People often say you can tell what’s important to someone by scanning a few lines of their checkbook. Yeah, there’s a certain truth to that, but I think an even more telling reveal of a person’s priorities are the items that appear on their to-do list. Or what would be on this list if we were honest about how we actually spend our time.
So in case you think I’m about to get preachy here, you should know that I just took a mental peek at my own activities this morning and guess what? My priorities today are apparently: hanging out on Facebook watching an endless loop of cat-in-the-box videos, confirming my correct bra size by trying on various contenders, and cleaning the hard water deposits off the coffee maker. Sigh.
That being said (I know, I know, TMI), I also, like most of you, have a seriously long and involved actual to-do list, and the items on this list feel compellingly important. Today’s list, for example, includes:
Write for thirty minutes
Attend gun violence vigil
Complete physical therapy exercises
Respond to client emails
Market upcoming relationship workshop
Review music for weekend concert
Take care of household errands
Pretty impressive, right? I’m a busy girl.
But notice that nowhere on my list does it say: “Ask husband about his day,” “Give husband a hug,” or “Plan a date night.” It pains me to admit this (given, you know, my profession), but even though I profess to make my marriage a priority, I mostly try to fit these acts of love into the time I have leftover after everything on my calendar and to-do list is done. Or, worse, I don’t make time for these things at all, hoping my relationship will hum along like a perpetual motion machine in spite of the neglect.
Here’s the thing we forget (even though we’ve heard it so many times):
Love isn’t a machine you can just flip to the automatic setting and forget about. Love requires time, effort and sacrifice. “I love you” should not be merely an assertion of what we feel; it should also be an observation of what we are doing.
You know where I’m headed here.
What if, instead of just saying that our relationship is important, we actually acted as if that were true? What if more of us aligned our to-do lists with our stated relationship priorities? What would that look like?
(Well, first off, my caseload would drastically decrease. A little sad for me, but a really good thing for all of you.)
In my own life, the change would look something like this:
- I would spend less time hanging out on Facebook and more time hanging out on the patio with my husband.
- I would let my house go a little, but engage in a lot of routine relationship maintenance (maybe even an occasional deep clean).
- I would worry less about saving the world and more about saving time for real, authentic connection with my partner.
- I would put acts of love high on my actual to-do list (definitely higher than cleaning the coffee machine).
In other words, I would make time for my husband and our relationship needs. Sounds simple, right? Well, it actually kind of is. Here are some acts of love ideas to get you started:
In the morning:
- Enjoy a real breakfast together. Have an egg with your coffee, or maybe a bowl of cereal. Sit. Down. Include the kids too, if they’re around.
- Leave a sweet note in an unexpected place for your partner to find later.
- Share an intentional goodbye. Ask your partner about their upcoming day and give them a longish, sloppy kiss (the kids will groan at this last part, but they’ll secretly love seeing evidence of your fondness for each other).
During the day:
- Connect via texts. Send a joke or an article. Say thank-you or be flirty.
- Think fond thoughts about your partner. Keep your gratitude and admiration for them on the front burner of your brain, even as you go about your day.
- Tell them what they mean to you. Now that you’re thinking these fond thoughts, you need to actually SAY THEM OUT LOUD.
At the end of the day:
- Reunite meaningfully. Share another kiss and set aside some time to fill each other in on the events of your respective days.
- Help each other distress. Be a supportive listener (no fixing or playing devil’s advocate allowed), and/or offer to take the kids so your partner can have some time to unwind on their own.
- Bring home a “just because” gift. This gift can be so modest – a card or trinket, a bar of their favorite chocolate or a copy of their favorite magazine; the point is not to spend a lot, but to show that you’re thinking of them.
- Take care of a chore that is normally your partner’s responsibility.
- Take a break from your to-do lists to just hang out on that patio.
- And, yes, set aside time for a weekly date. Now, contrary to what you might have heard, this date doesn’t have to be long or expensive or terribly involved. And it doesn’t even have to be out of the house. Movies, museums and restaurants are great, but you can also find a time (when the kids are otherwise occupied) to cuddle, go for a walk, watch a Netflix movie, cook together or play a board game. Expand your notion of what a date can be. The sky’s the limit!
On that note, I have to run.
Hey, Sweetie, what are you doing tonight?
What about you? Do you have ways of making your partner a priority that aren’t listed here? Tell us about them in a comment below.
And, if this post got you thinking about developing some new relationship patterns, you might be interested in this upcoming relationship workshop offered by the Omaha Relationship Institute.