This morning I had a light fixture detach from the ceiling in my apartment. I gently stepped down off of my unstable chair while holding the entire assembly, which hung by a thin copper line leading to a screw that led to an abyss of wires. I needed help. I needed my maintenance man.
As I did research for this writing assignment, he worked behind me in the kitchen. Listening to an audio comment from one of my cited sources, he said, “Hey, what’s that you’re listening to? It sounds really interesting.”
I explained the writing assignment, and to my surprise he said, “Well, I never liked the way my dad treated my mom when I was growing up. So, with every situation that comes up in my relationship, I ask myself the question, ‘Is this the way my dad did it?’ If it was something my dad did, I do the opposite.”
My maintenance man has been in a happy relationship for the past eight years because of his ‘breaking the cycle’ for things he did not agree with growing up. As we spoke, I grabbed my pen. This maintenance guy really knows his stuff. His attraction to his wife was dependent on two principles. One had to do with himself, and one had to do with her.
His first concept was to look inside of himself and see what patterns existed. Applying a very lovely rule of waking every morning to a ‘fresh start,’ he tried his best to choose differently than what he had been taught for each day as it came. Years ago, I read a book by Dr. Sandra D. Wilson called, Hurt People Hurt People, and in that book it relays the concept of cycles very well.
Her book details the concept of behaviors and definitions we learn as children. We pass them along as we become adults. Most of the time, we are unaware that we carry the patterns within ourselves. Learning to see a pattern and changing the way we behave toward or about something can be a first step toward leading a whole new life. Albert Einstein said, “Before you can change the world, you have to change yourself.”
Summing up the maintenance guy’s second principle, I could hear the silent plea he wished he could ask his wife every day, and that is: “Can I please have some of your time?”
Dr. John M. Gottman, famous for his ‘Love Lab’ and The Gottman Institute that he and his wife, Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, constructed at the University of Washington, authored, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. In the 5th chapter of the book, Dr. Gottman speaks about nurturing your fondness and admiration for each other.
Even in my own relationship, I can hear my spouse beg me for more time. My drive and ambition to clean the kitchen or cook a meal or tend to a million other tasks keep me up and on my feet almost all day. As the maintenance man spoke, my inner gut fell to the floor as I could hear my husband say, “You are worth more to me than all this work you do. I just want you to sit down with me.”
is what drew him into a relationship with me. Companionship is why we liked each other in the first place. He likes me. No one said I had to take an entire day to sit with him on the couch while he watches his favorite game, but what can it hurt if I give myself an hour with him, maybe two? How did my chores become more important?
My maintenance guy is lucky. He found a woman who knows how to stop and share her time with him. I told him so as he left, and at that moment, I decided that next time my husband gives me the puppy dog eyes, I’m going to yield and sit down with him for a bit. I’m big-girl enough to change the cycle that all-must-be-done-right-now. It can wait. Besides, he misses me, and I find that very sweet.