Oprah Winfrey often used to say on her daily program "It's not about the socks" when she was discussing troubling marital issues.
Every time she said that I disagreed. Sometimes it is about the socks. And the shoes left in the middle of the floor. Or the Christmas decorations not taken to the attic. Or the bed left unmade.
Sometimes it's the seemingly small things we can all do within a marriage to brighten a spouse's day - or to create a skirmish.
Brian and I have been married a long time. We can tell what kind of day the other one is having by some non-verbal indicators that those outside of the marriage would miss. We enter the house through the garage and laundry room. If mail, various tote or grocery bags, my purse, cellphone and laundry items are piled in the small room, Brian is tipped off right away that it has been too hectic for me to clear things away. If nothing, or just my purse, is stacked on the appliances, he can assume a smooth day and even figure that there will be supper on the stove and maybe even the rest of the house in order.
If I walk into the house after an evening meeting and hear the familiar whirring sound of his elliptical trainer buzzing away upstairs and a muffled TV sound, I can figure that he's having a good evening, feels like exercising and will come downstairs revived and happy from his regular workout routine.
While some days there isn't time for an orderly laundry room or for Brian's workout, we understand that and adjust. It's just more pleasant when things go as planned and in order.
On a recent Monday, I was at home when Brian was working. This is almost never the case. Monday is generally a very hectic day for both of us. I have a standing Monday-night meeting and not long in between the workday and leaving for that. But on this Monday, I had some extra time so surprised Brian by taking care of his standard Monday chores. I went through the house and gathered up all of the garbage, cleaned out and changed the cat-litter box and put all of the trash out on the curb for Tuesday pick up. I also got the coffee pot ready for the next day and set my clock so I wouldn't have to switch on the light and possibly wake him if he was in bed when I got home.
It's the little things.
When I got home on a recent Sunday from a weekend away with the girls, the house was neat as a pin; the laundry all caught up and I had no pressing "home work" to get done. He'd taken care of everything. That's what you call a perk.
There are things on which both of us could improve. I wish he would put the remote control down and not keep flipping continuously when we are in a room together. He wishes I wouldn't wear socks to bed only to kick them off and leave them strewn inside the covers in a mish-mash.
But when he leaves me coffee to drink in the pot, cleans up a kitchen I left messy after supper without saying a word or takes the icy spot in the driveway as opposed to me taking it, these things say more to me than all of the mushy notes on Valentine's Day cards.
Little stuff? Maybe, but inside a marriage, they say big things.
Donna Cronk is Neighbors Editor of The Courier-Times and editor of the quarterly her magazine for women.