Lately I have heard from a lot of acquaintances and friends about marriage issues. Mostly on social media but a couple at lunches and dinners and phone calls. Some are actually separated or heading for divorce, others are just really struggling.
And while the beautiful Hannah and I are relatively new to this thing called marriage, I’ve (we’ve) been at the struggling point and come up with something that works really well. It is six questions we ask once a week or so. We call them our fireside chats because they started around a fire. And there are a couple rules…no getting defensive or interrupting. No technology or distractions.
Also we ask them knowing what they are and let the other person finish before responding. Knowing the questions stops us from feeling blindsided.
I’ll tell why they came about in a minute but first:
- What did I do to offend?
This can be simple like “you didn’t do the dishes when you said you would”, or something bigger like “you lost a paycheck gambling”.
- How did I show you love?
Again simple can be “you cleaned the bathroom” to “you canceled plans to spend a whole day with me” to “you bought me chocolate and a new BMW”.
- How can I show you more love?
Simple can be cooking dinner more to making time and buying flowers.
- Where is the trust?
We found that a lot of couples lose trust in each other and stop believing what they say even when they do talk. In our story, I broke the trust substantially and so needed to work to regain it. By asking this I had to confront the fact I had broken it and needed to work hard to rebuild it.
- How are we?
We weren’t always good. We didn’t always like each other completely so needed to confess that. But after some time of checking in, we have been “good” or “solid” since.
- Did you tell the whole truth?
I pulled this one from various accountability groups I had been in. It surprisingly helps.
A couple years ago now, I broke trust with Hannah by letting my stress about money turn into a gambling problem. For over two months I played video poker/ slots around Portland, going from losing my personal spending cash we had budgeted to maxing out the cash advance on my credit card. An account she didn’t ever check or really know about. The whole time keeping the mounting debt to myself. By the end it was two months of my wages. I had become lost in the greed and stopped counting about half way to the max. Thinking that if I won big it would all come back, instead of realizing it had become basically insurmountable.
When I finally realized what happened, I was scared. I thought this was one of those things that could end a relationship. But I told the beautiful Hannah in writing because that is what I do. She wasn’t happy.
She wanted me to seek counseling, all my plastic cards and regular check ins. We fought over little things a lot. And we fight dirty so my loss of money was always the final thing yelled. I would just walk away not knowing how to get over it. After a few weeks of “nothing” working she wanted couple’s counseling. We went to one session I didn’t like because we were spending money we didn’t have and I was being attacked. Afterwards we went to dinner where we really talked. The dinner cost about half of what the counselor did. At that dinner I wrote five of the questions out and we tried them a couple nights later…knowing what the other would ask we had time to prepare answers.
We did it every Friday or Saturday night for months. And it helped us rebuild trust because we had a place to complain without judgement and to hear where the other person was at. Eventually we would ask what we did to offend in the middle of dinner because the other was silently fuming. Or I would get flowers because I hadn’t done anything to show love in a while but complained about being tired from husbanding a lot.
Five years in to this marriage, I think we are better than ever. And it is because we communicate.
I would love to hear if they work for you or how you decide to slightly change them. Also I have tried various times to monetize this because we are still broke. So if you use them and feel like donating, tips are accepted.