Monday, August 13, 2007

Remembering to Care

It’s so easy when you live with someone for a long time to forget to do anything special for that person. You fall into the habit of talking about the things that are most on your mind, which can be as mundane as your current set of aches and pains, the state of your ailing elderly parent or dog, or your children’s current crises, or things that need to be done around the house.

The problem here is that it is no longer necessary to woo the other person by the little kindnesses or gestures that say “I am thinking of you more than I am thinking of myself.” You know the kind of thing you do when you first meet someone special. It’s simply hard to keep “specialness” alive for a long time.

I suggested to my husband a couple of days ago that we try for one week to think of something every day that would recognize the other person in some way or make that person’s life just a little easier. For me it could be as simple as reading my Blog and leaving a comment (which has happened less and less lately). Yesterday I made my husband a nice surprise lunch and took out the trash (normally his job). We’re not talking about gifts that cost anything here, but gifts of time, which we often hold more dear than money. After all, we live in a society that tries to buy its way out of most responsibilities.

To my husband’s credit, he bought into this one-week trial, but indicated this morning that it was OK if I couldn’t think of anything to do for him today. Probably an indication that he’s already a little tired of playing this game.

I’m wondering what will happen after a week. Will we lapse back into the old mode of not really looking at the world through the other person’s eyes? Or will there be a reminder to be nicer than necessary sometimes?

Has anyone else experienced this problem with familiarity?


Blogger Richard said...

It can happen, or the perception of it can happen. I think the transformation of anxious anticipation and desire to please, gives way to mature comfort. I prefer to live my life not having to walk on eggshells. Besides which, it is not possible to sustain that cheerful, happy, eager to please attitude for long. It is much easier to put on a false façade when dealing with someone for an hour or 2, it is much harder when you have to deal with them for 50 years (just recall your recent musical escape and the joy of bunking with other musicians).

Of course, maybe it is a girl thing, Sofia sometimes laments that she finds out things from e-mails I send to others.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I'm certainly not advocating walking on eggshells, but just thinking of occasional surprises that might make a partner happy. Believe me, I'm as guilty as anyone out there who has been in a continuous relationship for decades of taking my partner for granted. Sometimes we have to make an effort to break old habits.

10:39 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Familiarity breeds contempt ... isn't that a cliche? It's hard not to take partners for granted. Everyone does it after awhile. What's wonderful about David is that he really loves you deeply, appreciates you completely, even if he doesn't create special surprises as much as he once did.

I hope you'll soon figure out something you want to pursue now that you're retired. I think that pursuit will really help you in so many ways!

Also want to say, "L" is lucky to have you as a friend. Please exfoliate after every conversation with her. She is going through hell - don't take on the energy, OK??

8:30 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- I think it's more that familiarity breeds indifference or perhaps insensitivity instead of contempt. As I mentioned in the post, this is a shared problem in our household -- I am equally guilty, if guilt is being passed out. And it really has nothing to do with the fact that I am now retired, except that perhaps I have more time to notice it.

10:05 AM  
Blogger riseoutofme said...

I do so agree with you on this Barbara.

Familiarity breeds complacency.

And life is too short for that.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Rise -- Yes, COMPLACENCY is the word I was searching for. Down with complacency!

5:44 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

I have found that if I always seek to do the kind thing without any thought of reciprication, I am happy and though I've been partner-less for a few years now, I remember that kindness returning to me time and time again.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Of course I have found this and it's absolutely normal. I think you'll have to pump it up a little with reminders etc. if you expect it every week and maybe that's too much pressure. Maybe once every few weeks.
We're bot equally good at this but it's not every single week...might be I make him his favourite brownies after driving me to the city to an appointment, or he gives me a massage when my back is really sore, even if it's just a neck rub while watching TV.

You're right that you notice it more now that you're retired.

(We're going on holidays for 10m days Thurs. night and back on the 26th so don't worry about me!)

7:59 PM  

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