On Labor Day Cliff and I spent the afternoon getting ready for a small backyard party. At one point we heard a ruckus coming from our front yard, and simultaneously realized we hadn’t seen the kids in a while. We found Sam on the front porch, wearing his sunglasses and playing, loudly, his Paper Jamz guitar. The song? R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Good marriages are built on those seven letters. I was reminded of this recently when reading Dinner: A Love Story, Jenny Rosenstrach’s cookbook and memoir based on the blog of the same name. The book and blog are a how-to-and-why guide for redeeming the family dinner hour. It’s a charming book; we’ve been cooking our way through the recipes for the last few weeks. Two thumbs up.
But back to the topic of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Jenny (because I feel like she and I ought to be friends, even if we aren’t) shares an example here:
Even before we had kids, before I was adding up the hours at home and at work and trying to make the numbers come out even, I felt guilty about staying late at work and missing dinner. And so did Andy. If either of us made after-work plans that precluded eating together, the abandoner always asked the abandoned if it was okay. As in, “Is it okay if I gout out on Thursday with Brian who is flying in from Chicago for one night to see me?” or “Is it okay if my college roommate’s dad wants to tae me and his daughter to that new Jean Georges restaurant Vong?” It is somewhat astounding for me to think about this so many years later, especially now that we have children and the whole idea of guilt has been ratcheted up to levels I couldn’t have grasped back in those days- because of course the answer was always yes. Of course! What kind of marriage required spousal permission for a gin and tonic with a college friend who had flown in from one thousand miles away? It was more than permission, though It was respect. Respect for each other, respect for the ritual, respect for the meatballs.
So how do you show respect to your spouse? You ask permission even when you don’t need to. You acknowledge the importance of his or her schedule, as well as the importance of your own. You say thank every time your spouse makes meatballs.
And, of course, you also show R-E-S-P-E-C-T by granting all reasonable requests, forgiving the slightly unreasonable ones, and letting go of the totally unreasonable ones … because you want that same respect shown to you. Showing up for dinner is a good idea too.