When my husband and I first met, we fell in love fast and hard. We were that couple you love to hate. The snuggly couple who had to be holding hands at all times. My friends would tease me, counting how many times “I love you” was said when hanging up the phone. And speaking of the phone, we put some miles on the old landline. We talked SO much. I honestly don’t know how we found so much to talk about, but somehow every conversation just seamlessly transitioned into a new one. I loved this man so much that I swear it physically hurt when I couldn’t be near him.
Once we knew, we knew. There was never any doubt about whether or not we should get married, only when and where. There was though, this very brief moment of fear from my then boyfriend. During one of those intense late night conversations in his car, he revealed to me that he was terrified of divorce. I had little experience with divorce on my side of the family. So much so that it was almost a foreign concept. I had never even considered it to be an option. He, on the other hand, had more than his fair share of exposure. From his parents to his siblings, as well as most of his extended family, each of them had experienced the sting of divorce. The idea was frighteningly normal to him. He feared that he was almost predestined to get divorced.
The idea of hurting me, and the thought that this incredible relationship could ever turn bad, upset him so immensely, he could barely look at me. I grabbed his hands and made him look me in the eyes. I told him that if we EVER even thought of that, we would mentally go back to that very moment. We would remember how disgustingly in love we were and how much we knew were supposed to be together. Even if we found ourselves in a place where we couldn’t stand each other, we would do whatever it took to fight for the love that we knew we had.
Fast forward ten years and a few kids later.
A peek into my brain:
We couldn’t be happier, right? Well, it isn’t the dating years anymore, that’s for sure. The kids take up so much time, it’s been hard to make time for each other, but we’re still happy…right? We don’t have those late night conversations anymore because the truth is we’re too tired. But the way our eyes meet when we see our kids do something cute… we’re still so connected and happy…right?
Some days, it feels so lonely taking care of these kids. I really want to feel like we’re doing this together but it just doesn’t feel that way. I know this is just a normal phase of marriage. We don’t have to be super happy ALL of the time..right? We’re happy. I’M definitely happy…right?
Gosh, does this man do ANYTHING around here but eat and sleep? I feel like I’m living with a roommate; like two lonely ships passing in the night. Maybe I should I talk to him about it.
Wow, does he really think that huge fight was all because he hasn’t helped with the dishes? Did he even hear me say how unhappy and lonely I’ve been feeling?
Another late night at work for him while I’m at home alone with the kids. I wonder how he’s doing.
You know what, I don’t even care. If he was here he wouldn’t be helping anyway. He can just stay at work; I think he probably likes those people better than me anyway.
A peek into his brain:
We couldn’t be happier, right? Well, I do miss just hanging out with her and just catching up. Saturday mornings sure look different than they used to. Seems like since we started having kids there’s not much time left over for me. But that’s normal in the first few years, right?
She’s taking such good care of the kids, I really need to just be supportive and patient. Although, sometimes I do feel a little like she doesn’t really see me like she did before. I can’t remember the last time she initiated even holding my hand, never mind sex. She’s so busy with the kids being all over her all the time though, I know it’s not personal though…right?
Man, I can’t remember the last time I came home and could just relax. What is she doing all day with these kids that this house can’t seem to stay clean? Maybe I should talk to her about it.
How did that conversation go so wrong? Does she really think I don’t help out at all?! How is this my fault? Of course I help; I help by paying the bills! Doesn’t she even see how hard I’m working EVERY DAY for this family?
I really should put this work down for the day and get home. I wonder how she’s been today with the kids. You know what, I’m just going to work a couple more hours. My work here is definitely appreciated a lot more than it is at home anyway.
This was really just the beginning. Of course it wasn’t like happy times were completely absent, that’s one of the reasons I think we didn’t do much about it. We’d have those days where things seemed so great and I would think: Okay, this is us. We’re good. We’re back. This craziness is behind us. But it always came back around, and usually worse than before.
I’d talk with friends and it seemed like this discontent was fairly normal, almost expected. Heck, even the most watched sitcoms portrayed these type of issues as normal for the average marriage.
But that was the thing, I didn’t sign up for an average marriage. I didn’t stand up there on the altar and say “I do” to an average marriage. To be honest, it made me very uncomfortable to think back on that moment in the car that we had years prior and not fight for what I knew we had. I knew that we were capable of having so much more than an average marriage. I wanted the great, thriving marriage that I signed up for.
But a great marriage doesn’t thrive by coasting on random moments that you hope will occur. A great marriage doesn’t even thrive on being madly in love. A great marriage thrives because two people make a choice to intentionally put the work in.
Read how we made the decision to do just that in Part 2.