I was sitting with a client the other day talking about the changes she seemed to be making in her marriage. She said that things were improving and she was a lot happier with her husband. When I asked her to pinpoint the cause she called it just "relationship maintenance." I asked her to elaborate. She explained that she was doing the little things that she knew were important to her husband and getting good results. She summed it up with, "I am focusing on what I do have and not on what is missing."
I started to think about the word maintenance and how it impacted peoples’ lives. I wondered if other people believed that their relationships needed maintaining or that they could just take care of themselves. Could many relationship problems be a result of low to zero maintenance from the involved parties?
It occurred to me that many aspects of our daily existence require some sort of maintenance:
If we own a car, we all know about the Factory Scheduled Maintenance Program that is designed to help ensure trouble free operation of the car. Following recommended service performed within specified mileage intervals helps anticipate needed repairs to prevent damage from normal wear and tear.
For those who own homes, there are things we need to pay attention to in order to keep them structurally sound and free from damage by the environment. There are preventive programs, such as monthly termite control, annual air conditioning and heating system checks, fire and smoke detector checks, weekly lawn care and many other items requiring our attention on some regular basis.
What about our health? There are things we need to do to maintain a quality of life. The media floods us with commercials and advertisements about vitamins, herbs, anti-oxidants and exercise to keep us in shape and free from disease. The focus is to prevent stress form taking a toll on our bodies which in turn lower our immune system and cause sickness. We are reminded to incorporate things into our lifestyle to reduce stress and promote wellness. We are not only concerned with taking regular care of our health but to provide a healthy environment for our children.
The above show us that "maintenance" is a household word. Now when it comes to relationships where do we stand? Do we have a regular scheduled maintenance plan designed to prevent problems from occurring? While it may not be as simple as a regular scheduled oil change, neglecting it could have similar consequences.
Becoming more attentive to your relationship may contribute to its happiness and longevity. A simple suggestion might be to have a talk with your spouse or partner to find out their thoughts on this idea. Then begin to discuss your own individualized maintenance plan. By taking an inventory of what is and isn’t working can help to get a jump start on resolving some issues before they turn into unsolvable ones. Of course, seeking a counselor to assist and provide input is another route to try.
The final step is to realize it’s all about choices. To decide to maintain or not is ultimately up to you.
Barbara J. Peters is a licensed professional counselor providing couples therapy in Cumming, Georgia. She is the author of “Gift of a Lifetime: Building a Marriage That Lasts.” Visit her website at www.bjpcounseling.com and www.thegiftofalifetime.net.