J and I recently marked our 2 year wedding anniversary. Actually, it was in May, but we ended up celebrating in September. If year one of marriage could be described by the word “adjustment”, I would say that year 2 would be described with the word “comfort”. It was during year two where I felt that J and I were actually a family unit as opposed to two people playing house and it was during year two that our year 1 newly formed routines started to feel like old habits and just our regular way of life.
It was also in year two that I learned the joys of managing my marriage the way I would manage a business. Although it sounds a bit silly, when you consider the fact that we live in a society in which over 50% of marriages end in divorce, taking pro-active and intentional measures towards managing one’s marriage doesn’t seem so silly after all. Think about it: we spend so much time in our work lives managing, projects, clients, and resources, and yet, we often expect our marriages to work naturally without a hitch.
So, with that in mind, here are some practices that J and I have instituted over the past couple of years:
1) Family meetings
When I got married, I quickly learned that as un-romantic as it sounds, a family is in many ways an entity that requires a lot of administration. Events need to be organized, gifts need to be bought, meals need to be planned, rsvps need to go out, finances need to be tracked, etc, etc. It all seems like so much more when there are two people involved than when it was just me. I can only imagine how much more this must be when kids are involved! In any case, after a while of feeling like I was chasing J with papers and questions, I decided to create what we now know as “Debs’ family meetings”. The initial idea was to have these once a week or once a month, but realistically, they only happen when one of us calls one. I take these meetings very seriously, creating a list of agenda items to be discussed (which is sent to all family members). I also take notes at the meetings, and then, I send out the meeting minutes afterwards. I realise this is a bit extreme, and that you may be laughing at me, but say what you will, these tactics keep us organized! These little meetings allow us to plan our vacations ahead of time, buy all of our gifts months before the holidays and generally keep life stresses at a minimum!
2) Year in Reviews
Another thing we (well, me, but J plays along) like to do is to do a “year in review” at the end of the year. This little review allows us to reflect on our year – our achievements (both personal and as a couple), highlights from the year (this could be anything from favorite dinners to trips to funny moments), as well as areas in our marriage where we feel we are doing well, and areas in which we feel that we could improve. It is also an opportunity for us to have open and honest communication, and allow for any conversations that should have been had, but for whatever reason, have not.
Although I do not do so as formally, I also view my close friendships as needing to be managed. I have learned over the years that investing in good friendships is so worth it, and that in order for friendships to grow, they need to be managed and maintained. I often encourage my close friends to communicate their expectations of our friendship and to allow me to communicate mine, to ensure that we are both on the same page, and that one of us isn’t disappointing the other.
How about you? Do you “manage” your relationships (if so, how?)? Or does this seem completely control freakish to you?
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about becoming a “contributor” rather than a “taker”.
Tonight, I got to experience one of my closest friends making her contribution. And it was beautiful.
Sherien and I grew up together, but have become especially close over the last few years. We share many of the same interests and ideas and I’ve loved seeing our friendship grow. Sherien has always talked about one day making a movie – and though I believed in her, I am somehow still blown away that she has actually made it happen. She started creating the film “Colour Me” two years ago – and tonight, for the first time, I got to see the final product – Sherien invited me to preview her film at a focus group here in Ottawa.
“Colour Me” is a film that explores the tough concepts of race and identity through the life of Anthony McLean. It is a powerful movie that is a great starting point for dialogue (and even though I am biased, I really believe this to be true). It touched me on many levels, because although the film focuses on ‘black identity’, I think the themes resonate with anyone who has ever sought to explore where they fit into society (which, let’s face it, is all of us). What I think comes through is that we all have many layers, and that any attempt at classifying a person into one sort of ‘sub-group’ will be a colossal failure. This failure is perhaps due to the fact that sub-groups in and of themselves are so difficult to define and demarcate. The movie asks questions such as what it means to be black as well as where our notions of black identity come from. It was amazing to hear stories not just from Anthony, but also from the youth who were profiled in the movie and who also shared about their journey in trying to answer these questions.