This past weekend was one of those times that could have gone badly. I’ve known it was coming for months, and I’ve been quietly sweating it out. I love my marriage and I think it is foolish to deliberately do something to threaten it. I’ve said so to Kendra a number of times, but she’ll have nothing of it. She just says “what are you talking about?. This is going to be fun!” “Fun!” I say. “Fun like chewing on tin foil kind of fun!”
I’m talking here about wallpapering together. That well-known killer of marital bliss. And this time with a woman in menopause to boot (she told me I could say that)! Like surviving a hurricane, preparation is key. So we made sure to have a really romantic
dinner on Friday night, full of great food, wine, music and above all really deep conversation. We got up on Saturday and spent some time going our separate ways doing things we needed to do. We made lunch and ate what could be our last meal together.
Then we got at it. We started preparing the room. Right out of the gate we had a difference of opinion on how to get the mirror glued to the wall off. Sailed right by that one with no trouble!! Next up patching the wall. That really wasn’t an issue until we figured out that it was going to take all day for the plaster to dry. This now turned into a two-day event!! Another good romantic dinner and a good night’s sleep. Watch some YouTube videos on how to wallpaper and discover we have to paint the room first!! Yikes! Off we go doing that and I get a bit of a message from Kendra (see picture) that tells me this might work out okay!
Then to the real work of hanging paper. I’m not gonna lie to you, at first it was a bit scrappy. We each had our thoughts about how things should go. We discussed these items, and argued a bit, but what was really behind that was that we really didn’t know what we were doing and were afraid of screwing up.
Cutting to the end of the story the bathroom looks great and we somehow avoided the inevitable divorce. 🙂 We settled into a rhythm of which parts of the job were suited to one or the other and came out smelling like roses.
How often do we do that to ourselves? Where we look at an impending event or task and think “this isn’t going to go well”. We start thinking of past experiences with similar events or the same people, we recall stories from others about their experiences with the activity, and we start compiling our list of things that could go wrong and set our strategy to making sure those things don’t happen to us.
What if we looked at this the other way around? What if we took our “what could go wrong” list, turned that sheet of paper over and wrote our “what could be great” list on the other side? What if we entered the event leaning into the possibility of a great outcome? What if we could leave behind the fear of failure, the need to defend ourselves and then put our best skills, ideas, and other contributions in the middle of the table then asked others to do the same?
Would we increase our rate of success? Would we have a better experience? Would we form new relationships or strengthen old ones? Would we learn to appreciate the skills and contributions of others and by expressing that appreciation strengthen a teammate?
What Kendra and I did with our wallpapering was first express a positive outcome (the “I luv u” picture) we began to collaborate, and once we got a little experience under our belts, we looked for the strengths in the other so that both of us contributed our best skills to the project, enhancing both the outcome and our rewards from it.
As an aside, I’ve recently learned of a methodology called Appreciative Inquiry. In summary, appreciative inquiry examines the current state of some process or state from the perspective of what is working, what is right with that process and then think of what might be if we did more of the good, thereby overwhelming what is not working. I love this concept, and in many ways that is what this post is all about!
As always I love to get feedback! What do you think about these thoughts? Do you have any experiences that support or disprove it?
13 thoughts on “The Divorce That Didn’t Happen”
This is fantastic concept, to always look at what is working and work on making that better, rather than look at the negatives and fear of failure, as so often happens.
(Never let not knowing how to do something stop you from having a go).
I am glad that your marriage survived the wallpapering ordeal. 🙂
Thanks Elizabeth. I loved the concept when I saw it as well, especially the idea that we look to do more of the good and leave less space for the bad. I think the trick will be changing our habits to focus on “what’s right”!
Ian, thanks for my Sunday morning smile! Fun like chewing on tin foil! haha
I love appreciative inquiry! It’s really hard for some people who are used to anticipating what can go wrong in order to address it proactively (which is an awesome quality) but holding that thought until later…well…not so easy. Sort of like brainstorming – where no idea is a bad idea, even when some sound like bad ideas… Going through these processes though, is amazing – I think it’s often the difference between vision and goals.
By your note it sounds like you’ve used the process before. How easy is it to make the switch from “what’s wrong” to appreciative inquiry?
Ian Munro VP Procurement Services (403) 515-3297
It’s natural for me – I love it. Not so easy when I’ve tried to use it in a group. It takes a little practice. 😉
I too enjoyed this post a Sunday morning smile 🙂 is always a good way to start. Congratulation on the wallpaper, it looks great! Appreciative Inquiry I love that concept. Focusing on the positive and not the negative always a much more harmonious way to look at any situation; and in my experience it works too!
I agree! I’d like to continue to focus on building off the positive.
Great concept — ‘appreciative inquiry’ . Thanks, Ian.
Thanks Alan. I’ve just been introduced myself and am exploring it!
Have also enjoyed appreciative inquiry with some groups sometimes. Particularly for groups that need a little tweaking. If you’re a reader (I am), I highly recommend the Cooperrider et al book “Appreciative Inquiry Handbook”.
I am surprised you did not divorce. I hate the Canadian obsession with upgrades. I am also set on dying without ever playing golf beyond the five mini golfs game I played for the enjoyment of the kids,
I am still thinking of retiring. Work is tiring and does not lead me anywhere.
Ian go with the AI it’s a great concept and I am glad the paper went up with out a divorce. You are brave to attempt this with a menopausal spouse —