Time away from the daily grind reminded this expert what makes a relationship tick.
Okay. I'll admit it: I'm in the middle of a 2-week vacation... without my husband. For 25 years we have vacationed together at a family property on Lake Michigan. Until this year. My husband decided to skip vacation due to work concerns. So my daughter and I made the trek alone to stay with my mother-in-law. In this pristine setting, we have a wireless connection, but my smartphone can't reliably send and receive calls and texts. And since my husband is not internet savvy, our communication is limited to daily landline calls. Happily, I have cultivated 2 important relationship lessons from this experience that I'd like to share with you.
1. Acknowledge, speak, and live your truth.
During an early vacation call, my husband "helpfully" advised me not to stay up too late. If he were here, he would have been up before dawn and out in the boat to fish while I was deeply asleep. He also would have fallen asleep before me that night, because a full day on the water and late-night fish cleaning tires him out.
But I am different and so is my truth. I don't take the boat out, and I don't clean fish. My vacation activities are more of the leisurely type: I enjoy staying up late and sleeping in. Seven hundred-fifty miles away from my man, I found it easier to speak my truth. But it was also important to thank him for expressing his concern, as I acknowledge, speak, and act on what is true for me.
My vacation would not be as pleasant for me if I had failed to acknowledge, speak, and live out my truth. If I kept silent, my husband would have no chance to support me by showing interest in my unique and happy experience. And if I had lived out his expectations, I might feel frustrated and resentful. I might not be able to enjoy myself and acknowledge that I really miss him, because I'd be too busy feeling frustrated or upset. This vacation is just an example of a situation that arises often in relationships. Are there places or scenarios in which you've been ignoring your truth? Perhaps it's in the bedroom, in finances or parenting. Think about what you're standing up for and what you're potentially sacrificing.
2. Accept your differences.
Several weeks before vacation, my husband floated the idea that "we" might not go to the lake this year because of his work schedule. By that time, I had already prepped clients for my departure and fully committed to being away for two weeks. So with love in my heart and firmness in my tone, I told my husband that I needed a vacation and my practice could afford it. He agreed, and wanted my daughter and me to have a delightful time. By each choosing to do what we individually needed (and respecting each other's choices), my husband and I became separated by time and space. Yet in this separation, we are more attentive to each other when we are able to connect by telephone. And we draw closer when we intentionally recall what we value and miss about the other.
In counseling (and in the mirror), I see couples who are so different: outgoing vs. shy, responsible vs. playful and spontaneous vs. careful. I often think that if these couples sat as co-chairmen on a board of directors and learned to cooperate, their company would rock! They each bring unique strengths to the relationship. They can also make their relationship rock if they stop trying to be the same. By embracing their differences, they might discover how to create the relationship they desire. How well do you and your partner handle individual differences? Do they provide an opportunity for learning, growth and greater love?
If you avoid differences by hiding your truth, or actively fight to bring your partner to your side, your relationship loses trust, connection, and closeness. If you need help to repair that connection, a couples’ therapist can help. If you're in Northern Virginia, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I'd like to help.
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