If I asked you what Labor Day and your relationship have in common, how would you answer the question?
Unlike other holidays throughout the year, like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veteran’s Day, Labor Day is one of those holidays which gets a lot of love but little understanding. Created during the Industrial Revolution, when twelve hour days, seven days a work was the normal working schedule for the average American, Labor Day was meant to honor workers and provide a much needed day of rest.
What does Labor Day mean to us now? For many couples and families it’s a welcome day off from work, right after the start of the school year in some parts of the country.
So what does this have to do with your relationship? Recently, I began rewatching old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and I found myself noticing how often the theme of career versus relationships or families was referenced. The title character struggles with how her childhood was marked by frequent absences from her mother, due to her demanding career as a surgeon.
It seems many couples fail to understand, or understand yet fail to act on, the idea of a relationship being largely like a job; a good job, hopefully, but a job none the less. A job is something that requires you to show up, be present, focus on tasks, and commit to seeing through to its completion. Sounds nothing like a relationship, does it? I beg to differ. Relationships are work; again, hopefully good work, yet work all the same.
Couples who struggle with intimacy and romance in later years often cite similar complaints: “The romance is gone” or “He/she simply doesn’t try anymore” maybe even, “It’s not like it was when we first started dating.” That initial spark which initially attracted the two of you together has slowly dimmed and gone are the days of couples taking the extra time or effort on one another. Couples may find the little things they do for each other taken for granted and unrecognized.
Just like Labor Day was created to acknowledge the hard work of the average American, couples should create time or ways to acknowledge one another’s hard work in the relationship. Each couple will find a different way of creating this time or way of showing appreciation to one another and below are some ideas to get your started on the path of appreciation with your partner:
- Create a morning ritual
- Most couples may have the same work schedule of 9 to 5; for those that don’t, getting quality time together before or after work can be a challenge. Something as simple as making a pot of coffee or preparing breakfast if your partner wakes after you can positively impact the rest of your partner’s day and your relationship. If you’re lucky enough to have mornings together, use an extra few minutes to share that cup of coffee or breakfast and start your day connecting.
- Say “Thank You”
- In my blog “Top 10 Tips for Saving Your Marriage” I write about ways couples can strengthen the relationship and tip number five is “Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude”. You’d be surprised how much of a difference a simple “Thank you” can make in a person’s day. Test it out: thank one of your co-workers for taking out the trash or getting something to you on time. Notice how it changes the interaction between the two of you. Then, test it out on your partner.
- Dismiss distractions
- Experts agree the bed and bedroom should be reserved for only two activities: sleeping and sex. If you find yourself with your TV, iPad, tablet, laptop, or even cell phone ignoring your spouse as you surf the web, take a break from electronics in the bedroom. See if you can go at least three days without electronics in the bedroom and talk to your spouse before going to sleep. Your quality of sleep won’t be the only thing that improves.
- Anywhere but here
- It might be too tempting to fall into everyday routines at home; there are chores to complete and easy access to all your (de)vices. Schedule a getaway for you and your partner (even if it’s a small staycation, a one night stay at a local hotel). This one requires a bit of commitment and planning on your part, unless both you and your partner are spontaneous and enjoy last minute decisions. Labor Day is a perfect time of your for a short getaway.
No one wants to think of their relationship as work; yet to ignore the fact that relationships take work would do a disservice to you and your partner, creating resentment and anger in the relationship. This Labor Day, instead of focusing on the barbeques and all the chores you’ll catch up on around the house, take a moment to focus on your relationship. If the chores are done with your partner, great! Just don’t forget about your partner and the hard work he or she is putting in the relationship. If you find yourself feeling like perhaps you or your partner need a little boost bigger than just Labor Day, I’m always here to chat, Katie Lemieux, LMFT www.FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com