Having healthy and flourishing relationships is no longer easy, and especially among little families and spouses. In many cases, the curve of the relation stabilises for a while and then drops. It became so common to hear about separations and divorce, tearing families apart.Many years ago, I was in a study group when the tutor gave the attendees a homework to do as couples. It took us two hours and saved us years of troubles. If I were to give one advice to every couple, it would be to do this task. Though it would be better at the beginning of marriage, yet better late than never. The first six steps were to be done individually, then the next three together. The steps were:
1- Writing the title on a large piece of paper ‘To live happily ever after’
2- Writing all the subtitles that are important such as:
Relationship with partner, house, kids, finances, relationship with in-laws, relationship with own parents, friends, intimate relation, values…etc
3- Listing all the points that matter under each title, some examples would be:
Respect, space of freedom, sharing hobbies, calm house, regular time with friends…etc
4- Ordering the points
Just by reviewing the points under each subtitle and then putting them in order of importance
5- Weighting the subtitles
By identifying the weight of each subtitle. House could be 15%, while kids 25%..etc just ensuring that the total of the subtitles would be 100.
6- Identifying the percentages
By rereading the points under each subtitle and then giving a percentage to each point. The total of the points should be equivalent to the weight of the subtitle. If the subtitle of the house was 15%, this percentage could consist of 5% for relaxing environment, 5% for food, 2% for tidiness and 3% for odour and smell.
7- Discussing it with each other
This is the most important step of all, in which partners are expected to communicate the points they wrote and agree on them after clarifying limitations and needs. An example of this would be a partner who wants to invite his friend over every weekend, while his spouse wishes to have a calm house or some free time over the weekend. They would discuss it together and agree on a win-win situation, in which no one sacrifices and no one loses. Another is a partner who is weak in a certain area and would need external help in it like gardening or fixing stuff.
8- Trying it out
By putting it into practice and identifying the areas that need adjustments
9- Reflecting on it
Partners would need to discuss it again after a period of practice. It could be a month or two, with the intention of creating a better understanding and a happier life, not blaming or accusing one another.
Doing this task at the beginning of my marriage saved me. I had hated cooking back then and I still do. Reading the 0.5% my partner wrote next to cooking made me feel free and relieved. And reading the 20% he wrote next to raising kids well made me devote myself to raising my kids and reading parenting books to do it well.
William Shakespeare had said that: “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” And I would say that: “Effective communication is the root of happiness ever after.” Effective includes listening as much as speaking. To the meaning not just the words.