Marriage maker: drinks, music and a matrix

National Blog Post Month — Blog #6

Every weekend was beginning to feel like a dizzying back and forth of “what should we do?” It would end in feeling more behind. We were pretty good not to blame each other openly, but the conflict was palatable.

My husband and I have a music project, a home and garden, and a variety of aspirations for building a happy life. We like to putter, but we really like to see fruits of our labour. Deciding what to actually progress is the hardest part. Even internally, we each would be conflicted on what to focus on.

For background: we decided to have a serious long-term relationship after I forced him to sit with me in my little basement apartment hallway with paper lining the walls, and my kiddo’s crayons. We simultaneously drew the futures we each thought we might be heading towards: a test to see if they lined up. We explored the poorly drawn animal shapes, and the proximity and timescales of other elements on the pages. We saw more harmony than discord (though we still don’t have a dog… but I digress…).

Since then, we have at times fallen out of good practices like this. Daily grind hits us. We make assumptions about what is important or urgent. We forget to discuss the daily or weekly plan. When we do make time to retrospect, we realize we need a tune up. It’s most often when we are out for a walk or actually on a real date (and not just holding hands in the grocery store.)

Our Favourite Practice

We have some others, like a weekly meal plan on the fridge, a kan ban of stickies plastered on a window for chores, and a detailed budget and finance tracker where we prototype our future investments. Our favourite is probably the priority matrix though.

Here’s the process:

  1. Set aside an evening with your favourite drinks, some music, maybe candles, and a pile of post-it notes.
  2. Quietly, each person adds the things or activities to buy, build or do that will add value to life (individually or collectively)
  3. Put two pieces of tape on the table in a big T. The X axis is your cost (we use money but also relative effort). Y is value… which translates to “happiness.”
  4. One by one, take turns placing a sticky on the matrix, and with love in your eyes, be curious about why your partner all of the sudden thinks that Scuba Gear is a priority (or on the matrix at all). This is them sharing something they haven’t yet, for whatever reason. The goal is to understand why something has value, or not, for both people.
  5. Laugh at the impressive disconnects two people who are in love can have, and relish the challenge of negotiating for shared happiness.
  6. As stickies get placed, explore relative weight for happiness. Consider how to break things down into smaller chunks that might get done faster if they are less effort/cost, especially if they are high value.
  7. Remember that you are both working towards making it easier to decide what next happy thing will happen. It’s all good progress.
  8. Commit to revisiting the matrix often.
  9. Put it in a digital app if you can where one person is notified if the other makes a change… that’s a signal that you need to have a conversation :)
  10. Remove the stickies when they get complete. We like to have a toast as we both observe the big ones turning green and moving to the done spot.
A priority matrix showing activities like painting and building a greenhouse, in different quadrants that are easy wins, big decisions, easy but distracting, and not worth our time.

We’ve verbally shared this practice with lots of friends, especially when they’ve shown signs of that “where did the weekend go” and “there’s so much to do” stress. This matrix doesn’t solve all that life stuff, but it does help to focus shared effort on achieving one happy thing at a time that can make everything else tolerable.

We all need reasons to celebrate. It’s best when we can do it together, harmoniously.

H

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Heather-Lynn Remacle

Slow to judge, quick to suppose: truth and alternatives I’m keen to expose. Open by default. How can I help? https://bit.ly/32Fmz2l