When I got my new bathroom installed, I spent hours cleaning it. Literally hours – until it was sparkly and new. I closed the door and drew on my incredible ninja skills to prevent anybody from going in there – because it was pristine. I valued it – with its perfectly tiled floors, and fingerprint free mirror, its grime free black and white free-standing bath, and shower walls free of water stains…..
I wanted it to look beautiful, it made me feel good – it gave me joy. Looking after it was important because I had perspective & gratitude. The floors in my last bathroom were so rotten they grew mushrooms – overnight.
But as the months go by, I notice the grout has collected dust and hair has gathered in the corners behind the bath. Somebody has scratched the inside of our beautiful bath, and there are handprints over the white tiled walls. There are dried water spots all over our shower walls, despite my insistence they be wiped down after EVERY shower, and the mirror has toothpaste smeared or spat on it, probably both.
I notice… and I sigh – I can see its imperfections. I know it is only on the surface at the moment – I know no long-term damage has been done yet. But I am busy, so I do a ten-minute clean – a quick spray, wipe and walk away. I remember half an hour later there is still bleach on the surfaces…eeek whoops – so run back in wipe it all off, do a quick scrub of the toilet and close the door….I’ll get the rest later.
What on earth are you talking about woman? You may ask…
Well, hubby and I are going to Thailand for our 16th wedding anniversary, so our amazing parents/in-laws are coming to look after the kids, and of course a ‘ten minute – I’m too busy to care too much clean’ is just not going to cut it. I mean – they are full of grace for the busyness of family life but come on now. I care.
So, I spent a good half hour – possibly forty minutes….literally on my hands and knees cleaning around the bath, and the grout, and the shower. I wiped that mirror until my face looked like I’d had a chemical peel – now that’s impressive! That bathroom was shining again – and it was beautiful. And then it hit me.
How often do we clean our marriages?
I mean, not a surface ‘she’ll be right clean’. A ‘real let’s check in the corners, and invest in some tools’ clean. A ‘let’s spend some elbow grease getting out those marks and blemishes’ kind of clean. One that leaves no filthy prisoners lurking in the dark, one that lifts up that plughole and wipes out the grime. A clean that makes you want to close the door and barricade it to make sure nobody comes in and makes a mess in what you’ve made beautiful.
How often do we care enough, to spend time making it feel new and fresh? Hello!
Ever tried cleaning yourself in a dirty shower? It feels gross. Well, it is the same as trying to wash off the day or debrief within a relationship where mould has been left to take root, where daily grime has left its mark. Dust attracts dust, and bacteria grows and grows until you deal with it.
Have you been doing a surface clean, and closing the door hoping something miraculous would happen and you wouldn’t have to clean it at all?
Well, NOBODY is going to clean it for you! It is your relationship, and it takes elbow grease. It takes dedicated time to keep it shiny and new. But when it is, it will fill you with joy - the foundation and the surface. Just like that beautiful black bath filled with bubbly warm waters - as you rest in the perfect result of all your efforts – you will be thankful.
What a load of huha! You might say…
I will leave you with one final thought. What happens when your stunning new bathroom has just become your normal ‘just a part of life’ bathroom – use it do get stuff done, in and out, don’t look too closely bathroom? I’ll tell you what happens. You might walk into a friend’s house and see their shiny new bathroom, or look online and see amazing reno pictures of bathrooms that are pristine and realise you want what they have…and you might just think the answer is ‘new’.
You forget, what you have used to bring you joy. It used to satisfy and excite you, and now it doesn’t so much because YOU let it get normal and boring.
So, what can you do?
You put on those latex gloves friend, and you get to work. And you work until you see and feel that beautiful newness again.
So, what does that look like?
Communication is King. Have you actually spoken calmly about anything that matters lately? Like anything worth doing, this takes practice – especially if you haven’t done it for a while. Invest in each other, listen without the need to compare/lay blame or provide solutions.
Where is the magic at? For hubby and I – it is laughter. When we were dating we laughed so much – he is a clown, and now 17 years down the track that is still one of the things that keep our connection alive, and fresh. What did you do early on that brought you closer together? The things you saw in them that made you feel in love & in lust? Are you still doing it/observing it/acknowledging it? If not - why not? How can you find it again?
Carve out time. Quality time is a major! When you are dating, you have to make time for each other, and the act binds you together. The anticipation, the excitement of seeing each other and trying something new is tangible. Once you have been living together for a while, especially if you have had children – the ‘perceived need’ for this time and effort goes away – because you live together – therefore you see each other….NO WAY! To thrive in your relationship, to keep the magic alive, you need to carve out time, you need to be intentional about your time together. Watching movies is great – but make sure it is not the only thing you do. Shake it up, be adventurous, allow yourselves the space to invest in each other, and do things you love - together.
Look after yourself. Your physical, emotional and spiritual health is essential to having a healthy relationship. You cannot rely on your partner to make you happy, or fulfil your every need. This is just not possible – and they will fail…and you will be disappointed which will feed this whole crazy-go-round. You need to identify what gives you joy and build it into your life, this way you can be an equal whole partner in your marriage.
Admit your relationship isn’t perfect. HELLO, this is EVERY relationship at some point, we all need to do regular check-ups. We all get busy and distracted and forget to prioritise ourselves and each other. Everybody needs to be reminded of this. Talk to each other about it. My hubby and I often ask each other, “Is there something I could be doing better?” Accept each other’s answers graciously, work on them together – be intentional.
Find people you trust. Us humans don’t do well on our own – we thrive in relationship with others. Find couples with healthy marriages whom you respect, and get honest. This could be your local pastor or leaders in your community, it could be family members or friends. Just make sure it is people who want to help you clean and not just leave their mark on your marriage. People who want to empower you to succeed, not encourage you to bow out when it gets hard – or bag out your partner (this happens far too much.)
Don’t be afraid to use a professional. How far do you get cleaning the oven with plain old cold water? Not far. Sometimes we are just not equipped with the tools we need to move forward. Sometimes we need the insight and experience of an expert. Admitting weakness or struggle is a STRENGTH, leaving it to fester out of fear of what others may think of you is NOT. A professional, or respected person in your life who can grant you wisdom, a more grounded perspective, or some measurable steps to work through to salvage your relationship – they are the bleach, they are those magical silver threaded micro cloths that work with you to make that bathroom beautiful again.
Commit. Do the work, and reap the rewards. A healthy, happy relationship is known as one of the most essential keys to having success in life. Marriage isn’t about a fabulous & expensive wedding day, it is about all of the choices you make every day after. Make them count.
Finally, discover each other's love languages. So many of the mis-communications in marriage or long-term relationships come back to this. Often we try to show love in the way that we receive love, rather than in the way our partner receives love – because we simply don’t realise there is a difference. THERE IS!
There are five love languages: Receiving & giving gifts, physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation and quality time.
My hubby's are physical touch and words of affirmation with a sprinkling of gifts. I have learned if I want him to receive my love I have to affirm him, be physically loving or buy him a little something. For me on the other hand – I couldn’t care less about gifts! (I know weird), I don’t need him to affirm me or be overly physical. I am nearly all about quality time. I feel loved when he makes time for me, and if he does the housework for me…HELLO!
I love the saying “Marriage is an empty box, you can only get out of it what you put in.” Having a healthy, thriving and happy relationship will enable you to live the life you want. It is worth every sacrifice and every effort, to love and be loved wholeheartedly for who you are.
Oh and….Get jiggy with it!