The Importance Of Asking

A strange thing happens sometime into a romantic relationship. After the infatuation. Beyond the honeymoon period.

One day your significant other will be upset with you. Because the telepathy no longer works.

The lawn needs mowing, dishes need doing, car needs filling, laundry needs tidying up, bath, homework, dinner – whatever it is, whatever your gender, whatever your role in the relationship – there is a critical task you've neglected. Chances are you didn't even notice it.

For some reason the time you took to be consciously kind when you were madly in love no longer exists. For some reason those idiosyncracies you so easily overlooked become irksome. It's like you've fallen in love with someone who no longer even speaks the same language.

Which is exactly what's happened.

You have.

There's an insidious temptation to think “Surely if they love me, I shouldn't have to ask them to do …”

Why not?

No-one has the same experience, history, or genetic make-up as you. They see the world through different eyes. If you don't believe me try this thought experiment: The next time you walk through a shopping centre together ask each other what you noticed was on sale. Chances are you and your partner saw entirely different bargains, even though you 'experienced' exactly the same shops.

So rather than building resentment because they haven't accomplished something you expected them to simply ask them to do it. Courteously, with respect.

Rather than tell yourself the story that they don't value you, give them a chance by voicing how you see the world.

How often?

As often as it needs for you stay deliriously in love with each other. After 21 years of marriage Lucy still has to ask me to do the 'obvious.' And I her.

If I'm honest, this can still be after an argument. We're still discovering each others blind spots, but our assumption is not that we don't love each other [any longer]. Our base assumption is that we do love and value each other, so it must be because of some other reason that we've neglected the obvious.

So, the next time you need something doing, simply ask.


Project 2012: Day 336

On Monday Lucy and I will have been married for 18 years. One of the traditions we've built into our marriage was to celebrate our wedding anniversary with a week-end away from the kids. Part of the reason was to give us some time alone with each other, as we'd always had our two eldest daughters since we met. But the commitment was to invest time, effort and expense, no matter our life situation, to celebrate our relationship.

By going away for the week-end we had to sacrifice other activities, not to mention purchases. Work, school, church activities, social commitments, all are secondary to the week-end. In the early years we had to find babysitters for all four girls.

We alternate organising the week-end, I look after the even years, and Lucy the odd. The unwritten rule is that our destination is always a surprise for the other. Of course that makes it just that little bit harder to arrange, and more fun to enjoy.

Another unwritten rule is to go somewhere we've not been before. Although that's more of a guideline, which in the early years yielded to corporate Christmas Parties 🙂

But 18 years and we've done ok:

  • 2012 – Rented cottage in Bellerive, Hobart
  • 2011 – Rented cottage in Port Stephens
  • 2010 – Medina Hotel, thanks to staff rates through Leah, in Brisbane
  • 2009 – Rented cottage in Nelson's Bay
  • 2008 – Honeymoon bungalow on Hideaway Island, Vanuatu
  • 2007 – A rare treat in the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney
  • 2006 – Couples spa bungalow at Eagle's Reach, Upper Hunter Valley thanks to an award from Microsoft
  • 2005 – Rented cottage at Avoca Beach, Central Coast
  • 2004 – Friend's 34' yacht moored in Lane Cove, Sydney Harbour
  • 2003 – Holiday park “cabin” (read stationary caravan) in Tuggerah
  • 2002 – Hilton hotel in Melbourne, thanks to an award from Compaq
  • 2001 – Rented cottage in the Blue Mountains
  • 2000 – Rented cottage on Perigian Beach, near Noosa, Queensland
  • 1999 – Harbour View Hotel, North Sydney, stayed an extra night after the Origin Christmas Party
  • 1998 – B&B Hotel about a mile down river from Oxford. Very reminiscent of Fawlty Towers.
  • 1997 – “The Coach House” a rented cottage on a farm near Milton Grange, Derbyshire
  • 1996 – Novotel London, stayed an extra night after the Nokia Christmas Party
  • 1995 – Novotel London, stayed an extra night after the Nokia Christmas Party
  • 1994 – “The Coach House” a rented cottage on a farm near Milton Grange, Derbyshire – this was the week-end we got married. We only went on our “proper” honeymoon to South Africa in January after Christmas.

There you have it.

As you can see some hotels that have coincided with work Christmas Parties. Some as a result of loyalty rewards, but mostly holiday rental cottages. Many times we've dined out. More times we've self-catered to have a romantic meal with no distractions.

We've boated, sailed, dived, flown, driven, travelled by train, even cycled.

The week-end has often been a check-point for the year and occasionally in our relationship. Choices about careers, homes, schools, even getting a dog, have been discussed and initiated, if not decided, on that annual week-end.

How long since you've had time with your partner without the pressures of work, or the routine of the family crowding in?

When last did you plan a romantic “dirty” week-end away. Where you had to connive, and scheme, and hide plans from your partner and the kids?

In time your work will come to an end, and your kids and your kids will leave. I believe it's foolish to think that any relationship will magically transform to cope with those changes. A belief that's evidenced by the enormously high divorce rate at the 18-20 year marriage mark.

So this week-end is about planting the seed, and nurturing the tree that is your marriage that must supersede every other aspect of your life if it's to thrive. One week-end a year is not much to ask.

Of course that's not the only thing we do to nurture our marriage. But it is one of the special ones.

I highly recommend it.