“The little things? The little moments? -They aren’t little.” -Unknown
I watch people.
In lines, in crowds, in restaurants, and at work, I am fascinated by human behavior and relationships. And it’s not the obvious behavioral gestures that intrigue me, but the subtle nuances of eye contact, voice tone, and seemingly “below the radar” acts that make me take notice.
Lately, it’s couples’ interactions that have caught my attention. And believe me, you wear the state of your union like a sandwich board. Your misery is evident, but so is your happiness.
Yesterday I was at my son’s soccer game, sitting with the same set of parents I’d sat with most of the season. But one couple stood out yesterday. I’d had separate conversations and interactions with both husband and wife throughout the season, but I had never seen them interacting much together.
I write this article hoping there was great sex last night for this couple. There should have been, because the foreplay started right there, on the sidelines at 2 p.m. in the afternoon, and it was perfect.
Here is what happened:
- He anticipated her needs and tried to make her comfortable
Following a mid-day deluge, the sun came out and proceeded to broil parents and players as the soccer game began. None of us had dressed appropriately for the unpredictable NC weather. The humidity skyrocketed as we peeled off our windbreakers, exposing lily-white winter skin to the sun’s harsh rays.
She sat contentedly, explaining to me that she had received a fancy “rocking” sideline chair for Mother’s Day. She loved to rock, she explained, and smiled as she did so. Then, he brought her a fresh bottle of water, and gave it to her. He said, “I noticed yours was getting warm.”
Sweet, right? But here’s the thing. Neither one of them made a big deal about it. Neither of them gushed about how considerate or deserving the other was. She did not post on Social Media that “I have the best husband ever, #fancyrockingchair.” He did not audibly say, “Yes dear, of course I’ll get you some water,” or somehow make a mockery out of his own behavior. It was natural, normal, and civil.
2. She accepted his efforts and acknowledged him
She looked him in the eye, thanked him for the water, and expressed her gratitude. It was genuine but not overblown. He didn’t save her life. He just got her some water. But it was effort, and she gave him credit.
Often in my practice I hear from men that “there is no pleasing her.” Men complain to me that they try, but just can’t do “enough” to please their partner, they just can’t “get it right.” Often, the relationship has taken on a scorekeeping mentality, where each is now ticking off the good deeds of the other partner. Husbands seem to live in a constant state of deficit, with wives shaking their heads as to why he can’t do more. The only way to win this game is not to play.
I once knew a woman who attached sexual favors to household chores. Her home wasn’t spotless, but she never had to worry about the dishwasher being unloaded or dirty dishes in the sink. And he was crystal clear on the payoff for his efforts. This worked for them, and brought some fun into the mundanity of cohabitation. Could this work for you?
3. They approached an otherwise dismal day with a sense of humor and “we’re in this together!”
As the temperature soared commensurate to the oppressive humidity, the boys on the soccer field faltered. The other team out-hustled, out-shot, and out-scored us. It was disheartening, and each boys’ head hung in embarrassment and despair.
The couple exchanged knowing looks. It had been a rough season, and this game was no exception. But they continued to encourage the team, and encourage their son. They made the best of it. Together. As other parents paced the sidelines and silently cursed the ref, this couple hung together and sat in support of their son and the team.
I am sure that, questioned separately, both husband and wife would have a laundry list of complaints about their marriage. Stresses, strains, and imperfections. As would most of us. But it would appear that on some level, each knows that perfection doesn’t exist, and they make the best of it.
And it’s the little things that count.