In the last couple of years I have taken towards reflecting here on Jon and my anniversary -- about lessons I've learned and intentions to carry forward. Since I've spent a lot of time expressing gratitude for the little things in life (over at my personal blog), this year I wanted to focus on 11 little things -- tweaks we have made and things I have discovered -- that have served to strengthen Jon and my marriage and also our functionality as parents. I hope you find some of these things helpful as you navigate your relationships.
1. Small acts of kindness matter. I recently noticed that my half caff lattes taste so much better when Jon makes them for me. Seriously! I'm always touched when Jon takes the time to make me one. And it reminds me to look around and find nice, small acts of kindness to do for him. These gestures go a long way.
2. Be explicit. I have a habit of starting a conversation thread in my head and then drawing Jon in mid-thought. Which usually leaves him confused, and both of us frustrated. I have taken to reminding myself that Jon is not a mind reader and I'm now more explicit with whatever I'm talking about. That little communicative shift has made a world of difference.
3. State instead of ask. I didn't realize until recently that I tend towards passive behavior when it comes to requesting help. It's better to make a statement when you want help, instead of shifting the decision onus to your partner (e.g., "Please change this diaper" instead of "Would you like to change this diaper?").
4. Take care of yourself and remember that you're a team. Since Violet's birth I have had a few days where I've pushed myself to the point of illness. This benefits no one and the team functions best when you're not a man down, as it were.
5. Enjoy each other's strengths... I hate to sound so 1950's but I'm really glad that Jon isn't scared of disposing of things, such as the squirrel who decided to take its last breaths and die in our backyard this past weekend [shudder].
6. ...But don't grow completely complacent. Since I enjoy cooking, I've become the default meal prep person. I don't mind doing it but it also means that it's a lovely treat when Jon prepares a meal for the family. Similarly, I try to remind myself to do things that I typically leave up to him (e.g., taking out the garbage and recycling), and he's always similarly surprised and happy about a respite from typical chores.
7. Take the baggage elsewhere. Since these days Jon and I have less time for chatting (we used to enjoy our couple/catch up time in the window between Laurel and our bedtimes, but now Violet is usually up during that time), I often don't want to clog that time with frustrating things (that don't relate to our family). Not to say that I never go there, but I've found it useful to engage professionals (i.e., my therapist) for periodic tune ups when necessary.
8. Don't assume. Jon and I recently discovered that I sometimes assume his reaction to certain topics and make choices based on that (and then sometimes feel grumpy about it). I recently declined on a couple of traveling events because I assumed he would bristle (my travel has been a point of contention at times). When I did get around to talking to him about them, he was enormously supportive. From now on, if there are opportunities that really resonate with me, we've agreed that I should bring them to the table instead of assuming that he won't be on board.
9. Allow each other mindfulness. Our culture is one that hurries. And Jon and I have found that there's such comfort and value in encouraging one another to take time instead of hurrying, whether it's when doing errands or going to a café for some solo time.
10. If you've got village people, show them you care. We're far from having a village, but we are well aware that my mom's weekly involvement in our lives is a huge gift. It feels so good to do nice things for her as a gesture of our thanks (such as when I sent her the gift of household cleaners this week...she loved it!) and I want to get in the habit of doing that more regularly, not just around landmark dates.
11. Be grateful every day. Over the years I've met and read about many parents who face so many challenges and quandaries. I know I'm enormously lucky to be in a supportive, loving relationship and to be the mom of two healthy and happy girls. Even on the most challenging days, I look for gratitude.