Last night I came home late from work, as usual. I heated my dinner in the microwave, as usual. Helen was watching TV. She called “George, are you home?” and I called back “yes.” Later I read the newspaper and then prepared for bed. She was still watching TV. I laid in the dark and felt sad. What is the purpose of being together when we’re not together? Surely divorce has crossed her mind too. I don’t hate her. She hasn’t done anything wrong. I just would like to be happy.
Let’s assume Helen also sent me a letter. Perhaps it would read something like this:
Last night my husband came home late, as usual. I don’t understand why. We never have dinner together anymore and rarely go to bed at the same time. I often watch TV. It let’s me forget everything I feel bad about. Sometimes I think it’s best if we went our separate ways. Sometimes I think about how happy we were. -Helen
Each of you has chosen an escape mechanisms, late work and TV watching, in order to avoid dealing with each other. The hurt that’s accumulated between you now seems insurmountable. It needn’t be. You have invested a lot of feelings in each other. They are still there, buried under a mountain of misunderstandings. You can recapture the happiness in your marriage but only if you are willing to make a serious daily effort and let go of the heaps of accusations, miscommunications and anger.
My plan is called Ten Good Minutes. You must agree to spend ten good minutes together every day. Start by agreeing not to dwell on past negatives. Just delete them. Say, “we want to be friends and lovers again” every morning.
Step 1: Think of a reason to compliment each other daily. For little things you notice; taking an interest in your gardening; picking up movie tickets for the film you both want to see; helping your neighbor with his broken car; setting a nice table and having dinner together; adjusting the work schedule, looking pretty.
Step 2: Be in touch with each other’s life. Share daily happenings. Compare schedules. Your partner shouldn’t learn from your girlfriend that your in-laws are arriving next Sunday. You don’t want to be told at the last moment that it is his company’s picnic that day. Plan together. Be in each other’s lives. An unexpected e-mail or “HI” over the phone can be a wonderful pick-up!
Step 3: Once a week discuss big issues with an open mind, never in the bedroom. Go for a walk, watch the sunset and talk. Listen actively. Let your partner finish the thought. Don’t jump in to counter. You want to find a solution together, not win an argument that pulls you apart. Be tolerant. Many issues don’t have perfect solutions. Agree that sometimes you can’t agree but…still find a solution.
Step 4: Hug and kiss before going off in different directions. Laugh together. Hold hands. Research suggests that spending positive time daily with your partner will strongly increase love and happiness in your relationship. Just ten good minutes – give it a try!