A few things you may not know about Rich: he has superman calf muscles (seriously, they’re out of control), we’ve yet to find a limit to the amount of eggnog Rich can drink in a day (we can’t be dishing out all our grocery bill on eggnog, so the limit has yet to have a quantifiable test), and he used to be a dear abby-ist of sorts. For a number of years he was a writer and then editor for the BYU 100 hour board, where people can write in questions and writers have 100 hours to answer them.
The reason I bring this up is because there were a number of relationship-type questions posed on The Board (as you might imagine from a populace largely in their late teens/early twenties), and over and over again Rich’s answers would include a suggestion to do some type of regular inventory. (See our last post on Improving Your Marriage Through Companionship Inventory)
In answer to a girl who didn’t like talking about her feelings:
- “……one thing I’ve learned about relationships is that while it is good and right to be open and honest about feelings and frustrations, it is also very easy to read too much into things and take things too personal. For example, sometimes when we were dating, my wife would be having a bad day and then something I would do or say (or NOT do or say) would get on her nerves a lot. I would realize she was being weird toward me and I would force a conversation and we would duke it out. Only later we both realized that, while what I did or said (or DIDN’T do or say) probably was something that had been worth mentioning, we talked about it in a very bad moment. Sometimes things are important and worth talking about, even if you worry they will kill a romantic spark (which, by the way, they won’t in the long run if it’s a decent spark). But other times, it’s worth being selective about when to hash those things out. If there is something on your mind but you don’t want to talk about it at a moment when tension is high or feelings might be hurt, maybe try this: tell your significant other that you appreciate his concern, but it’s probably just a weird day or a weird mood and if it’s still an issue/on your mind, you’ll talk to him about it at a certain time and place…….[I’ve] said this so many times in Board answers it’s not even funny: set aside a specific, weekly time have a relationship inventory. Tell good things you appreciate about things the other person did. Then bring up anything that’s still on your mind. Even if there’s no big problems, still do this weekly. It’s been the best thing we’ve done in our relationship and we still do it.”
In answer to a gal with an overly-affectionate fiance:
- “This is a thing my wife and I started back when we were dating. We both had questions or concerns that we wanted to see how the other one felt and wanted a scheduled time to bring them up. If you know you have a time every week (like Sunday night) when you’ll be talking about any concerns, then you don’t have to have a special, “let’s talk” conversation, which are intimidating and awkward and things don’t sit forever and fester until they explode. I’m not saying my wife and I are perfect at this; some weeks we forget and sometimes we need to talk about things right after they happen. But all in all it’s a great system.”
And in answer to someone who just wanted to hear more about our inventory system:
- “I think the reasons why this is a good system are fairly self explanatory but here are a few of the biggest ones. First, it provides a scheduled time where you know you’ll be able to bring up concerns or problems. One of the things that became clear after having a long-term relationship is that it’s very easy to take things personally and to blow them out of proportion. This way if one of us does something to hurt the other person’s feelings, during the week, we don’t discuss it right then when feelings might be close to the surface. And then, if it turns out it’s not even important enough to remember on Sunday, then maybe it wasn’t worth bringing up at all. That safety valve also keeps things from festering and building until they explode. Second, it gives you a chance to actively think about your relationship. Before we got married, there was some list we got from someone, perhaps from a member of a bishopric, with an enormous list of questions of things that should be discussed before marriage. It was an enormous list and while we made some headway into it, I could not tell you now what was on the list, much less what our answers were. While I think before marriage is an important time to find out things about your potential spouse, their priorities and feelings, for some reason people think that after being married the deal is done, the decision made and now you just live your lives in the same house. Obviously this isn’t the case and you are always finding out new things about your spouse. And, honestly, I don’t understand (or care) that guys typically don’t like talking about feelings or relationships. Marriage is the most important relationship you have and your feelings about it influence how you approach it. Getting in the habit and developing the ability to rationally discuss your feelings and areas where you can personally improve isn’t easy, but it is critical for becoming a good spouse and parent. Third, the idea of having regularly scheduled time to work out problems is, I’m sure, not unique. But being honest, straightforward and sincere with complements, observations and feelings, not to mention doing your best to have the Spirit present, makes companionship inventory more than airing a list of grievances or complaints.”
So, you see, different problems, same solution. Rich and Celeste are in agreement- try it out!
Do any of you have a similar system? How do you guys talk about hard things together?