Forgivables…What’s on YOUR List?

Everybody has certain stories they love to tell. They’re stories that are part of us, part of our lives, part of who we are. So, those who know me well or who have followed me in cyberspace will already know the story I’m about to tell. I call it the story of THE LONG AND HAPPY MARRIAGE.

The Long and Happy Marriage

Once upon a time, way back when I was growing up, a story was published in the Reader’s Digest about a couple who’d been happily married for a long, long time.  As this happy couple celebrated another anniversary, the reporter covering the story asked the smiling woman, “What’s your secret for a happy marriage?”

“The list,” she quickly replied. She went on to explain that when they were first married, she told her husband she would make a list of ten things for which she would always forgive him.  “It always worked out,” she continued. “Whenever he did something that annoyed me, I’d give it a little thought, then nod, and say, ‘Lucky for you, that’s one of the ten.'”

Naturally, the interviewer’s next question was: “What was on that list?”

The woman blushed, then shrugged. “Well, you know, I never actually got around to making the list…”

And the moral of the story is…

Everybody has annoying little habits, or does things that irritate a spouse or partner, but how many of those things are actually worth fighting about? Not very many.  As people like to say today, Don’t sweat the small stuff. And sometimes folks go on to add that, “It’s all small stuff, really.”

Well, maybe, or maybe not. Some things are worth fighting for, but most of the problems we face in relationships day by day are probably little things we could learn to live with.

As I was thinking again about the story of THE LONG AND HAPPY MARRIAGE, I wondered what “forgivables” would be on my list of ten things if I were to make one.

I have to admit, it was a bit of a challenge. I’m very fortunate to have a loving, understanding husband who really doesn’t annoy me too often…or maybe it’s just that I’ve grown so accustomed to his quirks that I don’t even notice them.

OK, so my list. In no particular order, I will always forgive my husband for:

  • Leaving things on. The television is on day and night — but that’s partly for the parrot — and my husband seems to believe some awful catastrophe will strike if the light above the stove is ever turned off. He’s heard that burglars don’t bother houses with a porch light burning — even all day. He never shuts off any lights. It never occurs to him to shut off radios or fans, either. Oh, well. Honey, I will always forgive you for this.
  • Forgetting the laundry. I should be glad he at least thinks of laundry. I just wish he’d finish what he starts. He’ll throw a load of dirty laundry into the washer…and walk away without washing it. Or, he’ll wash it, then forget it’s there. I’ll find it a few days later. Sometimes he does get a load washed and into the dryer, but then forgets to turn it on. (You’ll notice he seems to have problems turning things off and on.) Once in a while, he will get a load of laundry washed and dried, but that’s as far as it gets until I start looking for something and find the wrinkled mess in the dryer. But, I love him. I can forgive him for this.
  • Not putting a trash bag in the wastebasket. Now, first of all, my husband is very “old school”.  In his opinion — with which I happen to agree — a woman should not have to mow the grass, nor should she ever have to take out the smelly garbage. On occasion, I do take out the trash, but only if he’s not there to do it. I always get out a fresh trash bag, too. But he’s got a habit of…well, forgetting, I guess. I think once he gets outside, he gets distracted or something. So, I forgive him, and I put a new trash bag in for him. It works for us.

  • Setting the toilet paper on the floor. This one, I can’t really figure out. We neither one care if the roll goes “under” or “over”, so that’s not the problem. He’s always great about getting a new roll  when the old one runs out. But instead of putting in ON, he puts it on the floor. Why? I don’t know…but, yeah, I’ll forgive him.
  • Ruining my menu. I plan our meals carefully. I make sure to include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, different proteins, and healthy multi-grain carbohydrates. I even post the menu on the refrigerator so he’ll know in advance what I’ve got planned. But he can’t help himself. Now and then, he’s got to stop at the store to pick up milk or bread, and he’ll fill an entire shopping cart with things that aren’t on the menu. He’ll bring home a whole ham, grab a hot, rotisserie chicken, or load up on frozen pizzas because they were on sale. And don’t even talk to me about the hot dogs. I’ve not only forgiven him for messing up my scheduled meals, but for our anniversary last month, I bought him a hot-dog storage container. If he’s going to buy them, at least now he has a place to put them.
  • Channel Surfing. I’m not much of a television viewer, but hubby is. Now, with the wonders of satellite TV and the availability of hundreds of shows on hundreds of channels, he can always find something to watch. Or, more like 5 or 6 things to watch. All at once, of course. With remote in hand, he’s flipping back and forth between his half-dozen shows, and my head starts spinning trying to keep up. For the rare occasions that I watch a show, I’d like to actually watch it.  I guess it’s my problem, not his, so I forgive him. Of course, we’ve got a DVR, so I can always hit the “record” button and watch what I want when I want…which is when my husband isn’t home with his hands on the remote.
  • Blocking my car in the driveway. He does it on purpose, and I know he does. He knows it, too, and he knows that I know it, but he’s a little on the possessive side. He just likes to know I’m safe at home, and that’s where I like to be, so I forgive him when he blocks me in and then says, “Honey, you’re not planning to go anywhere, are you?” No, I’m not. If I were, either he’d gladly move out of the way, or he’d offer to drive. No problem. I’ll forgive him.
  • Promising to do things “later”. He’s such a kind, sweet, loving husband, and he’s always so helpful. He knows I’m busy, so he’s quick to say, “Don’t worry about doing the dishes, honey. I’ll take care of them.” Or, “I know I made a mess on the table, but I’ll pick it up.” Or, how about, “I’ll take those folding chairs out to the shed later.” He fully intends to do what he says…later. It’s just that his conception of “later” and mine aren’t quite the same.  So, I smile, do it myself, and forgive him. I know he really was going to do it…later.
  • Ranting and raving. Thank goodness, he never rants and raves at me. But he does rant and rave to me, which is almost as upsetting. Things annoy him, especially if it’s hot or he’s tired. He’s learned to control his temper when he gets angry, but then he comes home and all his pent-up frustrations spill out in a torrent of four-letter words — usually shouted, of course.  I’m surprised that parrot of ours hasn’t dropped a few f-bombs. She’s certainly heard enough of them. I hate it when hubby gets upset, and I always wish I could do more to calm him down. I guess it helps to have someone who’ll listen to his rants and raves, so I forgive him, and do whatever I can to help.
  • Unscrewing light bulbs. OK, we’re back to the lights again. He never turns them off, but he usually keeps half of them unscrewed in each fixture. “To cut down on electricity,” he says. I have to laugh. Honey, turn them off. That’s how to save on the light bill. But, no, that would be too easy, I suppose. Instead, I have to live with light fixtures that always look as if half the bulbs are burned out. But, I’ll forgive him.

While I can poke fun at him, I know I have just as many — probably more — little quirks that he’s got to forgive. I hope his “forgivables” list might include forgiveness for:

  • Leaving cabinet doors open. Hey, I’m short.
  • Saving empty boxes. You never know when you might need one!
  • Cramming junk in the drawers without sorting through it.
  • Eating rice cakes in bed. Sorry about the crumbs, honey.
  • Leaving half-finished cans of cola sitting around.
  • Buying plants for “my” garden — for him to plant for me.
  • Calling him at work because I don’t know how to switch between the television and the DVD player.
  • Needing him to change the cartridge on the printer because I can’t figure that out either.
  • Not throwing out the wilted flowers. He buys me flowers. All the time. I love them, but I get busy and forget to throw them out after they’ve wilted and died.

And my number one most annoying habit for which I hope he’ll forgive me:

  • Collecting pepper seeds. I have this thing about peppers. Green peppers. Red peppers. Orange peppers. Yellow peppers. I can’t cut one open without saving the seeds. Yes, I’ve planted some, grown plants from them, got peppers from them, and saved those seeds, too. We have pepper seeds everywhere. I save them in baggies, I put them in jars, I roll them up in tissue, I try to hide them…it’s an obsession!  I can’t help myself!
Fresh picked from MY garden!

Fresh picked from MY garden!

Honey, please, forgive me for the peppers!

~~~~~~~~~

Now, it’s YOUR turn. I want to hear about YOUR list of “forgivables”.

What foolishness, foibles, faults, and flaws are YOU willing to forgive?

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in the August giveaway.

What’s Your Romantic Fitness Quotient?

English: A young woman and man embracing while...

How strong is your love?

How strong is your relationship? Strong enough to withstand trials, troubles, and temptations? Check your RFQ — Romantic Fitness Quotient — by looking at these twenty-one key relationship issues. No, you won’t find any scoring guidelines at the end, but you will find a few tips you can use to build your relationship and put more love in your life today.

  • Acceptance: He’s not perfect, but then again, neither are you. Do you and your partner make allowances for each other? Can you tolerate his quirks? Or do you nag at him about picking up his socks or leaving dirty dishes in the sink? Does he complain that you spend too much time in the bathroom? Does he fuss when you forget to turn off lights? In the early stages of a relationship, we strive to hide our flaws and always be on our best behaviors. We’re polite, we’re courteous, we’re thoughtful of our partner. As the relationship continues, though, we ease back into being ourselves – warts, belches, farts, and all.
  • Arguments: Arguments run the gamut from minor disagreements over trivial matters to full-blown shouting matches. Note: If arguments ever escalate to violence, GET OUT! Never stay in an abusive relationship. Even couples with strong, healthy relationships have spats from time to time. In fact, if you never argue, that might be a warning sign that the relationship is faltering. People are free to express disagreements in a healthy environment. But, how bad are the arguments? How frequently do they occur?   What happens afterward? An occasional argument offers opportunites to clear the air, to get unresolved issues out into the open, and to reach new levels of understanding with your partner. Learn to argue effectively, admit when you’re wrong, and always be willing to say “I’m sorry,” when the argument is over.
  • Balance: Good relationships really are 50/50, not necessarily every moment of every day, but in the long run, both partners should be making similar emotional investments. If he’s controlling all aspects of the relationship – choosing what you do as a couple, setting the rules for your behavior, and making all decisions — it’s a dictatorship, not a partnership. Relationships are about give and take, just be sure you’re getting back as much as you’re giving.
  • Character: Do you truly like, respect, and admire your partner? Healthy relationships are formed between morally-healthy individuals. If you question your partner’s character, what you should really be asking is why you’re staying in the relationship. People who lie, steal, and cheat aren’t trustworthy partners.
  • Comfort Zone: When  you’re with your partner, are you relaxed and at ease? Or do you sometimes feel a little uncomfortable with yourself and your surroundings? Are you rushing around to put every pillow in place and dust every shelf before he arrives? Do you fret about having spotless silverware or worry that he might not like the wine you’ve chosen? Do you go out of your way to fix your hair and make-up and “dress to the 9’s” even if the two of you are spending a quiet night at home? Sure, it’s good to care about appearances – to a degree. It’s also good to be comfortable enough with your partner that you can dress in baggy sweats, kick off  your shoes, let down your hair and forego make-up, and still feel loved and appreciated.
  • Communication: Your ability to communicate with your partner is a critical factor in making or breaking the relationship. Communication is more than mere conversation, although that’s important too. Communication means exchanging ideas, discussing issues of importance, talking through problems, and expressing understanding for one another. Can you talk about anything that’s on your mind? Or do you feel a need to skirt around certain topics? Does your partner listen to what you’re saying? What about your own listening skills? Communication is a two-way street, remember. Do you ask one another for ideas and opinions? Do you work together to make important decisions? Do you take time to talk about trivial things too? Communication isn’t always on major issues. Sharing that crazy dream you had, or babbling about nothing in particular can be great ways to relax and enjoy time with the one you love.
  • Drama: Most of what’s on this list are qualities or skills you’ll want to cultivate in order to maintain a healthy relationship. Drama, however, is not one of them. Some people actually equate “roller coaster emotions” with being in love. Not so. If your relationship lifts you to the heights of heaven, then plunges you to the gates of hell – in the space of twenty-four hours or less – you’ve got a bad case of drama going on. It can be fatal to the relationship. A constant environment of questions, problems, frantic situations, and desperate emotions is as unhealthy as it can get. The highs and lows may give you a rush, but eventually you’ll burn out. Life offers enough drama in itself; you don’t need more from within your relationship. Instead, your relationship should be a strong, secure shelter from the dramatic storms taking place in the outside world.
  • Dreams and Goals: What are your partner’s dreams? Do you know? Do you support those dreams? Do you encourage your partner to pursue them? Or do you tend to roll your eyes when he talks about making his million, leaving his mark on the world, and pursuing that crazy childhood ambition of his? Of course, you’ve got dreams of your own. Does your partner support your dreams? Do you get the support and encouragement you need? Supporting a dream means more than merely tolerating it. It means helping your partner make that dream come true. Sometimes it might mean making sacrifices. Of course, your partner would do the same for you…right?
  • Flexibility: How easily can you adapt to changes within the relationship? We often fall into patterns, and those patterns become comfortable ruts. When something happens to force us out of our ruts, we may find ourselves getting very uncomfortable. Maybe your partner’s work schedule changes, or maybe you decide to enroll in evening classes and you won’t be getting home until late. Would those changes throw you or your partner into a tither? Flexibility in a relationship also means being willing to make last-minute changes in plans, when necessary. Sometimes, things happen. Are you and your partner able to deal with the occasional cancellations, delays, and postponements life sometimes throws your way?
  • Flirting: Yes, flirting. With each other — definitely not with other people. Chances are you did a lot of flirting when you first met your partner, but do you still flirt and tease now? Do you still look for little ways to make your partner feel special, ways to say “I‘m interested in  you,” without words? Does your partner still flirt with you? If the two of you have stopped flirting, it’s time to start again. Flirting adds fun to the relationship and keeps it feeling as new and exciting as when you first met.
  • Friends and Family: Quite simple. Do you like them? Do they like you? If you can’t stand his friends or if he truly hates your mother, your relationship is going to suffer. It’s equally true that if your friends don’t like your partner or if your parents think he’s a real loser, you’re going to have struggles to deal with. There are also time issues involved here. Does he spend too much time hanging out with the guys? Does he think you spend too much time with your family? For older couples, there can also be issues with ex-spouses and children from previous marriages. To make your relationship work, you’ll have to be willing to work through the problems friends and family can bring.
  • Happiness: One question here. Are you really happy in your relationship? Be honest with yourself, and if you’re not happy, admit it and find ways to fix the problems. Being happy in a relationship means laughing with your partner, having fun, and enjoying life — even the difficult moments. Happiness comes from within ourselves, of course, so don’t blame your partner entirely if you’re not happy. A problematic relationship, however, can wear us down, making it hard for us to find happiness within ourselves.
  • Hobbies and Interests: Do you and your partner share the same interests? Probably not all of them, but having at least one hobby or interest in common can strengthen a relationship in many ways. Although it’s wise for each individual in a relationship to have his or her own interests, it’s also beneficial to find one significant interest or activity the two of you can enjoy together. Do you share a passion for football? Both love modern art? Photography? Dancing? Find things that excite you both and enjoy them together. Nothing comes to mind? Take a look at classes offered at local colleges. Sign up together to learn Chinese cooking or wood-burning. You’ll be able to expand your horizons and strengthen your relationship at the same time.
  • Honesty: How honest are you with your partner? Can you always say what’s on your mind? Lies come in different shapes and sizes, and for the most part, deceit is bad for a relationship. But there are little exceptions. Your partner might not want to know every detail about every previous relationship you’ve had, but important facts need to be out in the open. The real issue, of course, is trust. As they say, trust is a must…or your game is a bust. It’s true in sports, and it’s true in the relationship game, too.
  • New Things: Before you read on, stop and think of the last “new experience” you shared with your significant other. How long has it been? New experiences can be as simple as going to a new restaurant, or as challenging as sky-diving, and the results won’t always be positive. Be willing to venture out of your “comfort zones” with your partner. Even if the experience isn’t all you’d hoped it would be, sharing it with the one you love will make it worth the time and trouble, and you’ll have memories to share later on.
  • Personal Space: Togetherness is wonderful, but personal space is required, too. People have different needs where space is concerned. Some need very little; others need a lot. Be sure you’re getting enough time for yourself, and that you’re giving your partner enough personal time, as well. In a strong relationship, couples respect one another’s privacy. Both individuals should have times and places to call their own. In other words, stay out of his “man-cave” unless you’re invited in, and let him know that your purse is “off-limits”. It’s not that either of you is hiding anything; it’s just that “personal space” thing.
  • Playing Head Games: Relationships should be fun, and you and your special someone might enjoy a lot of games together. “Head games” are not part of any good relationship, though. What is a head game? Messing with somebody’s mind. Devising little tests or tricks. Manipulation. Think “junior high”, all right? Remember all those dreadful little schemes you and your friends cooked up? “Hey, I want you to flirt with Tommy before I get to the party, then let me know if he flirted back.” Or how about “I’m going out with Bobby next weekend, but only to make Tommy jealous.” I could go on and on. Unfortunately the human mind’s capacity for devious thinking knows no boundaries. If you’re playing destructive mind games with your partner, it’s a sure sign your relationship is headed for trouble.
  • Quality Time: Everybody’s busy these days, and relationships suffer because of it. Couples in good relationships know the importance of finding “quality time” to share together. Even if it’s only a few minutes each day, take time to set all else aside and concentrate on each other.  Sit on the porch together, hold hands, and watch the sun come up before you start your busy days. Or end the evening together watching the sunset. Set aside a little “talk time” — just the two of you, no phones, no television, no radio blaring in the background. And no complaints, no whining, no criticism. Use the time to tell your partner how glad you are to be together. Show your appreciation. Share your hopes and dreams. Now and then, be sure to take time away together, too. Slip away for an hour of “afternoon delight” with your partner. Now, that’s real quality time!
  • Sexual Compatibility: OK, we all know that sex isn’t supposed to be the most important factor in a relationship. But, let’s be honest. While good sex isn’t enough to make a relationship, bad sex can sometimes be enough to break it. Like everything else in life, sexual preferences vary from one individual to the next. Some lovers are very conservative; others are willing to try anything — once, at least. No matter where you fall on the sexual adventures scale, unless your partner has similar needs, your intimate life won’t be satisfying for either of you.
  • Temptations: Time to be honest now with yourself.  Have you given in to temptation and cheated on your partner? Not good, but of course, you already know that. Or maybe you haven’t strayed, but you’ve thought about it. Not good, either. Ladies, if that good-looking fellow in the next cubicle has your heart doing flip-flops, or if you’re fantasizing about other men during sex, something is wrong in your relationship. Gentlemen? Yes, we know you like to look, but if looking leads you down the path toward infidelity, your relationship probably isn’t going to last. Here’s the simple truth. Temptations are everywhere. Couples in strong relationships won’t give in to them. But couples whose relationships are weak can easily succumb. The three danger areas are (1) boredom in the relationship, (2) lack of communication between partners, and (3) lack of romance.
  • Values: What are values? They’re our beliefs, our standards, our ideals. Values are those things that are personally important to us, our guidelines for how we conduct ourselves and how we want to live our life. Some people place great value on education; others, not so much. For some, family comes first, above all else; others make their career their top priority. One person might stress the virtues of time-management while another believes that living in the moment is the only way to happiness. One woman spends hours in front of her mirror because she feels appearances matter, while another woman says it’s who you are inside that counts, not how you look. Different people. Different values. Different beliefs. Although you and your romantic partner won’t agree on everything, it’s important that your overall values be the same, or, at the very least, compatible. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can change your partner’s beliefs or that every difference can be resolved by compromise. It won’t work, and neither will your relationship unless you and your partner share key values in your lives.

So, how does your relationship score? Room for improvement, maybe? Good relationships are “works in progress”, and time spent strengthening our romantic bonds is always time well-spent.

If you want to give your relationship a boost, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Tip #1: Bring back the romance. Do something today to woo your sweetheart. Flowers. Soft music. A candlelight dinner. Stop by the store and pick out a “thinking of you” card. Or make your own. Tuck a “love note” inside your honey’s lunchbox. Be creative and look for little ways to show your love.

Tip #2: Shake things up! Plan something a bit out of the ordinary for you and your partner to enjoy. If you usually spend Friday night at the movies, pick up tickets for a concert instead. Always take the kiddies to the park on Saturday morning? Hire a trusted babysitter to do it for you while you and your sweetie enjoy a little time in bed — alone. Look at the habits and routines you’ve fallen into, then look for a way to shake it up now and then.

Tip #3: Listen to what your partner says. Really listen. Don’t just nod your head and pretend to be listening while your mind is off on other things. Communication has always been the most important factor in making any relationship work, and the key to effective communication isn’t talking. It’s listening to what others say. Today, make it a point to give your partner your full attention. You’ll see immediate benefits.