Whenever I sit down to write a post about marriage, I feel like I should precede the post with massive disclaimers, clarifying that my husband and I are doing just FINE, don't worry, we're all okay, etc.
So. Disclaimer disclaimer disclaimer.
I recently heard a song from Mat Kearney entitled "Ships In The Night". Give that link a click and have a listen. It's got a good beat. Anyway. As the lyrics reached my ear, my hand reached the volume knob and twisted it until the music filled the car. The chorus is what resonated with me:
Turn the lights down low
Walk these halls alone
We can feel so far
From so close
Like ships in the night
You keep passing me by
We're wasting time
Trying to prove who's right
And if it all goes crashing into the sea
If it's just you and me
Trying to find the light
Like ships in the night
In a music industry dominated by songs that make love appear as an idealistic fantasy, and fights appear as the death of relationships (in which both parties now hate each other), it's so refreshing to find a song that just honestly explains what conflict looks like in a healthy marriage.
My husband and I are navigating new territory, being the parents of three little ones. He works full-time and comes home and is a Dad full-time, while I'm consumed in all things child-rearing, meeting the constant needs of my constant companions ... constantly. The window of time for each other has narrowed immensely. It just comes with this season of life. We still make time for each other, it's just much less time than it has ever been.
And that makes things hard at times. Because if the only time you have alone is after a long day where you're both finally collapsing on the couch at 9:00, it can be hard to drum up the energy to even want to ask about their day, much less talk about yours. He worked. I worked. We're exhausted. Kiss. Goodnight.
Ideally, we'd light a candle and hold hands and stare deeply into each other's eyes and tell each other how much we appreciate all of the hard work the other one is doing. Instead, I'm scraping cereal bar off of my elbow while he's wringing bath water out of his shirt, and one of us will inevitably trip over a toy on our way to the couch. Some nights we're good about talking. Other nights ... we're just plain tired. And when there are several of those nights in a row, it gets tough. Marriage requires good communication. And that's tough when you find yourself too tired to talk. Too tired to invest. And so when a conflict does arise, it can be tough for us to really find the time to truly talk it out and fix it. Because life will keep tumbling forward whether we fix it or not.
I know I could click on Pinterest and find several chintzy links that could teach me how to "Be The Perfect Wife In Just Three Easy Steps! Squee!" ... but wow, is that all it is? Is it that black and white? Trust me, the majority of my classes in college dealt with counseling--I know the 1-2-3 step systems. But marriage, in my opinion, is so much more than that. It's a continual manifestation of the commitment that we made to each other in front of God and witnesses, a manifestation that is growing and evolving from the new experiences we encounter daily. I am not who I was when we got married, simply because I had not yet experienced the things that have made me who I am today. My personality is still the same, but my spirit, the invisible drive inside of me, has grown with each life change and, as this is true with my husband as well, our marriage has therefore needed to adapt.
And what makes that adaptation possible?
I give all that I am, every day, to my gaggle of kids. I feed them, bathe them, play with them, meet their needs. But, when I step back and look at my husband, I find that I am not always so quick to acknowledge his needs. And why is that? Why is it easier, it seems, to give the kids attention? I love my husband more now than I ever have. And many times he simply acquiesces to what I want--like, say, when I beg to go on a family outing after he's had a grueling week at work. He'll agree because he loves us and he wants to make us happy, but am I really thinking about his needs? What gives? Why is it easier for me to think of the kids than it is to think of his needs?
Because the act of caring for my children is instinctual. They need me in order to live. The sacrifice of self to my children is automatic.
The sacrifice of self to my husband? It's a choice.
He does not need me to survive. He can pour his own bowl of cereal, dress himself. Shoot, he can even drive! It's easy for me to feel that he does not need me simply because I unintentionally categorize his needs into the same compartment as the needs of our children. Since he can meet those needs himself, I subconsciously back away and focus on meeting the needs of the little ones.
Read: He's alive, he's fine.
That conclusion, of course, is ridiculous. His needs are not the same needs as our children, DUH. But wow, it can be hard sometimes for me to realize that. All it takes is me going one step further. Even when I'm so tired, when I've been on-call from the moment my eyes popped open for the day until the moment the last little one is tucked into bed, I need muster up just a little more energy and give it to him. It might not be remarkable. It might not be with squealing giggles or witty banter. It might be as simple as sitting on the couch next to him, not sitting on the opposite couch, when we crash for two minutes before calling it a night. Leaning my head on his shoulder, lacing my fingers through his hand, and telling him I love him. And in the morning, when I do have a little more energy, it's making a conscious effort to pause amidst the busy breakfast to give him a kiss and bat my eyelashes before he heads out the door. It seems so small, but oh, at this stage of life, it's so very big. We adore our children. We couldn't ask for a better team. And our little team is on the go every minute. So taking the time amidst the swirling and wonderful chaos to show a small gesture of appreciation and love speaks volumes.
That little bit of sacrifice, thinking of what he needs when sometimes it's easier to focus on the needs of the more demanding little ones, is what keeps us going. I am still here for you. This crazy little phase? It will be over when we blink. I am with you.
When I say, "Let's do this together," I don't mean, "Let's do this my way."
We're both learning as we go--we're fairly new at this role of being outnumbered by our offspring. And I'm so glad we're learning it together.
When the kids are older and this nutty little stage has passed, we'll look back and remember the times where we felt like two ships in the night. When the waves crested and the wind blew and we were there, feeling slightly adrift but heading towards the same light. And we will be all the better for it, stronger when the storms come.
Have a lovely day.