Don't try to fix it, or change their mind, or defend yourself, or justify an action.  Just listen.  Again, Rule #1 comes into play...see, it's a good rule.  Know, that if you partner comes to you and says "I need to talk to you", you should give them the floor. Don't decide you need to talk too, just listen.  Your turn is coming up!  (Rule #8).

#5 Say I love you.  "Those three words, are said too much, but not enough".  No truer words.  We can say I love you a million times a day, and I do times four.  I love you when someone is off to school or work, I love you when I'm getting off the phone (with my mom or MJ, not the DirecTV operator, just to be clear), I love you before I tuck in the boys and turn off the light.  It's said back to me, I hear it, I know that we all love each other and we like to tell each other.  But you know what?  Nothing beats when you walk up to someone, look them in the eye, and tell them you love them.  It takes all of two seconds, and in that moment, there's that connected feeling, like the whole world just stopped.  It's such an important thing to feel that connection, especially when life is just flying by, you go one way, they go the other.  But we really should stop and smell the roses from time to time.  Make time, even if it's just a second, to say I love you, from the heart.

#6 Don't bring yesterday into today.  "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath".  You don't have to believe in God, or the Bible, to heed this advise.  I use to spend days and days being mad.  Oh, I can hold a grudge, let me tell ya!  But there comes a time, when you can't even remember why you're mad in the first place, that it seems silly.  Life really is too short.  Why spend more than one day being mad?  Isn't being happy the goal?  So, decide to wake up with a clean slate.  That is not to say become a door mat, if something needs to be addressed, the by all means do so!  But don't bring the anger with you, check it at the door.  Anger masks what the true feeling is, it also makes the person it is directed toward very likely to become defensive.  If someone said something that offended you, hurt your feelers, made you sad, then tell them.  "What you said, made me feel fill in the blank".  Now, when you hear that phrase, put on your listening ears!!  So you didn't mean to make them feel that way, or that's not how you meant it to come out, or you were being passive aggressive and wanted them to feel just that...Don't make an excuse for it, or justify it, listen, apologize if you need to, let it go.  Don't ruin today, with the rubbish of yesterday.

#7 Keep it in the family.  No, that's not what I mean!!  When you marry someone, you marry their family, there is no way around that short of moving far far away.  But, good or bad, family is family.  Through trial and error, I have found that it works best when we deal with our own family.  There are rules of engagement with one's family that come from years and years of experience.  Certain things are done a certain way, period.  And who better to navigate those waters than someone in the family!  As a couple, it should be decide between you, what your boundaries are, what your traditions will be, how you will do things.  Then, when the time comes, you explain to your family how things will be.  Never, ever, EVER send an in-law in to break the news that somethings changing!  Death.sentence.  Further, if an in-law steps on your toes, talk to your spouse about it.  Don't take it upon yourself to confront your in-law, that typically makes things worse, not better.  Trust that your spouse will address the problem, if it indeed is a problem.  And spouse, if it's that bothersome to your partner you might want to address it with your family.  We must remember, that no matter how we see someone else's family, they probably love them as much as we love ours.  So be respectful, be polite, make peace whenever possible.  Remember, your goal is to make your spouse happy, so suck it up if you must, it's worth it.

#8 Take turns.  Yes, this is in the right list, though it's something I tell my boys all.the.time.  But why shouldn't it apply to adults in relationships?  There are times that our spouse will drive us right to the edge.  Example:  I am the worlds worst, side seat driver.  For the life of me, I can't keep my mouth shut and not tell MJ how to drive, where to park, which lane to be in.  It's stupid, yet uncontrollable.  There are times, when I actively try to not say anything, I think I've done it twice.  And there have been times, that MJ has not scowled at me, or stopped in the middle of a parking lot to ask if I wanted to drive. (LOL)  See, we take turns.  I try not to drive him crazy, and he tries to quell my anxiety by parking where I tell him to.  Some days are better than others...Take turns being the one to overlook something that typically bothers you.  Try to understand that those little things that bug us come from anxiety our spouse is experiencing.  Also, don't forget to curb that anxiety, deal with it in a way other than becoming annoying to your spouse.

#9 No ambushing!!!  I had a rule with one of my best friends a long time ago.  If we had a problem, we dealt with it right then.  We didn't hang on to it for months, then get in a tiff about whatever, and ambush each other with "well 4 months ago you did xyz".  It was a good rule, and it's still a good rule.  You know, if something pisses you off, don't wait to mention it.  If it makes you really angry, maybe wait until the urge to beat your spouse with a bat subsides...but don't wait until it builds up and boils over into something totally unrelated!  And remember, just because you need to vent, doesn't mean you can just emotionally vomit on your partner.  Don't bring up every grievance you have had since 2009.  Oh, and omit "you never" from your vocabulary and thought process.  It is a must for a successful relationship.

# 10 Do your best.  When you go to work, you do your best.  When you go to school, you do your best.  When you make dinner, you do (try) your best.  When we go out into the world, we do our best.  So, what is the difference when you walk through the front door of your home?  Home is where we should focus our "best" the most.  There are actually people that care, and would benefit more from that best than work, school or strangers.  There is no excuse for being the best partner/spouse/husband/wife you can be every day.  None.  Relationships need to be top priority, God, Family, Friends...the rest.  The person you lay next to in bed at night is the most important person in your life.  Do they know that?  Do they feel that?  This isn't about becoming a performing monkey and doing tricks every day.  It's about getting the most you can out of your marriage by giving it your best.