Beyond the Pages is my way of sharing the things books make me think about and interact with and want to talk about shared experiences with people. Some of my best conversations have happened because of something that came up in a book. I’m pretty personal in my reviews but I’d like a way to not bog down my review with a huge paragraph of personal experience so this is my way to be able to share it. Some times it will be serious and sometimes just random and fun but I hope we can connect! PAST Beyond the Pages here!
The book that inspired this conversation:
What It Is About:
Oh you guys! This is one of my favorite books of the year so far! I read it in January and I still can’t stop thinking about it and need to buy myself a copy to re-read it. Rainbow Rowell’s second adult book is about a marriage that has been off for some time and she knows it has been. It’s not an issue of not loving each other but between jobs and kids and all somehow it just has gotten a little lost. When they are a few days out from leaving for Omaha for Christmas, Georgie has a huge work opportunity arise and she has to stay in LA for it. She assumes they’ll all just stay home but is surprised when Neal decides he and the kids are still going. Scared of what this implies, Georgie wonders if it has all fallen apart for good and if/how she can fix it….until she’s given an opportunity to talk to Neal in the past.
What I said about it: “Rainbow Rowell continues her trend of being able to write poignantly and candidly about all sorts of love. I loved that, while this was partly a story about a love going wrong, it’s also a story about falling back in love and remembering the first time you fell in love with that person as well…especially in the face of maybe losing it all. She makes love just come alive and feel true.” You can read more of my thoughts about it here!
What It Got Me Thinking About:
relationships (marriage & friendships), not being passive in relationships, how much “work” relationships take, my own relationships
There’s a lot of things Landline gave me to think about while reading it and after but one of the biggest things is how much care, commitment and “work” needs to go into a relationship — any kind of relationship. In Landline, the marriage was not dissolving because of necessarily huge things but these small, tiny moments. Little decisions that happened daily and were almost unnoticeable until one day you look up and realize,” WOW how did we end up like this?”
I’ve only been married for almost two years but I could see how easy it would be to get to this point. To get too complacent. Take things foregranted, unintentionally stop TRYING and let it all slip away. I think it’s easy to become passive in a relationship and not even realize it — to just let it BE and not do all the things to cultivate and nurture that relationship.
When I was younger I used to always say, “it shouldn’t take this much work to have this friendship/relationship.” And yes, in some cases it shouldn’t be THAT hard and shouldn’t constantly FEEL like work. But I think what I always thought was that relationships shouldn’t ever take work. That they should just naturally be. Maybe I was just too young to quite get it yet or maybe I was just mistaking what WORK meant in regards to relationships. But I truly believe that any good relationship worth having requires a certain degree of “work”. We must be active in maintaining it and nurturing it. Taking care of it. Not just putting it on cruise control or auto-pilot. I’m not saying we need to constantly be doing this but I think, as I reflect on my marriage already, I need to be mindful. It’s easy to slip into patterns, to stop communicating, to stop trying, to ignore things, stop making an effort to love each other. To just settle into the marriage and think it’s going to work because we love each other and smooth sailing from there.
It shouldn’t be all work. I’m not saying that. There’s a bigger problem there, I think, if all you are doing IS working on it. But I think we are doing a disservice to our important relationships if we don’t realize that they DO take some degree of work and nurturing and caring for. They need us to be intentional and active participants.
And it’s not even just marriages. It’s friendships too. I think of so many great friendships that just faded away because both parties just STOPPED — for no reason. It happened by letting the communication stop, by not being active in engaging that relationship and letting life get in the way. I never meant for it to happen but it did before I realized it. And sure, that’s life, sometimes friendships are going to naturally fade but I think too often we are passive in relationships and don’t put in the work without even meaning to. I know I do and I’m realizing that.
I’m resolving to work harder at my relationships and be more intentional. Too many valued friendships have slipped away and I also don’t want to, years from now, being in a situation similar to Georgie and Neal in my marriage wondering how I got there — feeling surprised by it. I don’t want to look back and see all the small things that made us seemingly end up on different planets and know that I could have helped it.
Here are 3 things I’m going to do in my relationships starting today:
1. Go on a date at least once a month: I think one of the biggest things I’ve already seen about marriage is how easy it is to ALWAYS sit in our jams and flop on the couch. And yes, I do love that time and it’s valuable to us. But it’s easy to stop dating each other when you get married. Like really, really easy. Our dates don’t have to be expensive or anything crazy but I do want to make it a point for them to be a planned, specific date. I’d like for us to rotate who plans the date.
2. Stop eating dinner on the couch: We’ve gotten in a really bad habit of eating dinner while catching up on one of our shows. If we ever have a family this is something I do not want to EVER happen. I grew up with family dinners that slowly faded to everyone just eating on their own or in front of the tv. I started to miss those conversations and catching up. So I will clear off our kitchen table (which is half filled with books) and we will eat dinners together and use that time to talk. No phones, no tv on, no laptops.
3. Find an activity or a project for us to do together: I used to love when we’d go to the gym together but my interest in Pilates kind of ruined that and that’s okay. He works out with a friend now, which is good for him, and I do an exercise that I really enjoy more than the gym. But I loved that we had SOMETHING we did together. We have so many activities that we do separately (not to mention when we both get in our own little worlds..him with video games and me with blogging) and that is important but I want to find something to do TOGETHER.
1. Get better at communication: Here’s the thing about me. I suck at keeping in contact. I’m real bad at answering texts. I hate talking on the phone. I’m the worst at answering emails. It’s not that I don’t WANT to talk to you (sometimes I’m just not in the mood to socialize with ANYONE or I’m busy/in the middle of something). But I’m just not good at keeping in touch — a few friends aside. But I’ve come to realize it’s an excuse. Not because I secretly hate people. I don’t know what it’s an excuse for but I know that I can work at it*. I just have dismissed everything as “well, I suck at keeping in contact” without really taking steps to be better at it. I truly am not a person who needs constant communication to know we are friends (I have a few great friendships where that’s mutual) but I’ve also gotten in the bad habit of just NOT communicating. And the worst part? I’m not very good at initiating the communication. I let months slip away without saying anything. I’ve got a lot to work on here — answering communication and initiating it. Especially the initiating.
2. Make plans: I also suck at making plans. See, here’s the thing. When I’m with people and spending time with a friend, it’s great! I love it! But the actual thought of making plans? I am the worst. I’m lazy. I’m never the person to ask anyone to hang out because I honestly am so content with doing my own thing or hanging with Will. I know I’ll always be glad I did it (like I normally AM) but there’s this period from the making of plans until I get there where I’m like WAHHH CAN I JUST SIT HOME PLEASE?
3. Do something nice for a friend: Because I’ve gotten in this cycle where I don’t really initiate contact or make plans with people, I’ve slipped into some selfish habits that I didn’t even realize. I used to be the friend who always looked for ways to genuinely do nice things for my friends — a way to encourage them, to make their day, make a birthday special, help their broken heart, etc. I just stopped. I stopped being thoughtful. And I feel like a shitty person. I’m going to make an effort to be intentional about this once a month until I’ve gotten myself out of whatever weird funk I’m in.
* I think a lot of my issues with friendships is due to some past friendships. Maybe I’m just trying to protect myself by just not taking the risk of nurturing friendships? I don’t know.
What do you think? Do you think relationships take work? Have you experienced this first hand? Am I the only one who struggles with this? If you’ve read Landline did Georgie and Neal’s story resonate with you in any way?