The first time I experienced death, it was the passing of my Grandfather.
My phone rang late at night/early in the morning, and my brother give me the news. My Grandfather hadn’t been well, but it still came as a shock to me. My brother lived close at the time, so he picked me up we went to my Grandparents house to be with the family.
I remember seeing my Grandmother when I came in, and not really knowing what to say. I just gave her a hug and told her I was sorry.
It’s been over 20 years, but I still remember a lot of details of that night. And it’s not just that night, I also remember other details of that time in my life.
For example I remember what music I was listening to at that time in my life, and there is a song from that time that I have come to associate with his passing. Whenever I hear that song now, I think of my Grandfather.
Memory is an interesting thing. When I look back on my life there are all sorts of moments that stand out in some way. I remember a lot of “firsts”, and other significant occasions.
Like my Grandfathers death, they aren’t all happy moments. Some are happy, some are sad, fun, or silly. Hell, some are moments that I wish I could forget.
The one thing these moments have in common is that they all had an impact on me in one way or another.
Now, contrast this with the things we don’t remember.
What are those?
That’s a trick question I guess, asking you to think of the things you don’t remember. But what we don’t remember is the mundane. I mean, can you tell me what you had for dinner a month ago today? I doubt it – unless a month ago today was a special day like a birthday or an anniversary (and even then I doubt it).
We don’t remember cleaning the house, grocery shopping, doing the laundry or putting gas in the car. These things are important and need to be done; but they don’t impact us.
The routine moments of life tend to blur one into the next, and during those moments we’re kind of on autopilot.
That’s not to say these impactful moments are necessarily any better, or more important than the routine moments of our lives. But they stay with us when the other moments don’t.
Why is this important?
It’s important because memories and experiences matter.
When a couple meets, they share all sorts of firsts. Their first date, their first kiss, meeting each other’s families and friends for the first time, the first time they have sex, the birth of a child, etc.
All of these moments matter, and as a couple builds a life together they are also building shared experience.
Over time though many couples find themselves in a rut, where life has become nothing more than routine. Routine is important, and necessary; but when this happens it can make it seem like all they have left is shared history; and memories of the time when things were better and happier.
(Interestingly memory can be faulty, and our brain can rewrite our past in order to justify our present – but that’s another post for another day)
Often a big part of the problem is they have stopped sharing these impactful moments. Life becomes all about nothing more work, kids, and maintaining a household.
With all these competing needs and limited time, they stop nurturing and growing the relationship. After all, they already have each other right? They’re already committed to each other, so why MAKE time for the relationship when there is another event to bring the kids to, or another load of laundry to be done.
But when the relationship stops being a focus, they stop building meaningful moments “as a couple” together.
Somewhere along the way, what started as comfortable familiarity turns into apathy, and eventually a recognition that the spark has been lost. This realization that the spark is gone is a painful one, and can lead to questioning what it means to the relationship.
Failing relationships are often characterized by two people who still love each other, but no longer know how to connect with each other on a deeper level.
And when couples find themselves in this rut, they often make a big mistake. They each desperately crave the connection they “used to have” with each other. But they don’t know how to get it back, and that hurts. So in response to that pain, they shut down and withdraw.
They stop building meaningful moments together, because they have stopped engaging each other. And without continuing to grow their relationship, all that is left is memory of “when times were better”. And without effort, they are virtually guaranteeing the relationship will not succeed.
Building in Experience
I think this notion of remembering experiences is important to keeping your relationship alive. And these moments don’t have to be big, elaborate or expensive. We remember “firsts”, so add some novelty. Take a class together, try something you’ve never tried. Whether you like it or end up hating it, it’s still an experience you are sharing together.
Life can’t be just about work, kids, domestic chores (with some time taken out to watch TV). Sure that stuff matters, but for the health of your relationship, you need to spend time on it. And if you’re too busy, you need to make time
I’ve said before you can have anything, just not everything. There are limits to the amount of time, energy and money we have. We can’t have everything, so we need to focus our priorities on what’s truly important. If we want our relationships to last, that should be reflected in the amount of energy we put into them.
If the relationships is always taking the hit because other stuff gets in the way, it should be no surprise when it starts to struggle. As the saying goes, garbage in garbage out. What you get out of something is directly correlated to what you put into it.
So show that. Don’t let your relationship become nothing more than a memory of better times. Make your relationship a priority. Take time out each day to let all the distractions and busyness of life fade away, and focus on each other.
And never stop building experiences together.
4 thoughts on “What Do You Remember?”
Drew, really like this. I think part of the reason people do date nights is so that you can change the frame of reference when you look at your spouse.
She/he isn’t just the other person in the house that you are so familiar with.
Asking questions that you would on a first date, like opinions or preferences or other intentional questions can kind of remind you that each of you are still experiencing a life separately (internally) that you can share.
I’m all for date nights, and ballroom dancing!! 🙂
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I like the idea that it changes the frame of references when you look at your spouse. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but I think that’s perfect. One thing many people/couples seem to struggle with is the changes in how we identify with each other. We start as a couple (dating, going out and doing fun things together) and as lovers. When we start to live together and/or have kids, that frame of reference changes. When you’re heads down in bills, yardwork, laundry and homework it changes the frame of reference. Suddenly they are someone you are struggling with, and it’s hard to see them as you used to.
So I agree that date nights are super important. Thing is, depending on the support structures in place regular date nights can be a big challenge for couples. And actually some couples do date nights, but don’t actually do it well. WHY are date nights important? I think they’re important as a way of trying to focus on your partner as the person you love and chose to build a life with. Date nights are really an excuse to “be” with each other, in the moment, without all the outside noise. I think THAT’s the important part. So if you can remember that, and build that into your daily life I think it really helps build resilience into your relationship.
Thanks for the comment – and yeah, ballroom dancing would be cool. Always wanted to try it and never have.
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Oh wow. this was so good. so well worded and true. thank you:)
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Alittle write up of mine awhile back on First Times.. your post made me think of it. 🙂
”First times are gigantic.
The first man on the moon,the location of the first operating Starbucks,the first person over Niagara Falls to survive…etc.Even if we don’t remember the names of these people or places, we can acknowledge at some point in time, there was a first. Which tends to stand out over the fifth or twentieth time,right?
First times are as gigantic as the new Boeing 787 that’s been built with a mini theatre, a second cockpit ( for those of you who want to pretend you’re flying the thing ) beds, bigger windows and increased oxygen absorption.
This is gigantic.Not only because it will have all these things but because all of this… will be able to soar thousands of feet above land.
First times are gigantic because they can only happen once.
Every single time.
I think we would agree that behind the large aircraft with all its flashy gadgetry and modern fuselage, there has to be someone who makes it all come together in order for it to fly. We will have hundreds of firsts in our lives but instead of having aircraft engineers tinkering around, making things fit and bolting parts tighter, it is you that has that responsibility. Most likely the majority of the firsts in your life will have seconds and thirds, even 60ths that follow, but our firsts tend to be the most memorable. As we get older, the chances of firsts don’t necessarily diminish into zip. Our enthusiasm however, might. That is why, we need to create and maintain that steady pace of excitement for all things new. Even if our lips happen to be too dry for that first kiss, or our first car lasts eight days before we crash it…the firsts’ are delicate and individually special. If we open up to opportunities and allow them, they will continue to occur no matter what age are we are at. Even though we can’t pretend that the 13th is the 1st just like we can’t make old new, we certainly can combine the ‘times’ in our life to make an invigorating and stronger ‘us’. We should do as the engineers do and bend those pieces and weld those screws, so that in the end we are able to fly, with everything that we are. ‘
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