I love a good roundup of cute Valentine gifts for your significant other (find some here, here, here and here), but this love-hyped week I’ve been reflecting on the 3.5 years of marriage Joe and I have enjoyed and what’s made it work so far. Some studies have shown a four-year and seven-year itch is common, especially for couples with kids.
A few months ago, I noticed something super simple we do that I think is critical for a happy house. We say some magic words on a regular basis. Nope, not “I love you,” although there’s plenty of that, too. We thank each other. Maybe kind of a lot. Maybe not more than any other happy couple, married or not, or any other unattached housemates who enjoy each other’s company. A few times a day, I would guess.
I’m not sure if we’ve done this since moving in together (which we did back in 2008), or if it’s a more recent development. Regardless, I think thanking each other became more powerful after we became parents. We thank each other for executing simple household chores: “Thanks for taking care of the laundry.” “Thanks for taking the dog on the final nighttime walk in the blistering cold.” “Thank you for making dinner.” You get the picture.
It’s so easy to get stuck in the your chores/my chores routine/rut where general appreciation for what the other does is something that’s taken for granted and rarely expressed. I think that can create a feeling like your partner doesn’t even think about how the counters got clean or the floor swept, and lead to a poisonous resentment.
We have a pretty even division of labor in our house, but the scales probably tip toward Joe when factoring in fixing things and cooking — tasks he typically takes on. Having a kid definitely adds to the piles of responsibility, of laundry and dirty dishes and diaper duty and nighttime wakeups and daily dropoffs and pickups. We’ve figured out a relay of sorts that works for us, and I think that’s when we really came to appreciate those daily things we do that make the other person’s life easier. And in that realization, we’ve been saying thanks.
So, not really a juicy marriage secret or anything earth-shattering. Just something super simple and free that fosters a feeling of being valued, of efforts seen. It’s not really a marriage tip at all, but an observation about how we can be better people to live with — or work with, for that matter.
P.S. Don’t want to get your Valentine stuff? Surprise her (or him!) with tickets to the Des Moines Metro Opera Wine & Food Showcase. It’s happening Feb. 21. Joe and I went with a group a couple of years ago and it was lots of fun.
Readers, I’d love to hear your tips for a happy marriage, too.