This fall when I was in Raleigh, NC visiting my sister, a popular local radio station WRAL was having people call in. The topic: identify something about yourself that your spouse has overlooked. Naturally, it was mostly women who called in. After the calls about the guy not noticing the new haircut, outfit, tattoo, weight loss, etc, came the call about the man wondering why his wife was eating dinner with her left hand. Turns out in their two years of marriage he hadn\’t before realized his dear wife was left-handed!

The show started me thinking about how when you live with someone day in and day out you stop seeing them as a whole human being and only see them as a part. And this part you see is stuck in your head and doesn\’t change. They are a hand to take out the garbage, or a voice to tell you to remember the milk from the store, or the owner of the stinky socks on the bedroom floor. It can also work to your advantage when your hair turns gray or you gain a few pounds: your spouse sees you in way that may not represent the way you truly are. Isn\’t it ironic that when we first meet someone we take a few parts and make them an imagined whole person, yet after we live with someone a few years or 10, we think we know the whole person and only really “see” a part of them. The danger here is that it\’s so easy to take our spouses for granted and not give our loved ones genuine compliments. A little, “Wow, I love your new haircut,” can go a long way.

So what can we do to make sure we truly see our spouses? I think taking breaks in our routine and shaking up our environment is one solution. Date nights twice a month not only take you out of the house with all of its hum-drum chores, but they can allow your spouse to see you as a whole human being. Complimenting each other and going out of the way for each other can also go a long way in filling up the “love” well to make marriages sustain the test of time AND the embarrassment of not noticing a huge personal change.