Good Connections

This is for happy couples…

I have a dirty little secret: I’m in a happy relationship.

Yes, I know, the girls at work hate me a little too. While they complain about their men, I don’t have much to come back with.

Like on Valentine’s Day, when one of the girls says, “He got me flowers, on Feb. 13, because he said they’d be sold out on Valentine’s Day. Then he bitched about how it’s a Hallmark holiday.”

“Well my kids didn’t get me anything, if it makes you feel any better.”

“I can top that. So-and-so’s cheating on me, but I don’t care, and he keeps breaking in the house and selling my stuff on e-bay. Doesn’t he know we’re f*&^ing divorced?”

What am I going to come back with? “Well, my Spousal-Type Creature forgot to hang his towel up after washing the baby last night, after he got home from being at drill for three days in the freezing mud. And he played sappy romantic music for me on Valentine’s Day morning as an alarm, and then made us a steak dinner and hand-dipped chocolate-covered strawberries. That jerk.”

Doesn’t really hold up.

Because there’s such a focus on relationship problems in our culture, having a relationship without typical problems, can make you feel like a bit of a freak. Or at least I did until reading Bedded Bliss: A Couple’s Guide to Lust Ever After by Kristina Wright. This book inspired me because it was the first book I’ve ever encountered that, among other things, celebrated the good in relationships instead of focusing on the bad. So this post will kick off a series that deals with relationships, not just romantic ones, but better ways to build connections with people. And, since it is February, we’re starting with romantic relationships.

The DL

I’m no romantic relationship expert. The only relationship I’m an expert in is my own. The STC and I don’t fight. We don’t hold grudges. We don’t argue or bicker or resort to snarky comments. We don’t resent each other. We even like spending time together.

How do we make this magic happen? Here are the top things we do that make us (excuse the lack of modesty) awesome as a couple, at least in our own minds.

We’re grateful for one another.

Maybe it was because during our first year together, the STC was away for work for two weeks out of every month. Maybe it’s because we enjoy one another’s company. Whatever it is, I know that when I wake up in the morning, I’m spectacularly grateful just to be there with him, and vice versa.

We also thank each other a lot, mostly for little things. Like a lot of guys, he enjoys it when I notice the little things he does, like when he sets out a glass of water for me in the morning, or remembers to pick up his empty soda bottles from around the house.

It’s fairly painless to start training yourself to look for the stuff your partner does that you appreciate. And there’s nothing at all wrong with letting them know. We’re very much a culture wrapped up in fixing what’s wrong, but we don’t often enough reward what’s done right. I learned from training horses and dogs to reward even the tiniest movement, if it’s even remotely correct. It’s the same with kids and spouses. Let them know what they do right, and tell them what you’re praising them for; don’t only look for what’s wrong. If you constantly look to critique, the whole world will be colored with red pen. Don’t just color with red pen.

We share our day.

When good or bad stuff happens, he’s the person I want to share my news with.

When there’s something funny, he’s the person I want to tell about it.

When there’s some issue on the news, I want to hear his opinion.

Or if there’s a new show on HBO, or a book, or just anything.

Talking and sharing builds that connection. You have to care about what the other person thinks. And just because you think you know, you should ask anyway. People can surprise you.

We talk. A lot.

Probably the thing the STC and I do best as a couple is talk. Simple, clear communication goes a long way. From “please pick up the bananas, I didn’t have a chance to run to town today, and if you make me haul this screaming mess of a toddler into public right now, I will stab you in your sleep. Lol.” To “what do you think about this whole winter Olympics in Russia thing?”

For instance, I won’t go into detail since its TMI, but we had a situation come up in our relationship and, to put it succinctly, we talked the shit out of it. Like all weekend. We’d talk about something else for a while, but if one of us had a thought to share, we’d spit out what we were thinking, hash it in a rational, adult manner while changing the baby, and then return to whatever else we were talking about. I’m lucky, since my man is a talker. And we talk about everything. And even if we don’t particularly care or follow what the other is saying, we still listen, because we care about the person talking.

We empathize.

One of my most vivid memories is from a moment in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, as my STC and I watched the medical team furiously working to try and save our daughter. I remember looking up at the stony face of my partner as he stared fixedly at the scene. I thought “How can he not be a mess?” I wasn’t hysterical, but couldn’t seem to make the tears stop, no matter how I tried. Outwardly, he showed no reaction whatsoever. And my knee-jerk thought was that he didn’t care. Then I stopped myself, remembered that he’s trained how to deal with crisis situations. He didn’t hurt any less; he just dealt with it differently. And that change of thinking made it all right. Because my next coherent thought was, “He’s losing his daughter too.” Up until that point, I’d thought “I’m losing my child,” not that we were losing our child. Over the next few weeks, there were a lot of those moments, of being considerate and gentle with each other. A situation that could have driven a wedge between couple ended up bringing us closer than ever. For us, being able to say “I see where you’re coming from, but have you thought about it this way?” is crucial.

Men and women aren’t at odds. They do different things in order to complement one another. You should always be trying to complement each other. If you and your partner aren’t in each other’s corner, then whose are you in?

We laugh. A lot.

Wrap up

Every relationship is different. I’m only an expert in mine. I’ve tried to share what we do well for our lives and our personalities. Mostly I’d like the reader to take away from this the value of positive emotions: of being grateful, of being aware of yourself and your partner, and of looking for what’s right instead of what needs fixing. The whole world can look like a renovation project if you let it.

Recommended Reading:

Bedded Bliss: A Couple’s Guide to Lust Ever After by Kristina Wright.

Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology by Christopher Peterson

The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love by Ty Tashiro.

Axie_Barclay_100Axie Barclay is a Michigan writer with a cow-habit. Having discovered the joys and potential for growth inalternative agriculture, she quests ever longer and harder for ways to combine farming and writing into a business. When not milking cows, making disgruntled noises at the latest disgusting thing the heeler dogs dredge up, riding horses, or keeping the fence up around her small beef herd, she’s holed up reading an eclectic array of books or tapping out pages. When not working, she enjoys kicking back with her honey, family, and friends at a bonfire with some beers. Chat her up on Twitter and Facebook, /axieb, or where she delves into literature and agriculture with a relish… and occasionally ketchup. Soon to be homemade.