Preventative Maintenance For Relationships

I nearly gagged this morning swallowing sour chocolate milk. I should have paid closer attention to the expiry date, but instead left it on the shelf for too long.

Funny how relationships can be like that too.

One day they’re sweet. The next day they’re sour. Could it be we don’t pay enough attention to the warning signs that our relationship is about to curdle?

Most of us pay close attention to the state of our cars. We do regular preventative maintenance to make sure the tire pressure, brakes, oil levels and steering are all ok. We monitor subtle shifts in alignment, and fix stuff before our car needs a complete overhaul.

Shouldn’t we take baseline measurements of our relationships too? Shouldn’t we have a customized list of the indicators that potentially spell relationship trouble up ahead? This way we can keep our relationships on track and stop them from going off the rails. After all, an ounce of “preventative maintenance” is worth a pound in cure.

Here’s the list of the signs I’m paying attention to in my own relationship. If my husband started to do one or more of these things consistently I’d get to the bottom of it, drag his butt to marriage counseling and fight tooth and nail to restore the delicate balance that defines our own happy union.

Stay late at the office. My husband carries an impossibly inhuman workload but no matter how busy he is, barring exceptional circumstances, he always makes it a priority to be home for dinner. Devoting time to re-connect as a couple and with our kids is critically important. He does not use the “too busy” excuse – rather, he drags a bulging briefcase home from the office and starts his “second shift” after family time. If he did start to complain about excessive workloads and began arriving home later and later, I’d suspect I was indirectly being asked to “move on down the bench”.

Find my mangling of idiomatic expressions irritating. Because English wasn’t my first language, I am always mixing metaphors. I say things like “take a wild guess in the dark”, “front-seat driver”, and “money doesn’t fall far from the tree”. My husband always laughs, and says, “Suzy, your brain never ceases to amaze me”. If he started to roll his eyes and “correct” me, I would suspect he was finding more than just my mangling of idiomatic expressions irritating.

Stop coming to plays. My husband and I share many interests but we also have very distinct tastes too. He is a huge fan of many genres of music; I am pretty sure that I am tone deaf . But I would never forgo the opportunity to go to a concert with him. My thing is going to see plays. While this is less of a passion for him, he joins me enthusiastically. I would know that if he started encouraging me to see a play with a friend instead, he was valuing our time together less.

Hopefully with regular preventative maintenance we’ll stay road worthy for the long haul. God knows I don’t want my husband trading me in for a newer model.

What’s your preventative maintenance list?

Sue Nador is a relationship strategist. She helps hash out expectations in the messy world of love in a pragmatic, humorous and straight-talking way on her blog. Sue lives with her husband, two sons and goldendoodle in Toronto.

Image(s): Tom Holmes

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