When friends, Paul and Sandi, were readying for their vacation, Beth and I were here at their home as they finished the organizing and packing necessary for a month in Europe. It has been very interesting and instructive on a couple of levels for us to observe how another couple moves through the logistics and emotions. Important to me, was also to watch how other folks support one another through what can be an anxiety-provoking experience. Paul and Sandi love one another very much and know how to check in with one another’s needs.
I’m reminded of my time as a waiter. In the restaurant business, the best servers are not the ones who do everything themselves – the finest are the ones who know how to delegate, to work as a well-oiled team, where everyone from the bus people to the manager moves in concert to give the customer their best dining experience. Not surprisingly, it was much more pleasurable to be a part of that team as opposed to being “in the weeds” and suffering alone.
When Beth and I travel (and we do so frequently for our job), we’re always organizing, packing, and managing the twists and turns that come with being wandering minstrels. As a married couple who work together, clients have often said, “I could never work with my spouse. We’d kill each other.” We’ve heard that hundreds of times and it reminds us that we’ve worked very hard (and still do) to communicate effectively, to share the driving and the time with kids and clients. We are always managing the emotions that come up…and paying a therapist when we can’t do so ourselves!
I call this the practice of marital mindfulness. At its best, we acknowledge that it’s an Adventure where we each have different things that trigger us to be glad, sad, mad or scared. Our car trips have always been a place to prepare and review our experience. Our friend, Gary, refers to us as “deep thinkers.” He’s right. We’re also “deep feelers,” extremely alive to the changing emotions we both go through during the day. In that regard, we’re kind of like little children – happy and giddy one moment and scared or sad in the next. We go through life feeling and it’s equally wonderful and uncomfortable.
Every couple, business partnership or team develops a system. Some are very open and transparent and others are more like two kids who parallel play. I’ve known couples to be extremely and happily connected 24/7 and I’ve known others who pass one another like ships in the night, content with the space that they require to get their needs and wants met.
As a child, I liked it when there was someone in the sandbox with me MOST OF THE TIME. Then, I needed a break to do my own thing. I’m still like that. The difference is that now I don’t kick someone out of the box or leave without communicating. Most of the time, I’ll say to Beth, “I am tired. I’m going up to read. Goodnight.” It only took me a couple of decades of marriage to learn how to do that.
I’m also much better at confiding with Beth, other “fellow travelers” and my therapist in the eye of the storm. Instead of isolating myself, I can always find a kindred soul who I can trust. This took sixty years to figure out.
My next chapter is to fully trust myself, to honor my intuition and move through the world with a small group of people who value gentleness, kindness, collaboration, patience and love. I’m getting there – day by day – and I hope you can be with me along the way.