You know how sometimes it’s the small things that mean the world? Well, in some ways a notebook has been the best thing to happen in my marriage for awhile, but let me back up a bit.
My husband and I have been working on our relationship. Not like the everyday “relationships are work” thing, but actual extra-credit kind of stuff.
My husband and I are total opposites so sometimes it feels like we need to be that much more aware of each other and our dynamics because our communication styles, personalities, likes and dislikes and even political ideologies are often at odds. I’m a literal person who chooses their battles, but when I say, “Let’s do this,” I want to do it now. Not because I’m impatient but because I want to rip the Band-Aid off so everyone can just move on – the end. My husband avoids confrontation and is not literal, he often tries to interpret everything he’s told and doesn’t speak literally. He avoids confrontation, and while I don’t like it, I’m a “power through it” kind of person. Just do it, get in and get out, etc. I’m Type-A, he’s Type-B, he’s an extrovert, I’m an introvert, even our food preferences are opposite (my favorite foods are the only ones he hates and his favorites are the ones I hate).
Right now, we’re in a good place and we’re taking advantage of that by working on “relationship strengthening”. Like, think a retreat in high school that involved the “fall back” trust exercises and that’s where we are, though we already have trust down.
Our therapist suggested that we get a notebook. It could be anything we wanted it to be. It could be a place where we write to each other, things we appreciated or things that made us frustrated – reminders and love notes, special dates we have planned or want to do, etc. It’s like a romantic personal organizer but in the form of a purple (our wedding color palette) binder and loose-leaf lined paper.
When I heard the idea, I thought it would be convenient. Like a great way to kindly remind my husband of something or perhaps if something bothered him, he would feel more comfortable writing it down. He is good about saying positive and supportive things, but if something frustrates him it is almost always put away, which means it comes up later as something else. A part of me worried it would end up being used as a substitute for talking, and talking is a huge thing to me. My love language profile backs this up, as does my being a writer. Words matter and they need to be said.
But after three weeks of using this “relationship notebook/journal”, I couldn’t be happier. So far, we have used it solely as “I appreciated” and general love notes, but it’s just been a back and forth that is like texting on paper. I love it because we can see the conversations and remember what was said but also see a progression and over time, patterns. Having it all in one place makes it easy for both of us to keep track of things. I feel odd saying that I hope it can also be a place to leave reminders or say the things one of us feels odd about saying, because you can just write it and the other can react in his own time/space/way, because that means there is something uncomfortable or unpleasant to say. So far there hasn’t been anything (at least on my end) to say that I haven’t actually stated. I hope that I haven’t received such a note because that feeling is mutual.
I like the idea of a multipurpose space where we can keep track of places we want to try, activities we want to do together, love notes, notes of appreciation, gentle reminders, household to-dos and should it be necessary a note sharing a frustration one has. I’m a verbal and direct person so in some ways writing it down seems kind of “Why?” but thinking it through rationally, I can answer that question. Writing it down not only allows one to say what they need to, but then allows the other to address it before talking about it or instead of talking about it for an hour. Like if I’m frustrated my husband keeps pushing back our girls’ vet appointments, he can schedule them and take the time off work to show his commitment. If he is frustrated because I haven’t tended to my laundry (I seriously can scrub the floor on hands and knees, do bathrooms, dishes and windows – before I do one load of laundry, I hate it so much), I can catch up on it by the time he gets home from work. Words matter, but action matters more. This allows us not to just verbally address whatever the frustration is, but to correct with action, which says so much more.
It is such a small thing – having such a notebook but already it has made my morning a handful of times. Waking up to a note from my husband, and it has allowed me to recount things he did or said that I appreciated, written down so they don’t have to be committed to memory because they’re right there, recorded and stored, for us to revisit whenever we like – it has added a positive and supportive layer to our relationship.
It’s so interesting, I really didn’t think the notebook would be a big deal. I thought at best it would be convenient but that it could also be one more thing to keep track of, but it’s so much more. We have our individual phones and emails but the notebook allows us a space where we can do or say whatever we need/want to. I love you. Thank you. I really appreciated when. I was frustrated when. Let’s try that new Thai place. I want to eat at X. Let’s go to X together. Do you feel like pizza tonight? Don’t forget to do your laundry? Have a great day at work!
I am almost tempted to totally cover it in stickers and make doodles because that was what one used to do in sacred spaces and journals, but I haven’t because I like the simplicity. It feels – pure.
I have always said, “Simple is best.” Usually, I say that regarding conflict resolution or dealing with communication issues or the hard questions. But it’s not just true about uncomfortable things. Simple is beautiful and undiluted. This notebook, something so small and unnecessary, simple – has added so much to my marriage. The funny thing is we weren’t in a bad spot or a point of crisis, we were looking to take it to the next level and we have. All because of a simple, silly notebook…