Part 6 – How Are Your Greetings and Leave-Takings With Your Partner?
Key Feature #6. Do your greetings and leave-takings of each other have affection, interest and respect? If I told you there was something you could do that would guarantee you a pleasant evening with your partner no matter what kind of day both of you had, that you could do in only four minutes, would you be interested in knowing what that “something” was?
You’d at least look into it, right? I mean, who wouldn’t like a guaranteed pleasant evening at home with your honey? Think about it: no snippy comments, no arguments over stupid stuff, no walking on eggshells, no giving in just to keep from having an argument, no feeling lonely even though you’re at home together. What would a truly pleasant evening be worth to you, especially if you could have one almost every evening? Would it be worth making a very small change to your routine?
It’s not a trick question. You really can change how your evenings feel by doing one small, specific thing. It might take a little practice, but that would be worth trying, wouldn’t it, to change the quality of your evenings together? Here’s what you’ll have to do: become better at greetings with your partner.
When you walk in the door in the evening, or when the two of you see each other for the first time since morning, first you put your things down, maybe take off your jacket. Then, the two of you do your greetings. Take your honey’s hand, or slide your arms around her gently, look into her eyes and smile. Don’t forget that part–smiling is really important when it comes to affectionate greetings. Then say “hello.” Or “I’m glad to see you.” Or even “I love you,” if you can do it with genuine feeling. But a simple “hello” will suffice. Then say, while maintaining eye contact, “how was your day, babe?”
Now here comes the most important part. After you ask “How was your day, babe?” you do one thing and one thing only: you listen to how her day was. Seriously. Do your very best listening, with your whole heart. Remember, this is the woman you love, so all of your greetings with her should be accompanied by your willingness to listen to her response. Good or bad, long or short, fast or slow. Just give her the gift of your undivided attention for four tiny minutes. The value of your four minute greetings will be obvious and consistent.
If you’re tired, you can say, “let’s have a seat for a minute—I want to hear about your day,” or “let me get a glass of water so I can focus on what you’re saying.” Whatever you need to do as long as you don’t make her wait. Listen. Give her the appropriate responses, like interested noises, words like “That’s great!” or “No! Really? That’s awful, honey.” You get the drift. Don’t offer solutions, problem solve, or talk about yourself. It’s only for a few minutes, so you can do it, even if you’re tired and grumpy. Besides, you’ll get your turn. And then….Read on...
When she’s done telling you about her day, she’ll have her turn at her part of the new greetings effort between you. So, she will say, “How was your day?” You’ll know she’ll say this because the two of your will have talked about doing affectionate, warm greetings for each other ahead of time. So when she asks how your day was, you tell her. You respond by saying “thanks for asking—it was great” or “it was rough” or whatever. Say you’re glad you have her to come home to because that’s one of the things that helped you get through your day (if it’s true). Or think of something to say that would be more natural for you, but is also something that will make her feel appreciated. Needed. Wanted. If she doesn’t listen as well as you listened to her, don’t worry, it will still work. You can always discuss issues with listening at a later time.
Greetings are a time for getting closer, not a time for being right.
After you’ve done your greeting and check in, give each other a hug and go on about your coming home/end of workday routine. Studies say that greeting your partner and having a small caring exchange right away is enough to make the entire evening continue on the same loving, supportive note. And the more you practice this, the more it becomes a habit, and the more it will have the desired effect.
I know it sounds simple, but it works. How do you greet each other now, for example, at the end of the day? Do you call out “Honey, I’m home!!” as you charge through the door? Are you already onto your next thing, even if your next thing is just getting out of your work clothes on your way to a beer and the remote in your hand?
Do you even say hello? Or do you just start talking about plans or complaints? Or are you one to jump right into the home tasks, getting dinner on, feeding the animals, dealing with kids? Is that what your partner does?
How does your usual routine make you feel? Tired? Grumpy? Abandoned? Sorry for yourself? If you’ve had a bad day do you start talking about it without finding out how your partner is doing, or if she’s able to listen to you with her full attention right at that moment? If you do tend to jump into the problems and complaints first thing, how is that working for you? How do you think it is working for her? Have you asked her? If it doesn’t work so well, and it sets a negative tone for the rest of the evening, why do you do that to yourself and to her?
It’s likely the two of you have had a full, and possibly stressful day. You may even have a long commute, or kids to pick up—or perhaps both! You’ve headed for home like it’s a radar-painted target and you’re the missile, because you are nearing the end of your physical and emotional resources. All you want to do is get somewhere safe, so you can take off your social mask, your shoes and your bra and just…relax. Right? Then why would you do anything that gets in the way of that?
If you have done any of the things I’ve mentioned above instead of greeting your partner, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are definitely not alone. And I can tell you why couples don’t take care to greet each other warmly. Actually, there are several reasons. One is habit. You just do what you’ve always done. Maybe it’s what your parents did.
Another reason is something I’ll talk more about in a future blog, and it is this: you burst into your home ready to dump your load on the one person whose job it is to be your support. Your load could be anything from anxiety and fear from your job to a festering resentment about something that is going on between the two of you. Or it could be the end result of one more day in a routine that is slowly sucking the life out of your soul.
Any one of these situations can turn into a load you feel compelled to dump if the two of you are not regularly taking care of each other and your relationship by scheduling uninterrupted time for the two of you to do just that.
However, this doesn’t have to be the way it is! It is very easy to change little things that will make every evening a whole lot better. All you need to do is take four little minutes to look your partner in the eye, kiss her, hug her, ask her how her day is and if she wants to tell you about it. Then she can give you your turn. So eight little minutes. You will have both agreed ahead of time to keep it short until later. Think how much nicer it will be to fix dinner together while both of you are feeling relaxed and companionable. How much easier it will be to tend to the kids, knowing you have a happy and relaxed partner waiting to sit on the sofa with you after the kids are in bed, or maybe just skip the sofa and climb into bed and into each other’s arms? You can have that in your relationship. You can have it every day if you want to.
Likewise, don’t run out the door in the morning without saying good-bye—which comes from the phrase “God be near”—to your beloved. Send her out into the world carrying the sound of your words of love in her ear. Carry hers with you. Wish her well in her endeavors for the day. Appreciate her for being in your life another day. Need I say how painful it would be for you if some awful accident happened and your last words to your partner were something thoughtless? Or nothing at all?
I had a client a number of years ago who lost her partner in a mass shooting. Not only was she grief-stricken by the loss of her, she suffered greatly because she had been so busy that morning that she’d left by calling out “I’m leaving!” and didn’t wait to hear her partner’s response. She wanted so badly to have her last words to her partner on this earth to have been something more meaningful. While it’s true that a mass shooting is a relatively rare event, car and pedestrian accidents aren’t. Take care of yourself in this regard, and tend to your greetings and leave-takings with the kind of attention your relationship deserves.
I talked about courtesy in the previous blog, but here are some additional thoughts.
There is another aspect to courtesy that we don’t often think of, and that is the courtesy of admitting when you were wrong. Sometimes that is difficult to do when there are other issues in the relationship that need resolution. But admitting when you were wrong is an immense boon to the relationship. Whether you were wrong about an argument point, or said something that was hurtful, or forgot a promise—even something small—it helps the viability of the relationship if both parties are able and willing to say, “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.”
In summary, your relationship with your partner is like a three-legged stool. One leg is you, one leg is your partner, and the third leg is the relationship that exists between you. It is not 50% yours and 50% hers. It is 100% for each of you, and the part that is greater than the sum of you two is the entity called your Relationship. It needs care and nurturing just as each of you do, and courtesy is one of the strongest means of nurturing your Relationship. If you practice warm, loving greetings and leave-takings, and the courtesy of regularly using ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘I was wrong,’ you will be amazed in a very short amount of time at how much better your time together will be and how great you and your Relationship will feel.
©2018 Leah Cochrane, all rights reserved.