By Lisa Barr
Hmm … “Are you NICER to your Barista than to your Spouse?” This is perhaps THE philosophical question relating to Marriage 2012, Committed Relationships, and Pop Culture, as posed by a successful local Life Coach to me over coffee. She had asked this question to her listeners on a recent radio show. And you know what? I can’t stop thinking about it.
A while back, I wrote a short story called Liquid Adultery about a woman who doesn’t get the attention she needs from her husband and ends up having an affair with her barista, who knew her “coffee” without asking, who knew she liked Iced Tea with one and a half Splendas in the afternoon. From her viewpoint, her barista really saw her and understood her needs, while her husband took her for granted. As the story continues, the reader realizes the irony: the woman treats her barista the way her husband wishes she’d treat him.
I know my baristas — we share small talk, and exchange “personal” coffee jokes on a daily basis. They start off my day, make me laugh, and then I’m on my way.
It struck me today as I watched the lineup of coffee customers also making jokes with “MY” barista, and my barista knowing “THEIR” drinks too: If everyone was as nice to their partner as they are to the girl/guy behind the counter — how would our marriages look, and how would this attitude adjustment make our spouse feel?
I have an “advantage” (horrible word choice, I know) of going for the gold the Second-Tme Around — and getting the medal. I know why my first marriage failed and I’ve learned a lot from it. We were not right for each other from the beginning. But if I go deeper, and examine my “part” in the break-up — I know I did not give him enough attention. I would put my girls to bed and then head directly to my computer to work on my book or articles. The message: No time for you, buddy — I’ve got other priorities.
That said, deeper-down, because things were so tough between us, I probably did not want to spend that “special” time with him after the kids (finally) went to sleep, and found excuses — using the very rational “I have no time during the day to work … with young kids, etc. …” Our relationship was not a nice one. We did not go out of our way for each other. It was a very important life lesson to hold onto.
Not this time around. My focus is definitely on my husband, especially when the kids go to bed. It may be just watching TV together (which I never did ’til I met him), or reading next to each other (which he never did ’til he met me), or … well, you know. The point is … at the end of the day — niceness begins and ends with each other.
This blog is not about love. It’s about really learning to “like” your spouse. It’s the “set-up” for Date Night. So that when you do have those moments alone, there isn’t a “wall” between you.
You feel free together, you have fun, you are friends, and you are flirty. Without doing the niceties during the week — time alone will inevitably turn into a discussion about details: kids, schedule, commitments, YOU go to this game/I’ll drive to gymnastics.
So let’s start from the beginning of your day, and work with me …
Morning coffee with my husband is a priority. I will not schedule any meeting during that time — not for anyone. And he, the same. This steal-away time has been great for us. Not everyone can spend 20-30 minutes together before work — I TOTALLY get that. But so many women/men get up early for, say, a 5:30 a.m. exercise class (and return home just before the kids wake up) and make that special bonding time with their bodies. That same dedication must be given to your spouse. Find YOUR time together in the morning — even if it’s 10 minutes. Wake up together, if possible. If you are racing, pause, and give each other a good, long hug before the day kicks off.
Okay the little, easy niceties that make all the difference. One word: ICONS. I’m addicted. My daughter put them on my phone for me, and not a message goes out without one. iPhone changes everything I write. I’m a big “xoxo” person. But iPhone changes that into “zone” — don’t ask. So my hubby and I have an inside joke — I will sign everything … Zone Lisa. Icons — a little purple heart in the middle of the day — to your spouse — will make him pause at work: You are now on his radar, and he is on yours.
You can get racier too — a middle-of-the-day “So, what are you wearing?” text message goes a long way, and you know he is smiling even without an LOL in return. Try it.
And here’s one for the Men — answer HER calls, don’t press IGNORE. My husband has learned, believe me. Even if it’s something so stupid, like I’m thinking either chicken or Italian for dinner — what do you think? Answer her. She is working for the family — her job is just as important as yours (some would say more). That one minute acknowledgement makes all the difference. (Chicken sounds awesome is all it takes).
I digress for a second … my husband told me a story of when he was in a business meeting recently and the guy he was with — his phone rang. The guy rolled his eyes, accompanied by “It’s my wife … again.” My husband said, “Answer it. Believe me, the one second of attention you give her buys you an entire good night.”
Happy Wife, Happy Life. (Yeah, you’ll hear this motto a lot in my blog).
Niceties … go a long way when your kids see you both holding hands, especially if they are in the backseat of the car catching up on their texting … if they (happen) to look up, they will see two parents listening to music, perhaps not talking, but holding hands — that message couldn’t be stronger: We like each other … a lot. (Showcasing marital affection is a huge example-setter for your children.)
If you are home before your husband gets there, and you hear the garage door opening but you have a load of laundry in your hands, or in my case, my computer is going full-throttle — using every spare minute until my peeps get home. This is a Stop-What-You’re-Doing moment. So many men complain that when they get home, their wife does not greet them. Their “Honey, I’m home” gets met with an “I’ll be down in a few minutes.” Other men complain that the minute they walk inside their house after work, their wife hands them a list of details — no genuine hello or interest, rather a here’s what needs to be done in order for our family to make it through our day.
I know we are all running crazy trying to slam through the billion things we need to get done, but that PRECIOUS PAUSE — that ACKNOWLEDGMENT — is an essential building-block to your relationship. Use it.
Hey Male Readers, women love The Little Things. Don’t wait for her birthday or Valentine’s Day — a Just Because gift is the nicest one of all. It could be just doing something she’s asked you to do forever, without her asking again. Just say, nonchalantly, “Babe, you know that light in the laundry room that kept flickering– well, I went to Home Depot and fixed it while you were out.” I promise, men, that will buy you more than lunch.
The point is — take a few moments to think of something nice to do on a daily basis for your partner. It doesn’t have to cost you a thing — just time.
We just saw the movie Ruby Sparks — LOVED this film on so many levels. It is about a writer whose main character — a woman — comes alive and he falls in love with her … but he is also able to control her because whatever he writes, she does.
It made me think, “Wow — if I could remote-control my husband by writing– all the “usz” would be taken care of — you know, all the guy stuff around the house that never gets done. But when it really comes down to it — I would not want to control my man to get what I need. It’s so much better if all those nice things came from him, via his own free will.
A call or text saying, “Hey, I’m in the middle of work, but got you on my mind …” puts a little skip in anyone’s step. It is what keeps the sexiness alive in your marriage, and is definitely foreplay for “later.”
I love my barista (couldn’t live without him in the mornings ) but the truth is, he is replaceable. I love my husband … who is irreplaceable. I work hard in the midst of my nutsy day to let him know that I appreciate him by applying the first rule of thumb that every writer learns into my marriage: Show don’t tell. Show.