What’s better than the butterfly-twitterpation feeling you had in the beginning of your relationship when you were dating?
Hollywood would tell you that the best part about a relationship is falling in love and the butterflies. The electric attraction you feel. Magnetic! Chemical attraction.
That’s wonderful, to be sure.
But given the choice between the everyday, mundane moments and butterfly twitterpation, I’ll take the mundane moments because they foster the deepest kind of connection in a marriage.
My husband and I just took a trip to Scotland where we walked the Rob Roy Trail. There was a group of middle school students on our flight that landed in London. They sat just in front of us, all wearing red English jumpers, chattering with the excitement of being away from home.
As our plane approached London, there was a big storm. Our plane dove into the thick clouds and it began to get bumpy inside the plane’s cabin.
The plane dropped. It was a rollercoaster feeling of significant turbulence where you’re falling. Then something catches you, and there’s pressure all around you as the plane lifts.
Is a relationship adventure more excitement or terror?
The students all let out a collective whoop. Had they ever been on a plane before? Certainly, they were all feeling that mix of excitement and terror that comes from being away from home, taking an adventure.
It continued to be a bumpy ride: drop. Pressure. Drop. Pressure. Many times over until the red-jumpered kids stopped their laughter and started barfing.
We were in a cloud, and all I could see out the window was grey fog.
The plane continued its descent until I could see the ground out the window. The ground got closer and I could make out roadways and parks, but the bumps weren’t going away. We kept descending until I could distinguish cars on those streets, and still the cabin of our plane rocked back and forth. Just as I could make out the lines on our landing runway the engines revved and we felt a different pressure. Speed.
We zoomed away from the ground and headed back into the thick clouds above us, the pressure of all that lift pressing us back into our seats.
Your body knows and gives you signals
The pilot came onto the intercom with his calm voice, “Nothing to worry about folks. A typical landing attempt at Heathrow airport. We’ll take a quick circle, wait for the wind to calm and have you safe on the ground in just a few minutes.”
It was interesting to me that I didn’t feel agitated or, really much of anything.
But suddenly my body was sweating and my vision swimming. I put my hand in David’s lap. He cradled my hand between the two of his and gently rubbed the back of my hand as he has done thousands of times in our 35-relationship.
Even though I didn’t feel afraid, my body was scared.
But the instant my husband cradled my hand, I stopped sweating. My vision cleared. Our relationship brings me comfort.
Your body has a built-in response system
Your body relaxes when you feel the companionship of your spouse.
This invisible moment would have disappeared were it not for the aborted landing. The relief and my body’s instant response to David’s comforting hand is something I noticed only because it was in stark contrast to the plane that didn’t follow the routine.
For decades we’d been sowing the seeds in our relationship for my body to respond that way. Zillions of invisible moments of companionship in a 35-year marriage.
- Dodging one another in the kitchen each morning.
- Dealing with a clogged sink.
- Sharing dinner at the end of the day
These invisible moments bonded us. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. But in most lives, these invisible relationship moments disappear because there’s nothing dramatic or even noteworthy about them.
Time stands still and you feel that relationship magic
My husband’s hand became a sea of comfort only because of the compression of time. It took our relationship a lifetime of those hand holds to have that momentary effect. Life was proceeding as normal, when suddenly I was facing a potential airplane crash. That’s a stark contrast. It’s the contrast that allows us to suddenly see the power of the invisible moments and David’s powerful presence is in my life.
This kind of contrast, however, is very rare in a relationship.
So you don’t sense this transformative comfort when you’re living your everyday life. You don’t sense it because there isn’t typically the contrast that makes it show up in your relationship.
Comfort is largely invisible
Imagine the power this comfort offers to create a firm foundation to your life day after day, month after month, year after year. Your body doesn’t know how to lie. It can’t fake security. When the sweat stopped flooding out of my pores it was because my body’s sympathetic nervous system felt calmed by David’s presence.
I was talking to an art professor who mentioned to me she noticed a freedom in the art of her colleagues who were in stable relationships. She told me about colleagues who, when their relationship suffered, their art came to a halt.
The slow erosion of an unstable relationship
When you cultivate a happily ever after, you’re able to apply that powerful comfort to a much greater fear than the sudden abort of an airplane landing. You have fears that slowly and invisibly erode your hopes and dreams. Think of the artists who can’t access their creativity when their relationship is filled with unsettling drama.
Where is your creative energy engaged? What are you striving for? A friend of mine is training to break a record traveling the Colorado Trail. The support of her husband is crucial to her success. Their relationship is part of her fuel.
I remember watching my mother as she got better and better making quilts. She took classes. She sewed for hours and hours. And I remember my step-father—her husband—who took joy in making sure she had the best tools to help her. She was stingy changing the needle because she was frugal, but when a needle broke, it caused a small gaff in her sewing. So her husband bought her a lifetime supply of needles and said, “You better get to changing that needle or all of these are gonna go to waste.” That is an invisible relationship moment until you stop to see it.
Support from your spouse goes beyond favors traded
This is becoming a life partner. A true companion.
Because David feels the same stability from me, he was able to face medical school in his 30’s. Here was a guy who needed to cram 6 extra gym classes into his senior year of high school just so he’d have enough credits to graduate. But he gained the courage to walk down a 10-year education road because he felt safe enough to pursue a new dream.
This sort of relationship stability might seem boring while you’re living day to day.
Intrigue in your relationship is over-rated
“No one’s gonna write about happy marriages. They’re boring.” I heard a journalist say that and that’s when I vowed to start writing about habits for your happily ever after. Maybe it’s true. There’s not much drama in my marriage these days. No big problem to solve with my girlfriend during a 2-hour phone call.
But intrigue is over-rated when it comes to the foundation of your life. Home is happy because it’s where the recovery happens. You’re able to be brave in the big wide world because you can rest so thoroughly in your relationship at home.
What are the brave things you want to do? Your list probably doesn’t include flying to the moon. Your list of things that will take courage this week might include:
- Showing up at your kid’s baseball game and keeping your focus on the game instead of your husband’s ex.
- How do you talk to your friend whose son died?
- How do you apologize that you forgot to take out the trash AGAIN?
We all have relationship moments that fill our week. Some of those things require courage.
Habits help you become the next version of you
Attending graduate school isn’t sexy. It’s hard work. I sit at a computer day after day, and it can be boring. But we’re both becoming. We’re becoming a new version of ourselves while holding onto the promise that we have someone by our side.
Someone who will guide you when your vision blurs. Someone to help clean up after the barf.
A life where there is no change is boring. Your spirit dies before your body. So, you want to keep changing and growing, but that can be unsettling at best and terrifying at worst.
Having someone to take the ride with you is potent. It calms your nervous system. It makes life more beautiful.
A hand to hold gives you that courage. And then you have the power you need to take off full speed, circle your options, and stick the landing the next time you attempt it.
Try this: Find the invisible comforts in your relationship
This week’s habit for your happily ever after is to notice what is probably invisible: the connection moments in your relationship that bring you comfort.
Most people find these invisible moments easiest to locate if you imagine the worst: What if your sweetheart was gone?
I’ve talked to many people who have lost their sweetheart and it’s always so tender to hear what things they miss most. Mostly it involves the fabric of every day living:
- The noise in the kitchen in the morning
- Seeing their sweetheart’s shoes in the entry
- A smell of perfume wafting on your sweetheart’s hug
What tiny, invisible thing does your sweetheart do or say that brings your life comfort and stability.
This habit of noticing those invisible moments allows you to skip the bumpy plane ride, but still recognize you’re cultivating a deep connection with your True Companion.
Try this date night discussion:
This week, when you have ten minutes to connect with your spouse, tell your spouse your story of comfort.
Maybe your story is less dramatic than a plane that doesn’t land. I took a walk last year which is something I do almost every day, but because I was wondering about these invisible moments that disappear unless we go looking for them, I noticed something different when I walked in the door after my walk.
David works weird hours and I’m never certain when he’ll wake up for the day. When I opened the door, the rich smell of David’s coffee welcomed me in and I knew my husband was awake. Maybe it was because I was pondering what I would miss if he were gone. Maybe the cold outside was in particularly stark contrast to the warmth of that coffee aroma.
But I walked in and was washed in comfort that he was there. Sharing my life.
What makes you comfortable because your spouse lives in your home?
After you’ve told your story and exchanged the warm hug that story might inspire, ask your spouse what makes them comfortable. “Is there a habit I have that you would miss if I disappeared?”
Why is this a valuable discussion, you might ask. Here’s my answer: your happily ever after is largely created by these invisible moments. This conversation makes something that is invisible visible. Even if it’s only for a tiny moment, you get to notice that, “OH! We ARE building our happily ever after.”
Noticing aloud matters to your spouse. Your spouse feels seen. And when you speak those invisible moments aloud, you feel them, instead of them getting washed away in the everyday rhythm of life.
When you color an invisible moment visible without the catastrophic circumstance to wake you up to it, you strengthen your awareness. You see things you were taking for granted.
I’d love to know about the invisible things your spouse does that brings you comfort. Text me today at 970-210-4480 and let me know.
Want to stop arguing and start connecting with your spouse? This FREE e-course will offer you habits to improve your marriage communication so you can smile more and fight less. Sign up to improve marriage communication.Sign Up to Improve Marriage Communication