Before we went on a trip to Mexico last week, my wife Stacy and I were going through a rough patch in our marriage. We were having differences of opinion on several fronts. Nothing major – certainly nothing of grave consequence – but what with her doing focused workouts daily, the pressures of my own work and the kids acting out their age, we just seemed to have a lot to complain about.
I wasn’t looking forward to the Mexico trip we were planning either. The gathering would be one that we attend every year with the Success Club, where a lot of my wife’s Beachbody colleagues show up. It’s kind of a reward holiday, where the Beachbody folks congratulate their community for all the hard work they do throughout the year, and there’s endless partying and socializing that go on until late into the night.
A semi-loner by nature, I usually find these get-togethers to be somewhat exhausting. My wife, on the other hand, adores these trips where she can catch up with her Beachbody tribe, dress up, and just have a good time. It’s a break from her daily routine of being a devoted mother and wife after all, but somehow our needs during these trips never seemed to match up.
She liked being out constantly, not missing a single group event, whereas I wanted to relax and spend some quality time with her and myself, enjoying all the wonderful perks of an exotic resort destination. After all, the reason spouses and significant others were invited on this trip was so that the Beachbody trainers (like my wife) could use the vacation to reconnect and re-energize the primary relationships they had in their lives.
Under the current circumstances in our home life, when we were having arguments about small, everyday things, I didn’t feel a distracted holiday with both of us wanting to do different things would work out very well.
Early on this year, when I expressed my hesitance to go to Mexico, my wife had promised me that she would make a sincere effort to be considerate of my needs as well during this trip. And though I wasn’t too sure that she would be able to keep her promise, I knew that I too had to commit in advance to make the vacation work for both of us. I had to put aside some of my expectations to make room for some of hers. I even wrote to my friends about the need to encourage our spouses in whatever they had set their heart on, and embrace the opportunity to change and refine ourselves while we helped them succeed.
So we went to Mexico. And you know what? We had absolutely the best vacation of our lives! After 12 years of marriage and innumerable vacations, we finally managed to do it right – and come back home feeling more in love than ever!
When I look back on this past week and wonder what was so different this time, I realize it was the small things. The small concessions we made for each other, the small considerations we showed each other, the small moments when we set our own desires aside and treated the other’s as priority.
Stacy agreed for example, that we would not party until all hours of the night and would go to bed by 11 pm. So we did. In return, I agreed to wake up early with her, and not sleep in while she was starting her day with a morning workout. She skipped some group events with her friends, so we could have massages, relax by the poolside and basically enjoy each other’s company. In return, I anticipated her needs and surprised and delighted her with small, thoughtful actions.
Our love for each other bubbled up to the surface and left us feeling blessed and thankful because our egos were not at war this time to always be right. And this was particularly true of me because when I am annoyed or angry, I do use certain words and phrases that I know will hurt my wife. Nothing abusive of course, because that has never been our thing, but phrases like “Are you serious?” or “What’s wrong with you!” in a derisive tone that’s hurtful and demeaning.
It happens. It is hard to always sustain politeness and consideration with people who are part of our lives 24×7. As bad as it sounds, the people who are closest to us are also the ones we take the most for granted.
But by being aware of this common human failing, we can watch for times when we slip into that callous, self-absorbed behavior. We can stop ourselves from inflicting little wounds that cut so many small holes in our spouse’s heart that all the love in it begins to drain out one day.
For Stacy and I, the commitment we made to each other on our wedding day 12 years ago is still as strong as ever. In fact, I’d say that our relationship is better now than when we started. But there’s still tons of room to grow. And keep growing as we adjust to life, to changing circumstances and changes in our own selves.
Our egos will rear their ugly heads from time to time, and bring conflict and self-interest into the smooth play of the relationship. But as long as we are invested in correcting our mistakes and starting once again with the knowledge that nobody’s perfect, I believe we can do this.
We can really do this.