My apologies for the image that isn’t as professional as usual (and yes, that’s a washing machine currently hooked up to the tap). I wanted to share a story with you in today’s post. The photo above is a picture of the sink in our apartment where I washed the dishes for the first two years of marriage with my wife (We’re close to 10 years as I write these words). In this small space hunched over dirty dishes on a daily basis between 6-7pm almost every evening I learned an important lesson. The lesson was how I could influence the most important relationship in my life for the better.
I won’t lie… the first couple of years of our relationship was hard. Both my partner and I struggled to communicate in healthy ways and our expectations of each other (often unfair) frustrated us in multiple ways. We were a new couple in a new place separated from many of the people closest to us. While I had lived in China for years already and spoke Mandarin, my wife was also figuring out a new language and didn’t have any support base in China. Many evenings at supper time frustrations would boil over and at least one of us would feel slighted in some way. One of my chores around the house was washing the dishes.
I now understand much more why the ‘dish pit’ in our house became magical, but at the time it was a mystery and, at times, I dreaded starting to wash the dishes because I knew what was going to happen. The dishes typically took me at least 20 minutes to complete as I had to boil water and clean up in different ways than I do in Canada. It often started with me complaining (in my own head) about the apology I wasn’t getting and how I had been wronged. Slowly over the course of suds, grease, and crumbs my mind would turn to anything I may have done that didn’t help the situation or even made it worse. No matter what size my indiscretion was, I came away from the drying of the last chopstick with the understanding that I needed to apologize for what I had done wrong and how I needed to sometimes make it right in other ways.
I feel safe in my relationship with my wife. I fully believe she feels safe with me as well. One of the reasons we relate to each other the way we do now is because of the insights we both had in ourselves early on in our relationship. While self-awareness and a willingness to be wrong isn’t the only key to our relationship it is definitely vital. Another key has been our persistence to continue to engage in attempts at communication. There are others as well.
It’s important to understand the relationship I now have with my life-partner is not all because of the choices I have made to re-engage after frustrations. She has made many choices along the way as well. The reason I’m sharing this is not to brag or state that we have it all together. My passion is to be of help to others with anything I learn along my own journey. I trust this will find the people it needs to and I’m humbled that it may help a few others wherever it finds you. Go and communicate with someone you care about today. It is worth the fear of vulnerability!