Last night my husband and I went to see a new marriage therapist. Or couples counselor. Or whatever you want to call it.
We are approaching twelve years of marriage, and this is the fourth therapist we have seen.
Our first therapist was a super nice lady.
We liked her.
But we both liked her because we both thought she was on “our side.” I was sure she thought my husband was the one with the issues, and my husband was sure she thought I was the one with the issues.
She was what you’d call a bobble head.
She nodded in agreement with everything my husband and I said, but she didn’t really give us any tools to work with.
The next therapist we saw started out as my personal therapist and then my husband and I started seeing her together.
She was incredibly helpful to me. She was by far the most effective therapist I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a bunch).
I’m not so sure she was as helpful to me and my husband as a couple, but it didn’t really matter.
Because one day, out of nowhere, she disappeared.
She fell off the face of the planet.
A couple years later we saw our third therapist.
She was the best therapist my husband and I saw together.
But when we couldn’t afford our health insurance anymore and we lost it, our new insurance didn’t cover her.
So we had to stop going.
When our financial situation started to improve a tiny bit, she gave us a reduced rate since we still had to pay out of pocket, so we started seeing her again.
Then she moved to England.
So that was the end of her.
And then last night we had our first meeting with Therapist Number Four (TNF).
That first session is always tough because there is so much to talk about.
I’ll spare you the details and get right to what I found to be very useful from last night.
So often when a couple goes to see a therapist, you are rehashing old arguments.
As grown ups, we will hold on to things for a long, long time.
But if you look at children, as TNF explained to us, they will get really pissed at each other, or at you, but it takes a very short time for them to get over it.
And they really get over it.
They let it go, and they move on.
They don’t keep bringing the same shit up over and over and over again.
And they don’t give you the silent treatment for days
(I’m talking about children, not teenagers).
Rehashing old stuff that really isn’t significant to what is going on now is a waste of time.
And the more you focus on it, the more angry and resentful you become.
The more angry and resentful you become, the less likely you are to be willing to make any changes.
And if you are unhappy or dissatisfied with your marriage or your marriage isn’t healthy, you need to make some changes.
Both of you.
And one of the things you need to do is go back to that point in your relationship where your relationship was a priority.
Where you made an effort.
And that’s when TNF said if you each made one change a week for the next year, that would be 104 changes you’ve made to your marriage.
He wasn’t talking about massive changes.
Just little things.
Little things that you did back in the early days that for one reason or another are no longer present in your marriage.
I’ve attempted to do this in the past.
I’ve attempted to do some of those things I did back in the honeymoon phase of the relationship.
But as soon as I felt that my husband wasn’t immediately reciprocating, I stopped.
Which is part of the problem.
If you are keeping score, you aren’t self-reflecting and changing your behavior.
You are waiting for someone else to change their behavior.
And like we tell our kids, the only person you can control is yourself.
If you are dissatisfied with or struggling in your marriage you have to make changes.
Regardless of what the other person does.
Of course if you really commit to making healthy changes and do that for months or years and your spouse has made absolutely no effort at all, then maybe you’ve got some decisions to make.
But to try something differently for two or three days and then quit when things aren’t immediately reciprocated is not committing to making changes.
I’ve already declared this upcoming school year The Year of NO.
A couple weeks ago I committed to decluttering my life. To clearing my plate of unnecessary responsibilities and self-imposed tasks.
This will give me more time and energy to devote to my marriage.
And that is something I really need to do.
So I’m not going to assign myself a challenge.
But I am committing to making changes in my marriage that are reasonable and sustainable.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot since last night.
Could I make 52 changes?
Are there things I can do differently?
There are. Because I made a list.
There’s a lot of stuff I don’t do right now.
I’m not holding myself to it. I’m not assigning myself a task that I need to check off every day of the year for the next 52 weeks.
But I’m using it as a list of suggestions. A guide. A tool for self-reflection.
What are things I’m not doing now that I did back in the day? What are habits I could reestablish (or even establish for the first time ever) that might make my husband feel more loved and respected?
Here are 52 things that I’m not currently doing that could have a big effect on the quality of my marriage:
1. Tell my husband I love him every day.
2. Give my husband a hug every day before he goes to work.
3. Give my husband a kiss every day before he goes to work.
4. Greet my husband with a smile when he gets home from work.
5. Say hello to my husband when he comes home from work.
6 Give my husband a hug when he comes home from work.
7.Give my husband a kiss when he comes home from work.
8. Stop sleeping on the couch at night and sleep in the bed. (I actually started doing this again although as soon as my husband and I have a fight I go straight back to the couch).
9. Keep my phone out of the bedroom.
10. Commit to not doing any work after 9 pm.
11. Send my husband a text during the day just to say hi.
12. Set aside at least two hours a week to spend one on one time with my husband.
13. Leave my husband love notes in random places (like in his car or on the bathroom mirror).
14. Give my husband a card just because.
15. Tell him one thing I appreciate about him every day.
16. Tell my husband one reason WHY I love him every day.
17. Rub his back/shoulders (even if it’s just for 30 seconds).
18. Ask him what he’d like to do on the weekend and then do it. No questions asked, no eye rolling, no heavy sighing.
19. Make his lunch to take to work with him.
20. Stop by and visit him at work.
21. Call him during the day to say hi.
22. Make him a cup of coffee to take to work with him.
23. Make the bed (because I never do this but I know he really likes to have the bed made).
24. Make his favorite meal (I used to make him a steak at least once a week because that’s his favorite thing to eat and I can’t remember that last time I did that).
25. Praise him. In front of the kids.
26. Sit next to him on the couch and hold his hand.
27. Stop watching Netflix on the iPad in bed (that one will be a true testament of my love for him).
28. Touch him on the back/arm/shoulder when I walk past him just because.
29. Get him a gift card to a deli or coffee shop or something near where he works and put it in his wallet.
30. Plan a weekend away with no kids.
31. Apologize to him when I’ve done something wrong or hurt his feelings or whatever.
32. Thank him when he does things around the house to help out.
33. Watch a movie on the couch with him. (and do #26).
34. Let him enjoy a day off of work without giving him a to do list.
35. Plan a trip to visit his family who lives in another state.
36. Greet him at the door with a beer when he comes home.
37. Write him a love letter.
38. Recognize when he’s making an effort.
39. Say something nice about him to my friends when he can hear it.
40. Wear an outfit he likes even if we aren’t planning to leave the house.
41. Plan a date night that involves more than going out to eat to the same place we always go to.
42. Eat dinner by candlelight.
43. Flirt with him.
44. Ask him what new hobby or experience he’d like to try together. And then actually do it.
45. Let him sleep in. On a day other than Father’s Day.
46. Make him a surprise breakfast. Just because.
47. Don’t spend money on anything we haven’t both agreed on ahead of time.
48. Ask him for what I want rather than expecting him to read my mind and then getting mad when he doesn’t.
49. Tell him what I appreciate about him as a father.
51. Buy a bra with straps that are less than three inches thick and let him see me in that.
52. Buy a pair of underpants that aren’t the size of a hot air balloon and let him see me in them.
There’s a lot of room for improvement.
Even if I could do five of those things on a regular basis, that would be a start.
So that’s what I’m going to do.
Focus not on the things I wish my husband was doing, but instead, the things that I’m not.
And I think I’ll just start with Number 1 and see how far I can get.