Sunday, October 22, 2006

One Perfect Day

You know, I was so steamed up after writing that last post that I summoned up the last scraps of energy left over from a very hard week and talked to the Big Dude about all this.

He wasn't very happy about the conversation. Afterwards, I thanked him for listening and he said, "Well, I didn't have much choice". But then, truly, he was perfect to me all day. He talked about how all the things I have been working on are actually going really well. He praised my contribution to our little family. He said how much he loved and appreciated me. He hugged me without me having to ask. And it was like that all day.

And at the end of the day, he said he had plans for the evening to "improve my morale". And how? Through a lovely serving of tofu burger, that's how!

But you know what I liked best about that day? The conversations. When we had interesting thoughts, instead of keeping them to ourselves or burying ourselves in books and TV and household tasks, we shared them. We had great conversations, scattered throughout the day, which I really enjoyed. To tell you the truth, I had half-forgotten what an interesting man he really is.

And I liked the attention. There is something about a person truly listening to you, giving you their full attention instead of still leafing through a newspaper and saying "uh huh" in the right places, that is a very intimate and loving gesture.

Sometimes I think that love is fundamentally about attention. Paying attention to that person. Observing them. Listening to them. Figuring out what makes them happy and trying to do more of it. Noticing when they seem unhappy. Being willing to do the hard work involved in changing behaviour that isn't working instead of talking ourselves into believing that everything is fine, despite all evidence to the contrary.

I complain a lot about some of the bad things that have happened to us and I worry about how they affect our relationship. But to be honest, I find the real enemy of our love is a kind of laziness or inertia. When we stop really listening to each other. When we know what each other needs, but quietly decide that it is all too much effort. When we allow ourselves to get preoccupied by other things, as if those things are more important than the quality of the relationship that is at the centre of our lives.

Sometimes we retreat into wishful thinking about how relationships shouldn't be this hard or require this much effort. We start fantasising about other options or even just get in the habit of waiting quietly as if things will start improving on their own instead of doing something to make it happen.

I see this inertia in the Big Dude and I see it in myself, and I see it around me, in both the "real world" and in Blogland too.

In my experience, relationship issues rarely improve on their own. Most of the time, a relationship left alone tends towards greater entropy. Like that old joke about the second law of thermodynamics and how everything turns to shit.

To be honest, the Big Dude was almost overperforming yesterday. Not that I didn't enjoy it. I was very, very happy. But there is no way he has the energy to sustain that level of effort for long.

To my mind, it was one perfect day. And that one perfect day meant so much to me that it was worth the effort involved in having that discussion, even if that turns out to be the only result.

If he can sustain just ten per cent of the level of effort he put in yesterday, I will be a much happier woman in general.

But to do that, he will need to pay more attention, and so will I. And that is the hard part.


Blogger Fiona said...

What a beautiful post Emily :)

Someone once said - the greatest aphrodisiac is attention - and I think there's a lot of truth in that.

You are so correct in the 'work' needed within a relationship...the need to constantly keep driving it, to keep injecting interest and movement.

It takes two to make it work, one person doing it all won't make that happen and I'm so happy to see that you had a wonderful day.

It's hard to keep that momentum but one of those every now and then should do the trick.

Lovely post!

3:28 AM  
Blogger Lickety Split said...

I think you are correct about the work involved.

It takes two to fix the problem and that includes two people who WANT to fix the problem.

I find it quite disturbing to read the many blogs about men or women justifying their affairs with the excuse that the marriage is broken. It may very well be, but your choices are to fix it or get out of it...and having the distraction of the third party takes away energy that would otherwise be spent on the marriage.

Hooray for Emily...what a nice day.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Desmond Jones said...

Great post, Emily (and the previous one, too). Molly and I have both learned a lot from the whole 'Love Languages' concept.

The whole trick, it seems to me, is sort of like learning a foreign language. My 'love language' is mostly 'physical touch', with a side order of 'words of affirmation'; Molly's is 'acts of service'. The tendency is for me to show love to her in my own language. I am very physically and verbally affectionate with her, but what she would really like is for me to sweep the kitchen floor after dinner, or read a story to the kids at bedtime. So the challenge for me is to learn her 'love language', and figure out how to speak it to her. To my mind, sweeping the floor isn't expressive of much of anything at all, but if I can just get it through my skull that she will receive it as love, then it just becomes another way for me to say "I love you". But that's the trick, isn't it?

I see so many marriages languishing because one spouse or the other can't/won't learn to speak the other spouse's 'love language'. It seems too 'phony' or something, but if they could just understand that it's just "I love you" in a different language, it would look entirely different. . .

7:42 AM  
Blogger LBP said...

Sounds like you're headed in the right direction. He seems to agree with your diagnosis and wants to participate in the treatment.

Use honey baby. Honey catches flies.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Satan said...

I'm really glad you talked with the Big Dude about this. And that something wonderful came out of that talk!

10:22 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Is it just me, or does it seem like a lot of men go for physical touch with a side order of affirmation, while a lot of women go for acts of service? Maybe this is where that idea about how if men did more housework, they would get more sex comes from!

Wish it worked for me! Sometimes I seem to do nothing BUT housework!

LBP - I agree and I do use a lot of honey. Most of the time, the man is drowning in honey. But sometimes he needs a blowtorch!

5:10 PM  
Blogger LePhare said...

I was going to comment on your previous post but was glad I didn't after reading this latest one.

It's hard work, isn't it, especially when one of you isn't 100%. It's difficult enough to get through the day sometimes, without having to carry someone.

It's a 'day at a time' situation and taking the joy where you can.

Great post Emily.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Emily, as you can see, we here all applaud you (AND Big Dude) for what you both have experienced - your "one perfect day"! You know it's just human nature that we all tend to get lazy, to slide into old bad habits, to take each other for granted. As has been said elsewhere though, it takes both of you to make the effort to make a relationship work. One can't consistently carry the other partner. So I'm happy that you and Big Dude are both willing to make that effort, when called for.

5:47 PM  
Blogger oldbear said...

Hi /Emily, I have heard Chapman speak, and several others who are more or less users of his theories in the practice of marital advice.

Thye generalize that to some extenet all men have at least a secondary of physical touch. for many men it is the primary. One of them noted that for men intercousre counts as a lot of physical touch, whereas for a woman the sex act usually wont by itself.

The language reported as most often neglected by husbands was quality time with the wife and or family as a whole.

It should also be noted that in most cases men should refe to gifts s "little gifts" when thinking of theri wife. Most women reported that it was thd idea that he was thinking of her that mattered. Because of that more frequent smaller gifts wer preferred over infrewquent showy presents. Some women respondents expressed dismay and resentment that their guy thought a present could make up for acting like a jerk.

Not perfect recollection, but the gist is accurate.

Read a book about the basic temperments and you will really be getting some insight inot relationships!!

6:44 PM  
Blogger Mu Ling said...

There are many different kinds of touch, of course. My husband does value touch, highly -- a hug, a kiss on the cheek, holding hands. But that is not the same thing as welcoming sexual touch.

I am not fond of acts of service, myself. I don't see why he should get "points" for maintaining the home in which we both live. We don't have children, and we both have waged jobs outside the home, so perhaps our situation is anomalous.

6:30 AM  
Blogger ksy said...

Getting "Attention" -- Dead on.

Isn't that what we all desire? To be noticed and appreciated -- in ways that we understand?

Nice post. Well written.

Thanks for visiting. I've read your comments in other blogs that we read in common.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Finished Last said...

Being attentive is a lost art. We get so wrapoped up in ourselves. Good post and good reminder

1:05 PM  

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