I’m sure you’ve heard the common phrase “Is the glass half empty or half full?” used as a rhetorical litmus test to gauge between an optimistic personality (half full) and a pessimistic one (half empty). Similarly, I’m sure you’ve also heard someone say “I’m drained,” “my cup is empty” or “my cup runneth over”, usually used to describe how they are feeling health-wise or emotionally.
Well, my hubby and I are (still) learning a third cup system that our pre-marital therapist first tried to teach us back when we were engaged. The working theory is that there are 3 cups in the relationship:
Yours, Mine, and Ours: The Three Cups that need constant re-filling
1. YOURS: filled by hobbies, friends, favorite food, self care rituals, exercise, time with other family members…
2. YOUR PARTNER’s: filled by their preferences of the above.
3. TOGETHER: filled by dates, mutually favorite restaurants, activities enjoyed together, trips…
All 3 cups need constant, even, re-filling in order for all 3 parts to function optimally.
Have either you or your significant other felt low, tired, or spent, while the other is fine? Maybe you’re not enjoying time with each other as much as you would have if you were both feeling your best. Or say your individual work life is going great, your social life was booming… but you didn’t make time to spend with your significant other, and therefore you don’t feel completely full or satisfied. All of those scenarios are signs that one of your cups is running low and is affecting the others.
It took Beau and me our entire first year of marriage to find some semblance of balance as we worked to join our lives together.
We either spent too much time with each other (I didn’t think this was a thing when we were dating, now I do!) and ended up feeling like we were neglecting our personal needs outside of the relationship, OR we spent too much time apart: working, with friends or doing our hobbies, only to later find ourselves relationally disconnected (not a good recipe for romance…)
We seem to have found a good balance as of late, but of course, each cup’s needs can and do change often, so constant readjustment is and will be needed.
As you might have guessed, I am a hard introvert, while my hubby is an extrovert. So, our cup-filling needs are almost opposite: I need time alone, preferably at home, to regroup & be quiet, while he needs to get out of the house and grab a beer with his friends or play sports.
It might worry you to intentionally spend time away from your significant other. It worried me at first! I thought couples spent all of their time together, but now I see that we feel closer than ever when we go off and fill our individual cups and come back to each other. You might think that your individual cup is filled by your significant other, but try to think of your favorite activities before you met your significant other and try them out. We are both happier, fuller, better people all around when we take care of our individual cups.
Beau and I have even found a couple of creative ways to fill our individual cups together: My hubby likes to play beach volleyball with friends, filling his social, outdoor, and sport needs, and I can come hide under an umbrella with a book if I’m needing alone time. Or I can hang out at the beach with a friend while he plays.
Another hack we found, thanks to introvert-saving noise cancelling headphones, is that Beau can now watch a show while we cuddle and I read. Boom. Divided household no more, multi-tasking dual cup filling.
Ask yourself and your partner what fills each of your cups. Make sure you are prioritizing having an even balance. Check in with yourself and your significant other often. Some weeks might be all about one cup, therefore you need to re-group and re-prioritize the next week to balance them out. These are the perfect questions to ask during your weekly check-ins.
As you become aware of what your individual needs are, you’ll start creating new habits and patterns.
Beau and I used to have Friday nights as our date nights, but we figured out that at the end of the work week, I need to regroup by myself, and Beau enjoys seeing his guys. Win-win cup filling! By the time Saturday morning comes around, I am ready to keep recouping from the week but this time with him. Then, it’s my turn to fill my social cup sometime that weekend.
What fills your cups?
ps. If you want to hear more relationship hacks like this one, we highly recommend reading Dr.Gottman’s “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”. This book was the basis of our pre-marital counselling. It has changed our marriage, we refer to it almost on a daily basis!