But we both want to be even more proactive about building a solid foundation for our relationship. Here are some of the things we're working on:
- Equally distributing household responsibilities: Because we both work full-time, we pretty much divide chores evenly. We made a list of everything that has to get done on a weekly basis and split it into two lists. One week someone will clean the kitchen, take out the compost, wipe down all the table surfaces, and clean slobber off our windows. The other person will clean the entire bathroom, shake out the rugs, and vacuum. The next week, we swap tasks. Then we each have our list of weekly chores that remain constant. I empty the dishwasher, do the laundry, coordinate our finances, and run Hoss four times a week. Matt does the yard work, runs Hoss two times a week, checks on the chickens daily, and cleans out the coop once a week. Once a month, someone will wipe off the baseboards, dust the office and bedroom, and wipe out the fridge. The other person will wash the rugs, dust the living and dining room, and sweep the front porch. The next month we switch. This kind of system works really well for us because neither of us gets resentful or bitter about the fact that the other person is doing more.
- Fighting in constructive rather than destructive ways: Matt and I fight about a variety of things, but we use different strategies to attempt to turn our fights into problem-solving conversations rather than assaults. If we're both tired, for example, we try to stop the fight and say, "Let's come back to this when we're not so emotional." We will also occasionally repeat back what the other person is saying to ensure that we are really listening and understanding.
- Agreeing on an approach to money: Matt and I combined our finances a few months before we got married. Then we sat down together and created a monthly savings plan. We asked ourselves: How much can we set aside each month for: a mortgage? a baby? retirement? a car? home repairs? eating out? groceries? vacation? Then we set up automatic transfers each month, so our savings accumulate without much thought. We try to keep ourselves on a very specific budget for expenses related to joint entertainment, eating out, groceries, and dog care. We also give ourselves $70 each every month to spend however we want. Of course we still get in disagreements occasionally about what should be considered a joint expense versus an individual expense (mainly because I'm stingy and Matt is generous), but our system works pretty well for us.
- Making time for each other. With my penchant for taking on more projects than I can handle and Matt's addiction to running, it can be hard to find time for each other sometimes. We try to be home to cook dinner together or eat out by 6:30 every night, and we try to plan fun things on the weekends.
- Figuring out an intimacy frequency that works for both of us: Matt wants sex more than I do, so we constantly talk about how to help him feel satiated without making me feel obligated. It's definitely something we're still working on.
- Making time to cultivate our selves outside of our marriage: We try to encourage each other to spend time with friends and colleagues without being joined at the hip.
- Showing appreciation. It can be easy to fall into a pattern of taking each other for granted. Matt and I try to verbalize our appreciation for each other (for both big and small things) on a daily basis.
It shouldn't be this hard to find proactive opportunities to strengthen one's marriage. Hmph!