Whenever my husband Cade gets home from work, I've found myself in the habit of asking, "How was your day?" to which he replies, "good, how was yours?" or "pretty good, how about you?" or there's always, "meh, kinda long."
Why do we even ask each other just to hear the same thing? I started to feel like it was a little silly, and then I noticed my daughter and I do it after school. Where's the love? Where's the real conversation and sharing?
So, I decided to try an experiment. And then I forgot. Because that's what happens to moms sometimes. We get a really good idea - generally in the shower because that's where the best thinking happens - and then we get out and forget it.
Two weeks later, I finally remembered and put it into action. Within one week, we were having the best week and this experiment has totally changed our marriage and family.
I started asking my husband and children three questions every day and it has changed our lives. Remember, these things are going to take time for your family to adjust to but it will happen!
1. What do you have going on today and how can I help?
This one definitely was lame at first, but here's what we learned. First, my husband and I always talk about the week and what's coming up. We do this with our kids too, but as the week goes on, we forget things or new things come up. By daily asking about the day, we all know exactly what kind of load everyone is carrying and what to expect from everyone. It also gives us more opportunities to serve each other.
If the family knows my husband has an important meeting and I have recipes to photograph, it's amazing how quickly they take charge of other things to help out. Plus, we can be mindful of each other. A child may be acting out after school, but when we realize it's probably because she had that big test and is just worn out, it's much easier to handle the situation.
2. When did you feel worried, stressed or scared today?
In my marriage, I clued in pretty quickly that my husband is willing to carry the world on his shoulders and not burden anyone. He doesn't mean to. He has just always carried his own feelings so that no one has to know they are hurting him or stressing him out. My daughter, on the other hand, needs to talk things out and be heard.
What Cade did not realize was that he needed to talk things out as well. When things weren't going well, I started asking the above question. It's interesting how most days involve a moment of stress or worry, and acknowledging it and letting someone else listen really lifts the load. It opens up communication and bonding. Now, we ask every day and we try to be very honest.
3. When did you feel loved today? - The MOST IMPORTANT question
This one can be awkward! I know it shouldn't but go ahead and ask. The response may be a little goofy or passive, "uh when you kissed me?"
Don't worry, keep asking and give it time. Everyone needs to feel loved, and if they aren't, they need someone to step up and do the job.
Here's the perfect example. Cade was a bit grouchy the other night. Kind of snappy with the kids and impatient. I could have snapped back but instead, when he went upstairs to change, I followed. I slipped in front of him while he was picking out a shirt and asked, looking him in the eyes with my arms around him, "when did you feel loved today?" He immediately said, "right now. I've just been so stressed about such and such and it's been a long day." The rest of the evening was peaceful and fun and we all felt a little more love for one another.
Often, we can take out underlying issues on others around us - almost always those we love most and wouldn't want to hurt. Why do we sometimes treat friends better than our spouse? I believe it's because we stop asking the real questions and don't wait to hear the answers.
These three little questions have strengthened our family and marriage. They are simple but they make a world of a difference. Sometimes, we just need our spouse to see us again.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Oh, Sweet Basil. It has been republished here with permission.
Carrian and her husband Cade began the Oh, Sweet Basil blog in 2008 as a way to share their recipes and to promote their philosophy that spending time together in the kitchen is about more than the meal. As the parents of three children, they have found that cooking and eating together as a family helps them stay involved, try new things, create memories, and develop stronger bonds. You can visit their family friendly recipes on her blog.