A typical scene when my husband gets home from work:
I'm trying to finish up transforming ramen and broccoli into something that will pass as "dinner." Sadly, the kids' screen time has just expired and they are acting as though they've never had the TV shut off before. My husband enters in and my first thought is, "Shoot! I wasted the afternoon! Why didn't I start dinner sooner?"
Husband enters in a chaotic scene of anarchy as the kids fight to exert their dominance over our attention. I shout out a, "Hey babe" from the kitchen as I scramble to finish this dinner-esque display, leaving him to deal with the three hooligans in their TV-less-post-apocalyptic state.
Once we've made it to the same room one of us will say, "How was your day?" To which we each in turn spout off the most frustrating, annoying and/or draining thing to happen to us that day to get it off our chests.
And that's kind of it. Very rarely do I even go to the front room to greet him, let alone hug and kiss and express a nice sentiment.
It wasn't always this way. I remember when we were first married, I literally would jump into his arms when we would greet each other at the end of the day. I was SO excited to see him.
Time has weathered us, but there is definitely something to the idea of showering your spouse with love right when you first see each other. It sets the stage. It eases tension right from the get go. The greeting can set down defenses that have crept up either from earlier disconnects or from a crummy day. A good greeting used correctly has the power to transform a night into one of love instead of one of apathy or grumpiness. It can make or break the rest of the day.
A good greeting has power.
I'm sure you're thinking, "But Celeste, how do you know? You just admitted you're not the world's best greeter." True. However, when I do put more effort into greeting my spouse with love at the end of the day, I see results.
Others do too. If you don't believe me, believe people smarter than me.
A recent article on YourTango claimed that those first 60 seconds when you greet are the most important of the day in any relationship.
I love this description of the power of a good greeting from Mitch Album, describing sociology professor Morrie Schwartz in the book "Tuesdays with Morrie:"
"I came to love the way Morrie lit up when I entered the room. He did this for many people, I know, but it was his special talent to make each visitor feel that the smile was unique ...When Morrie was with you, he was really with you. He looked you straight in the eye, and he listened as if you were the only person in the world. How much better would people get along if their first encounter each day were like this-instead of a grumble ... ?" - Mitch Album
And as my exemplar, Mother Teresa has said, NEVER underestimate the power of a smile. In fact, a 30 year longitudinal study at UC Berkley found that simply by measuring people's smiles in photographs, they were able to predict how fulfilling and long lasting their marriages would be.
So now that we've outlined how NOT to greet your spouse as well as the power of a good greeting, how can we harness this magic?
A few ideas:
1. Stop what you're doing to greet your spouse
But don't just greet him, run to him. Show him you are so anxious to see him that you just can't move slowly or apathetically. And if you are the one coming home - find your spouse first. Before your kids, before your dog, and certainly before your phone. Spouse first.
But don't just hug, embrace. We're talking the fully committed leaning type.
But not just a habit peck, I mean the type of kiss to make your kids groan in agony. You know what I'm talking about.
4. Express love
Compliment. Express gratitude. Say "I love you." Make her KNOW that you are so happy to see her. Show your love in your eyes. A few examples could be, "Yay! You're home!" "You look great in that shirt." "I've been looking forward to seeing you all day." "I missed you today."
5. Save the venting session
Don't unload all the day's frustrations right away. This happens to us all the time. The first thing we say is, "How was your day." And in order to be 'authentic' we generally start spouting off the angst of the day. "Ugh, I only got half of what I wanted to get done today!" "I'm SO tired!" etc.
This can be especially damaging because venting sessions can be so easily misinterpreted. If my husband starts venting about his day I can think, "Oh, he's in a bad mood. Guess I should let him have his space. We'll have to save a romantic night for another night." When, he might not be thinking that at all!
Also all too often 'mad at the situation' can come off as 'mad at you.' Happens to us all the time. So save the venting session for a little later if you can. If you really need to get something off your chest, say it but then add something sweet so it's totally clear that your mood is 'mad at the situation' not mad at your spouse.
For example, "The kids almost killed me today, but I'm so happy to see you." Or "My boss was driving me bonkers. Sure glad I'm here with you now." Or "I felt tired and didn't get anything done. Your face is making it better."
I'm excited and determined to up our greeting game. Will you try it with us?
Editor's note: This article was originally published on A Thing Called Love. It has been modified and republished here with permission.
Celeste loves dishing out unsolicited marriage advice over at A Thing Called Love Blog. Mom of three, wife of one, she's a big believer in the power of redemption, the power of kindness and the power of Netflix. Also cheese.