Secret to a happy marriage: A family calendar

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We’re going to label this tip under “Communication”, “Respect” and “Commitment”.

Interestingly this little tidbit was told to me years apart and by two different women: “Jane” who was in her mid-fifties with now grown kids and “Sarah”, who was in her thirties, no kids. Both of these women are busy working women as are their partners.

With the demands of growing careers, kids schedules (if applicable), social lives, family obligations and couple-time (you remember that, right?), a family’s calendar can get not just full, but overflowing. Throw in last-minute curve balls like unexpected meetings or a project requiring a late night at work, or a kid-forgot-to-tell-you scenario and you’ve got the makings for a master juggling act that can lead to miscommunication, resentment, frustration, time-crunch and ultimately stress.

For a family with a busy schedule, whether it’s just two, five or ten of you, a family calendar can be your communication saving grace.

Avoiding He-said, She-said
Sarah: “Just because we don’t have kids doesn’t mean that we aren’t busy people. Both me and my husband are in the beginning of our careers and working long hours in addition to after-work obligations. We used to verbally communicate our schedules, but let’s face it, sometimes we just forgot. My husband would ask me to reserve a date for something, or let me know that he was going out with friends and by the time the date rolled around I may have already forgotten about it. Or we would double-book on each other meaning someone would have to cancel their plans and that gets frustrating and leads to disappointment. Once we got a calendar, we would talk about it and then we would put it on the calendar. After that there were no excuses.”

Sensitivity training
Sarah also used their calender to notate financial commitments and goals. A lot of tension can be generated around the topic of money even if both sides of the couple are on the same page. The calendar was like a gentle (but firm) reminder of their verbal commitments to each other and served as a source of team-building and support. Issues around money can often feel controlling. By using a calendar to solidify their discussions, they were able to displace the role of referee (aka “controller”) onto an unbiased mutually agreed upon third-party. And once again, misunderstandings are more easily avoided.

Sharing responsibility
Jane: “Both my husband and I wanted to be very involved in the raising of our kids. We also wanted to be successful at work. We’d each gone through a lot of schooling (they’re both PdDs) to get where we’re at and we love what we do. But to be successful at anything you have to put in TIME and that’s what started to get hard—both work and kids require lots of time. Juggling what you need to do (work) with what you want to do (kids) led to occasional feelings of jealousy and/or resentment of either the activity or spouse. You don’t want to feel jealous of your spouse, but you do, it’s human. We each wanted as much time with our kids as possible so planning together who-was-with-them-when helped us to achieve if not balance, than at least acceptance, and that’s a livable medium. All of a sudden you can be proactive about your life instead of reactive.”

The key
Both Jane and Sarah stressed three things:
1. You have to TALK first. You can’t just put things on the calendar and expect everyone to notice. The calendar serves as the reminder not the teller.

2. Everyone has to play. It’s only effective if both sides of the couple agree and USE it with a positive attitude.

3. Once it’s on the calendar, it’s agreed upon. If you forget to actually put it on the calendar, sorry, it’s not official and you need to adjust. Sarah explained, “I’ve been caught several times in situations where I had an after-hours meeting and thought I had it on the calendar. Turns out I forgot to get it on there and my husband made other plans. I had to either reschedule or cancel my meeting. It’s frustrating and there have been sacrifices that I could kick myself for, but I only have myself to blame. I made a commitment about using the calendar, I needed to live up to it.”

The payoff
Jane: “You feel and act like a team! The calendar allowed me to make choices about my life, my kids, my career, all in partnership with my spouse. And it allowed us to do it with a minimal amount of conflict.” You really can’t ask for more than that from a simple little calendar, can you?

In summary, a calendar is simply a tool that reminds you of your agreements. As Sarah said, “There are so many things to miscommunicate about it in a relationship, if you can eliminate scheduling issues as a source of stress simply by using a family calendar it’s disrespectful to your relationship not to.”

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Note: In keeping with my loosey-goosey style disclaimer the names of “tippers” have been changed for anonymity. I am not a journalist, just a blogger sharing what I think is interesting info. Quotations have been paraphrased since I probably had a cocktail in my hand and couldn’t take notes simultaneously. Sorry, but we all have our priorities.

 

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