My friend Susie and her husband keep a joint journal of their marriage. When the spirit moves, he or she pulls the journal off the shelf and writes. They write about everyday things, express their feelings about something the other of them did that was hurtful, disappointing, thoughtful, or especially meaningful. They write how they’re feeling about their marriage, careers, friendships, and lives. Their individual musings are there for the other to read and to learn from. When they travel, their pictures go in their journal and each of them writes about the trip. They individually read the journal to see what the other has written, and, other times, they pull it off the shelf, read it together, and talk about what they’ve read. A joint journal. One of the coolest ideas I’ve heard in a very long time—a great way to celebrate and memorialize a marriage.
Hubby Dale and I once decided to keep a journal of the wonderful meals that Dale—a great chef—prepares, including the wine we serve, what friends join us, a “review” of the meal, etc. I think that lasted one, maybe two meals before we forgot about it. As much as I love the idea of a joint journal, these old dogs are not likely to learn that new trick. We’re talkers, are comfortable sharing our feelings and big on “remember when.” True, we can’t always recall the detail we otherwise might if we journaled, but our remember-when conversations always capture the essence of what we were feeling and doing then.
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It’s not the “how” of sharing thoughts and recording memories, it’s the “doing” that gives your relationship texture, reinforces your togetherness, supports mutual trust, and creates the glue that holds you together when the going gets rough. What defines any relationship and makes it unique from all others—whether it be marriage, friendship, or business—is what’s shared within that relationship. Meeting and overcoming adversity together, sharing and reaching goals, laughing together until your sides ache, crying together until there are no more tears. All of these things—and many more—forge a relationship into steel, strong enough to survive inevitable challenges. It’s not just sharing an experience that gives a relationship value. If it were, then the stranger who sat next to you on the roller coaster ride that scared the bejesus out of you would have become a valued friend. What gives a relationship value is the ability to emotionally share an experience—not just the good feelings, but the freedom to express all your feelings about that experience, feeling safe enough to say how scared you were, how much it hurt, how badly you wanted it, how embarrassed you were, how you regret what you did or said, all without fear of judgment or loss of affection.
The old use-it-or-lose-it adage is apt here. It's the sharing—physically and emotionally—that forges a marriage and keeps you close. Failing to do so allows you to drift apart. It’s so easy in today’s world to let your relationship move to the back burner and to put off until tomorrow what there’s no time for today. Don’t make that mistake. Make and take the time to talk to each other, to share your thoughts, your feelings, your life. Make and take the time to create memories.
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Your marriage is (or certainly can be) your most valued relationship. Use it or lose it.