Today as I drove the winding, twisting, terrain I’ve come to know and love as home I was reminded of my marriage. The push and pull, the rise and fall, the ebb and flow. Marriage is a tricky thing. When they say it takes work they aren’t kidding.
Too often in today’s world, we fall victim to the highlight reels of other people’s lives. The old saying the grass isn’t always greener is even more true in this age of social media. The tiny squares of curated images meant to tug on your heart strings. Posts of outings, of love, of adventure, of freedom. Are they beautiful? Yes. Should you be inspired? Sure. Should you be jealous? Eh, no, although a little jealousy can be motivating. But please don’t be envious, don’t compare, don’t yearn for. The lives on the other side of those posts, of those squares, are made up of similar struggles, similar tribulations as ours. Those homes have dusty corners, they have children’s smudgy prints on their glass, they have days where laundry heaps pile like leaves on a fall day. There are arguments with significant others, tantrums, burnt cookies, and Pinterest projects gone wrong.
Today I was reminded of my marriage. Maybe it’s something I shouldn’t share openly about. After all, I’m not one for vulnerability, but I am one for honesty. Maybe you’ll read this and it will resonate and you’ll feel a little less alone. Or maybe it’s selfish on my part, a form of catharsis. Regardless, today I was reminded of my marriage.
Time and space is a tricky thing. Distance can occur even when you sit in the same room. Marriage requires a foundation and a strong one because it will be tested. You will find periods where nothing seems right. Periods where sitting in the same room you feel worlds apart. Once the distance settles in it’s hard to not let it take hold, to gain traction. It can be easier to embrace the drifting than to reach out and grab each other. Sometimes you have to fight for it. Sometimes you have to realize when you can’t fix it on your own.
Counseling isn’t a negative, it doesn’t say failure, it’s not the final straw, it’s just a way to find new ways to communicate, to bridge the gap, to learn to reach for each other again. Something as simple as holding hands. When is the last time you reached for the hand of your partner? When is the last time you took time to study them, to trace the lines of their face, to really see them? When you are together are you really together? Are you taking time to ask about dreams, goals, aspirations? Marriage does not mean we stop growing, we stop dreaming, we stop evolving. And as we change, as we evolve, you must learn to love the new version of the person you are with. You must continue to learn about them each and every day. You must always stay present and engaged and genuinely invested and interested. As we grow as individuals, we need to learn to grow in these new roles together.
Adding a child into the mix adds a whole new dimension to life. Suddenly you wonder what you did with all the time you had prior to this sweet addition. But you can’t expect the same results. Life can’t be as it was. You have to remove selfish from your personal dictionary. Don’t misinterpret this. I’m not suggesting one give up time for themselves, or that self-care take a back seat. Quite the opposite. I believe before you fill the cups of others your cup must first be full, but you can’t always be filling your cup. Marriage is a partnership. It’s equal shares in an equation. It’s 1+1=2. Decisions need to be weighed equally. One does not outweigh the other.
I miss the mundane. I ache for early mornings spent sitting, coffee in hand in the chill and dew of the summer day. For impromptu dinners outside and late night talks over wine. I miss listening to music, talking about who I am and what I want out of life. I miss feeling loved. If I’m being raw, if I’m being honest, it’s left me pretty empty. It’s left me aching for more. It’s left me wishing and comparing. Remember what I said above. It’s advice easier said than done. I know it firsthand.
Sometimes marriage isn’t easy. Sometimes marriage throws you a curve ball, but you’ve got to learn to read the pitcher, to focus on the pitch and to hit that son of a gun out of the park. (ok what the hell is up with the baseball reference. I don’t even like baseball) What I guess I’m trying to say is, and quickly otherwise risking the potential of another baseball reference, if something is broken fix it. What’s that quote do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is insanity. When I realized I was in a loop, when I realized I had reached a point where the darkness had taken over the light I knew it was time for a change. It’s time to mend, it’s time to fix what is broken.
I’m no expert, but I will tell you that you must wake up each morning and decide to love that person. You must wake up each morning and ask yourself, “what is one thing I could do today that would make them feel good?” Because we can’t take it for granted. Love is like trust. It’s built over time. It’s gained and shown through action, not words. Words, when it comes to love, can be beautiful, but without action, they hold no meaning. Sure you can tell someone you love them, but love without action is just another word made up of four letters. Sometimes love is sacrifice. Sometimes love is compromise. Sometimes you come out on top and other times you bend. Loving someone is easy, but showing that love, letting them feel that love, that’s where the work comes in.
They say love takes work. You must never stop dating. You need to put down your cell phones at dinner. Turn off the televisions. Take the family on a walk and put some miles on your shoes instead of your thumbs. Take your loved one for coffee or ice cream. Ask them to join you at the park, play a game of tennis, skip rocks in the creek. Make them lunch and eat in the backyard on a blanket. Make it easy, don’t over complicate it, because then you’ve made it a chore. Love is not a chore.
Choose to love each and every day. Choose to show your love. Life is about choices and love is a choice. You must say I choose to love you. I choose to wake up each morning and fall in love with you again. And some days will be harder than others. There will be seasons of good and seasons of bad, but you got here somehow.
Somewhere beneath the troubled days is a solid foundation. Exposing that foundation, reaching for each other and choosing to love and showing that love in one tangible action each and every day will set the course for many more years of loving until you stumble and find yourself drifting again. I believe the more and more you learn to follow this process the easier closing the gap will become.
Don’t just say I love you, show I love you.