Do you take the time to celebrate the ways you and your partner have grown together?
Do you share stories and reflect on experiences you have had together that have brought you closer together?
What amazing things have you accomplished together that you could never have done with anyone else? Or, even if maybe you could have, you wouldn’t have wanted to?
How do you honor the depth of your connection with one another?
Charlie and I love to talk about our stories together. It can be a lot of fun to reminisce about the good times and meaningful to reflect on the challenging times that allowed us to grow together.
Here’s a little snippet from a conversation we had not too long ago (not word for word, but to the best of my memory):
Me: Do you remember when we were in college and went canoeing when the water was too low?
Charlie: You mean when we were out on the river well after dark and were dragging our canoe through rocks to try to make it back to our car?
Me: Yeah, and then we wound up on that guy’s land and his dogs were barking at us and you went up to his house to ask for help.
Charlie: In the South. At night. In the backwoods. As a black guy.
Me: I was so scared. The dogs were barking and barking. You had to go up past where I could actually see you. And, then all of the sudden the dogs stopped barking and it got really quiet and I had no idea what was going on. It felt like hours before I saw you and the man who was kind enough to help us. Man, we’ve gotten into all kinds of crazy shit together.
Charlie and I have known each other since we were teenagers and have been together about as long. We have lots of stories, and we really have gotten into all kinds of crazy shit together.
What’s not clear in the snippet of the story I shared, though, is how well we worked together throughout that night to try to get ourselves out of the messed-up situation we were in. We had no lights, we were on the river in the dark, and about a half mile back I had lost one of my sandals.
Shortly after nightfall, as we were slogging through the river, pulling our canoe over rocks because of how low the water was, we both hit a bit of a breaking point. Charlie hit his toe really hard, and I slipped and hit a rock and was near tears. We realized it was time to take a pause and re-group.
You may be wondering at this point: why didn’t you just drag the canoe over to the bank and get out? We were on the stretch of the river where the banks were high and there was no way to scale them. There was no place to get out.
We took a few minutes to gather our composure and then made a plan for how we were going to get through this. It took a while longer to find a place where we could get out of the river, but because we paused and came together to agree on how we were going to communicate and guide each other through the river, we made it.
The river bed was incredibly slippery and rocky and we couldn’t really see where we were going. There was a bit of moonlight but not much. I had to remove my remaining sandal, as it was harder to try to walk in one sandal than none at all. But man, those rocks hurt, and I was slipping and falling.
When we finally got to our car that night I would see just how badly I had hurt my feet, but at the time the focus was on finding a place to just get out of the damn river.
When we finally did find a place where we could drag the canoe out of the water, we wound up on someone’s land. Not a great place to be so late at night, especially when you have no idea how far you still are from your take-out spot. Let’s just say that we were both in the Deliverance mindset.
This was well before cell phones, so it wasn’t as if we could call a friend, or hope for cell reception to pull up a map.
We were fortunate to have taken out on the land of someone who, while he wasn’t happy with us, was willing to help us get our canoe out and us to our car.
We came away from that adventure with some bumps and bruises, a bit of dehydration, and definitely a story — but more importantly, another example of how well we worked together as a couple even at such a young age.
So Many Stories
We have so many stories of times that we’ve faced small or big challenges and have relied on our communication skills to get us through:
- There was the summer when we both worked at a Boy Scout camp (yep, I was a Boy Scout for a summer). Charlie completely lost his voice — no voice at all. He was a leader, though, and still needed to give guidance. I was easily able to see (and hear even though he couldn’t talk) what needed to be done and be his voice for him.
- There was the time when I almost died in Alaska. Charlie was able to see something before the doctor’s were able to, and he was able to call for help before I stopped breathing.
- We decided together last fall when it was time to say goodbye to our 20-year-old cat, Socks. She had been on “hospice” care for more than two years and during that time we became incredibly adept at having conversations about Socks’s well-being and had to make many hard decisions together about when to treat her with medical interventions and when not to. The conversations were challenging at times, as often there was not a clear “this is what you should do in this situation” solution, but we trusted each other and were able to navigate it together. Charlie calls me the “cat whisperer,” so he often relied on my intuition and connection with Socks to help guide us. It was a hard road, but neither of us would have done anything differently. It was our trust in each other and how we could communicate that made it possible for us to have two more mostly good years with Socks.
I really could go on and on with our stories. We are incredibly blessed in our relationship together. We have had many good times and we’ve also endured and grown through many challenging times.
That’s what relationships are. A series of moments, that when looked at over time, create a beautiful tapestry of a love story. Every love story has its trials and tribulations. We know life isn’t a fairy tale, but it is gorgeous in all its perfect imperfections.
Communicating to Strengthen Your Bond
We’ve all heard it said time and again that communication is key to successful relationships. I believe each one of us, no matter how excellent our communication is with our partner, always has growth available to us, in how we communicate and strengthen our bond.
Keep working on your communication with your partner day to day. One way to do this is to keep sharing and reminiscing with one another about the amazing things you already have accomplished and experienced together. There likely was already great communication happening between you in those wins and challenges you have been through.
And, even if your communication during that time you are reminiscing about wasn’t great, you can still see how you made it through together. There was clearly strength inside of you and your partner and your relationship to be able to sit together in this moment and reminisce.
If you don’t already take the time to regularly reminisce together about what you have accomplished as a couple, I highly encourage you to start doing so now. Go for a walk together after work, sit together and have a glass of wine after the kids are in bed, or over dinner tonight ask your partner one of their favorite stories from your early years together.
Make it a habit to regularly share and celebrate with your partner what you have done together as a couple. This sharing reminds us of who we are together and helps us continue to strengthen our bond with each other. I bet you have a lot of great stories you can talk about this evening. And I bet the laughter and tears are going to help you feel even more connected.
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