The other night, we ran into a neighbor at Silver Moon Brewing. We were enjoying live music when she waved hello, so I walked over to say hi. She told me she was touched by how Mark and I seemed to be so in love. It was a sweet observation and it made me think of the lyrics to one of Mark’s songs called “Any Fool Can Fall in Love”. Here’s the chorus:
To stand in love is so hard like mining
You work your poor heart down to the bone
To fall in love is easy, undemanding, elementary
For any fool can fall in love
So, falling in love is a piece of cake. To “stand in love” you have to add kindness, understanding, respect, compromise, patience and commitment.
Mark and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary last September and have been together for almost 34 years. We are a happy couple…AND, we certainly have our challenges. To Mark’s point, meaningful and long-lasting relationships take work. It’s common to develop habits, to take things for granted and to exist without connecting. Mark and I spend 90+% of our time together. That’s a lot. We work together from a home office. We play music together. People often ask how we are able to spend so much time together without killing each other. Of course the question is a partial joke but they are truly curious. We’re never exactly sure how to answer. We have our stuff. Sometimes he gets quiet and I feel neglected. Sometimes I get grumpy and he feels like he’s walking on eggshells. People say opposites attract and that feels true to me at times. For example, Mark is content to sit and relax for long stretches and I can hardly sit still for 10 minutes. And yes, we’re often distracted by work, deadlines, chores and life in general.
So I’ve been digging a little deeper into what it means to stay connected. What are we doing that works and what doesn’t? A lot of the work that comes with relationships is centered around compromise. Mark is a man of few words and I need attention. I have to work on giving him space and also asking for attention when I need it. He has to make a point of engaging in conversations (especially on long drives when we’re in the car together for hours and I’m watching the chapstick roll around in the center console of the car). It sounds pretty straight forward, but it can take a lot of emotional energy shifting out of our comfort zones. Again, it’s about compromise.
Like most couples, our sticking points are always the same. We talk about stuff, it gets better and then we tend to slip back into old habits until we talk again. The talking part is not always easy, but it usually gets us back on track…at least for a while. And ideally the sticking points become less “sticky” and that means progress. Not only is it hard to say what’s on your mind, it’s also hard to hear what’s on someone else’s. One of our bad habits is getting irritable and impatient when talking to each other about work. I’m certain if we were just co-workers, we would be much more diplomatic and patient.
Here are a few things that work for us:
- Having a sense of humor
- Spending time apart
- Doing nice things for each other (taking out the trash/getting groceries/doing laundry, making the bed/bringing coffee) and showing appreciation for them
- A kiss in the morning and at night (even if the other person is sleeping)
- An affectionate touch
- Not bashing or complaining about each other to our friends
- Most importantly, being kind to one another
You get the idea. We all do these things sometimes. It’s really about making an effort and being intentional. I have two friends whose husbands bring them coffee in bed every morning. Mark gets up around 8:30 am so coffee in bed for me is out. Sometimes I’m feeling grumpy towards Mark for no reason at all (#menopause, #whereisMYcoffee?). So, I give him a kiss in the morning when he’s still sleeping, it reminds me how much I appreciate him. Then I make my own coffee.
Lastly, it’s really important to ask your partner for what you want. In my last blog, I shared a quote from Lynette Xanders:
“People will do anything in the world for you, except read your mind.”
I believe that is true of all relationships, new or old, romantic or not. So stand in love. It’s worth it.
Check out these 7 Ways to Stay Connected in a Relationship from Bustle.com
Linda Quon is Vice President and Director of Communication at Quon Design and Communication. Linda is working to promote everyday mental health awareness in partnership with Deschutes County Health Services and Central Oregon Health Council — which includes providers and health advocates from Crook, Jefferson, and Deschutes Counties. Linda was born and raised in Southern California and moved to Central Oregon with her husband and two children in 2005. Her mother lived with Schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder and her oldest brother also experienced bi-polar disorder. With support from family, friends, therapists and primary care providers, Linda has been navigating the world of mental illness most of her life — including her own struggles with mild anxiety and depression. Linda is proud to work as an advocate for mental health and a blogger for Mind Your Mind Central Oregon.