Hey, I know you.
I share a bed, a remote, and a living room with you.
I ride in the front seat with you.
I talk to you numerous times a day about kids and groceries and logistics.
I know how you take your coffee and what you like on your pizza.
But, do I know you right now, at this very moment, 12 years in, more or less than I did say 10 years ago? BEFORE our conversations revolved around schedules and pickups and homework.
I know I have changed in the last 12 years. Surely you have as well?
Have I asked? Have I noticed?
Have you seen the changes in me? Have you noticed?
Are we giving each other what we need? (my therapist is ALWAYS in my ear- "tell them what you NEED Amy! tell that person what you NEED.")
Every year we try to take a trip sans kiddos to regroup, reconnect, unplug, and just have fun together. It is a WORTHY investment (time and money) in a marriage or relationship.
Parenting is hard! Adulting is hard! Marriage is hard! Sure, some people make it look easy, but let's leave them out of it and talk about the real work that staying married involves.
We usually try some "games" or conversation starters to break our habit of only talking about our kids, our jobs, or our day-to-day frustrations. Sometimes we play "would you rather?".
Here are some of the ones we asked this last date night:
Wait, what just happened?
We soon realized that the frivolous conversations led to deeper ones and that was the eventual goal anyway, BUT had we ever really talked about any of these things? We have not crossed into some of those territories personally, but we have witnessed other loved ones facing different challenges. Those various challenges have seemed more frequent as we age, or perhaps our reservoirs of empathy grow deeper with maturity and life experience. To be quite frank, husband and I had not attended many funerals together prior to the last 2-3 years. We were busy attending weddings or baby showers. That dress with heels and coat and tie now have a different destination it seems.
And so it goes.
This weekend we've discussed our future grandparent names, how we picture retirement for each of us individually as well as together, and trips we plan to take. We have discussed aging parents and various family caregiving scenarios. Our first few "just us" getaways involved naps and recovery from pure exhaustion and planning out toddler birthday parties, Halloween costume ideas, or Santa ideas. Now we are brainstorming passive income ideas, retirement goals, and our own personal dreams and desires. We are transforming, both together and separately, from Mom & Dad, to 2 people with our own passions, fears, and personal insecurities.
I am by no means a marriage expert.
I have seen a beautiful example of marriage in my parents and some of my other family members.
Husband and I have each had a failed marriage prior to this one, so we know how painful divorce is and we are each way too stubborn to go down without a fight.
I'm not writing this as a beacon of marital bliss, but rather as a tired working mom in the thick of motherhood, menopause, and midlife (try having kids in your mid-30's) 😜.
I am writing this as an imperfect, hard-to-please, bleeding-heart woman married to an imperfect, hard-headed, scared-of-abandonment man that didn't see the example of marriage that I saw growing up. We are actually two scared-of-being-vulnerable humans bound together by beautiful boys and God, fate, the universe - but we, too, are still trying to figure it all out.
If you find yourself still figuring it all out, it's OKAY.
Stay the course. My Uncle Don told me one time many years ago, "Amy, you know how to stay married, right? long pause. You just never leave. Neither of you. You stay and you don't leave."
Time and space apart can sometimes be good for a marriage. They can allow room to think and heal. But time TOGETHER has been our best strategy.
Make your marriage a priority. Make your spouse a priority. He or she is a worthy investment. You can read all the books and try all the counseling, but sometimes you just need TIME together and conversations that bring you closer than you thought you might ever be.