Want some relationship advice from a divorced mother of 3 who has “failed” more times than she can count? Then READ ON SISTER (or brother). The #1 thing that you can do RIGHT NOW to improve your current relationship is this simple. Find two photographs of yourself at a young age that best represent the child you were and are still today. Place those photos side by side (via a collage app) and print a few copies out. Place that photograph on your fridge, in your wallet, by your bedside - wherever you can look at those hopeful, innocent faces throughout the day.
Ok so how in the world will this help my relationship? First, if you are in a dark place in your relationship, this will not help one bit. Find help. But if you just need a bit of softness to help ease you out of the everyday, exhausting grind of relationship, try this. It will soften you towards the person you love. You will begin to see them through the lens of their childhood self. And when you begin to argue, you will see this image.
One of the best podcasts I have listened to in the last few years comes from an On Being episode with Krista Trippet interviewing Alain de Botton on “The True Hard Work of Love & Relationships.” He explains in the interview why we should see our lovers like children.
MR. DE BOTTON: One of the kindest things that we can do with our lover is to see them as children. And not to infantilize them, but when we’re dealing with children as parents, as adults, we’re incredibly generous in the way we interpret their behavior.
If you walk home, and a child says, “I hate you,” you immediately go, OK, that’s not quite true. Probably they’re tired, they’re hungry, something’s gone wrong, their tooth hurts, something. We’re looking around for a benevolent interpretation that can just shave off some of the more depressing, dispiriting aspects of their behavior. And we do this naturally with children, and yet we do it so seldom with adults. When an adult meets an adult, and they say, “I’ve not had a good day. Leave me alone,” rather than saying, “OK. I’m just going to go behind the facade of this slightly depressing comment...”
MS. TIPPETT: And understand that that’s actually not about me; that’s actually about what’s going on inside them today.
MR. DE BOTTON: Right, exactly. We don’t do that. We take it all completely personally. So I think the work of love is to try, when we can manage it — we can’t always — to go behind the front of this rather depressing, challenging behavior and try and ask where it might’ve come from. Love is doing that work to ask oneself, “Where’s this rather aggressive, pained, noncommunicative, unpleasant behavior come from?” If we can do that, we’re on the road to knowing a little bit about what love really is, I think.
Go & try it. If I can offer help to any of you out there doing the hard work of love, then this is my gift. And one more reason why photographs matter.
And here is a real life example of a collage I made that my dear love, Archie, printed off months ago and sent me a few copies. I keep this on the fridge and am reminded daily of the tenderness of the children within us today.