Coffee, a Whiteboard, and a Crossword: Three Simple Things that Improved my Marriage

Coffee, a Whiteboard, and a Crossword: Three Simple Things that Improved my Marriage

If there is one persistent conflict in my marriage, it’s a division of labor. And I am absolutely guilty of keeping score. I often find myself frustrated by carrying the domestic load–cooking, cleaning, laundry, diapers–and I forget about the world of other chores my husband manages behind the scenes. Becoming a stay-at-home mom made things harder because it became even less clear which tasks were part of my “workday” and which should be shared, especially when my duties extend well past 5 o’clock.

Coffee, a Whiteboard, and a Crossword: Three Simple Things that Improved my Marriage
With the pandemic, things have become even more difficult. We are fortunate that my husband is able to work from home, but the lines between work-time and home-time are perpetually blurred. Add in the fact that we have distanced from most of our family and friends and haven’t been on a date outside of our home in 6 months, and it feels as though we are both overwhelmed around the clock, 7 days a week. I have been frustrated, feeling that he wasn’t doing enough to help out around the house, and knowing that I was asking for too much–both of him and myself. I have been angry. Often.

Quite by accident, I stumbled upon 3 simple things that have truly improved my marriage these past few months.

The first, a cup of coffee.

I have never been a coffee drinker, but with 2 kids and quarantine, the tired caught up with me. During one particularly difficult week, my husband started pouring me a cup of coffee when he would make his own and brought it to me wherever I was playing with our kids. The effect was simple but profound. Starting the day with someone doing just ONE thing to take care of me did my heart and mind a world of good. In return, I started delivering my husband’s lunch to his home office on his particularly difficult days. And with that, we got back to taking care of each other.

The second simple thing: a whiteboard.

After my first child was born, I kept a whiteboard on my refrigerator only big enough for a 3-item To-Do list. The idea was to give me only 3 things to accomplish each day while I was learning to care for a newborn. A month into the pandemic, and I started keeping a whiteboard list again to help me prioritize and plan my day. I fill it out each night before bed with the next day’s plan. It’s become a wonderful communication device–my husband can see what I’m trying to accomplish during the day and helps out when and how he can. Either I don’t have to ask because it’s already written down (win!), or I can make more specific requests without too much thought when I need help (as opposed to my usual and not particularly helpful, “I need help with EVERYTHING!” response).

Finally: a crossword puzzle.

I needed a quick and easy mental outlet that had nothing to do with kids or housework, so I started doing the crossword in our neighborhood paper during lunch. In between chopping food into bite-sized pieces for my little ones, I filled in a few clues at a time and tried to finish one puzzle each week. For my birthday, I received a book of crossword puzzles as a gift. My husband got into it, too. We keep a crossword and 2 different-colored pens (one for him, one for me) on the kitchen table and work at each puzzle a little at a time. The colored pens add in a bit of competition between the two of us, as we can see who figured out the most clues. It has been a wonderful way to work together and compete a bit and gives us something to talk about besides work and kids.

If, by chance, you have also found yourself struggling in your marriage; if you have also found yourself overwhelmed and angry, I hope you’ll experiment with a few simple ways to restore yourself and reconnect with your partner. Find a simple way to take care of one another, a way to date for just a few minutes at a time throughout your week. For us, it has been well worth the effort.

Hang in there, Mama!