The other evening I took an Uber home from work. I’m still getting used to the idea of getting into a car with a stranger and telling them where I live — having grown up in the generation who had stranger danger hammered into them.
“Never get into a car with a stranger. Never tell them your name or where you live.” Now millions of people do it every day.
My driver, we’ll call him Carl, arrived promptly in his Toyota Camry and ferried me away towards home for the day. The spry Caucasian septuagenarian introduced himself with a distinctive South African accent. During the course of our 15-minute trip, Carl revealed he’d been married for over 50 years, had four adult children, several grandchildren, and was a preacher.
No disrespect. I personally am not religious. And while I respect the rights of others to believe whatever they wish, I don’t normally appreciate being proselytized, especially on my commute home. I know when I’m about to be verbally bible-beaten because I’ve had it happen too many times to count in my life.
For a minute, I debated whether or not to ask Carl to stop the car. The air in the cabin of the vehicle had shifted and I knew it was coming shortly after he’d uttered the commission of, “preacher.” Carl seemed sage and kind and I had been raised to treat my elders with some semblance of respect. So when Carl asked if I “knew the word of God” I calmly and politely said, “no.”
Thankfully, in an effort to avoid the obvious and uncomfortable, we discussed kids and relationships; Carl proudly spouting about his marriage to a woman he’d been married to longer than I had been alive.
Married or not, I thought his advice about relationships was applicable. Carl explained the secret to his five-decade-long marriage had not been about love or lust, but of respect and consideration. He made it a point to consider his wife’s needs, and in return, she made Carl’s a priority. “If she wants to go shopping, even after I’ve been driving all day, I take her shopping. Why? Because she is a queen, and I need to treat her as such.”
Carl proudly declared his love for his wife: the most positive, interesting person he’d ever known. “Are you an interesting woman, Megan?” I had to think about that for a second. Everyone likes to think they are interesting but are they really?
Carl revealed, “When my wife and I got engaged, I told her [playfully], I have two conditions. First, I want you to tell me at least one interesting story a day. I don’t care if you had to read it in a newspaper or book, or overheard it from someone else. I want to learn something new and interesting each day we are together.”
He spoke for a few more minutes on the subject when I realized he’d failed to mention the second condition. When I asked, he chortled and said, “Oh, well, that is a bit too personal I’m afraid.” It was blushworthy, as his giggle seemed to suggest his meaning.
I’ve since been pondering over Carl’s marital advice, knowing it is applicable to more than just marriage, but relationships in general, even between family and friends. Mutual respect, consideration, making an effort to be interesting and interested. These are not difficult concepts, but often times they are taken for granted, especially when you’ve been in a relationship for a while. Some do the bare minimum, coasting along in their relationship, putting in the least amount of effort possible.
As an experiment, turn to your partner (or a loved one like a parent, sibling, or friend) and consider what you can do to reflect your respect and consideration for their needs. See how they react when you thank them for something you would otherwise take for granted. Let them know the things they do are appreciated. Each day, do something — doesn’t have to be big — to show them you care. Be selfless. Wash the dishes or take out the trash, especially if this isn’t something you normally do. Bring home food so they don’t have to cook after a long day of work. Again, it doesn’t have to be much. But I bet, in time, your relationship will be stronger for it.