I eagerly touched my “DoGood” app this morning to see what the day’s mission would be. I was prompted to devote all my attention to “one lucky person” – and being the sarcastic, negative person I tend to be before my first cup of coffee, I immediately wondered just how lucky he or she would really be. After all, the suggestion did not say whether my attention should be negative or positive.
The most likely recipient (victim?) of my attention today would of course be my husband.
Over the course of the day, I was conscious of just how often I had the opportunity to be more attentive to – and less irritated by – the little things that make up an ordinary day in a married couple’s life. Making sure his tie was tucked correctly under his collar. Reminding him not to forget his (keys, lunch, wallet, honey-do list, etc.) as he walked out the door. Making direct eye contact when I asked how his day went instead of half listening as I checked email or the latest Facebook posting. Nothing big. But it was amazing how this changed the tone of the day. How the little things turned out to make a big difference.
The exercise got me thinking about the very nature of marriage – how two people leading separate lives are supposed to get together, agree on the “big stuff” – like buying a house and raising kids – and the not-so-big stuff – like what to eat for dinner and which movie to rent from Netflix. Looked at with a critical eye, this union should never work … and while 50 percent of marriages do indeed fail, what about the ones that don’t? The ones like ours that last a quarter of a century or more? What is it that keeps us together for better or worse, richer or poorer, sweet or sour, bewitching or just plain witchy?
The “long-timers” I’ve spoken to usually don’t have an answer to that question. I know I don’t. We certainly are no more spiritually fit, economically secure or romantically adept than other couples. We fight, sulk and go to our separate corners just as often as anyone else. Our real estate transactions and child rearing were definitely not exercises in perfection.
So if it’s not the “big stuff” that kept us together, then it must be the little stuff. Like fixing that tie, serving steak when you’re craving a quiche, watching Road Warrior for the hundredth time when you really want to settle in with a Lifetime movie. And biting your tongue when he returns to the house – again – for the keys, lunch, wallet or honey-do list – that he forgot despite your calm, patient reminder. The difference, I think, is paying attention. And smiling anyway.