So, you have a new baby who has come to join your married life, and now you are a family of 3 (or more!). There's no doubt about it, it's a beautiful thing! As time ticks on, however, you start to notice how much it begins to change your relationship with your partner. You realize that you may not snuggle as much as you used to because there's a new life who demands to be snuggled all the time! Perhaps those quick tussles in the bed together occur a little less frequently... or not at all! Adult conversations that once stimulated your mind and added richness to your relationship are far and few between! And when you do manage to get in some time to talk to one another, you notice the conversation is always about the baby! Chores seem to pile up, alone time is nonexistent, and, before you know it, your spouse becomes a stranger to you.
Hi everyone! Welcome to our 3rd blog visit on the "Trials of the Working Parent" Blog Book Tour! As you might have figured out, today's topic is all about marriage and how our children can affect the intimate relationship we have with our partner. Before we go much farther, however, I just want to say thank you to Mindy, here at The Adventures of the StuCrew for hosting me on the tour! Now let's do some honest chatting about being married... with children!
I was trolling Pinterest the other night (what else is new?). And I came across this:
It stopped me in my scrolling tracks.
I just stared at it. For longer than was probably necessary.
I'd be a liar if I said I was ALWAYS happy to be around Stu. I'd be lying if I said that our marriage is perfect, flawless, full of absolute love and respect.
But still. Even with the rough times, this bothers me.
I don't want my husband to feel this way. Perhaps it's super retro, old school, antifeminist of me to think that he should be happy to come home. My job is the house/kids/food. My job is to make the house a peaceful place.
It is my goal to make sure he feels relief when he walks in the door at night. I want him to feel 10 pounds of stress lift off him when he gets home.
This (seemingly) antiquated way of thinking is something I struggle with. It's not always easy. Sometimes I want to punch him in the face and yell at him. Sometimes I want to scream I am tired too! Sometimes I don't want him to even walk through the door because I am so upset about something.
But then I think what if he doesn't come home? What if he wants to leave me?
Is that possibility worth it?
For me, for my kids, for us right now, it's not.
So I will try to make this meme fundamentally untrue for Stu.
Spouses are supposed to be partners. Supposed to be on the same team. Supposed to be one unit.
For us, it's easy to slip into the rut of roommates. Or passing ships. Or worse, judgmental acquaintances.
Now that we have identified a problem, let's do something about it.
In my opinion, it is the little things that make the biggest difference.
For me, it's not going the entire day without Stu communication. I need him to reach out to me during the day - something easy, like a phone or two call when he's in the car driving, a kiss and a hug before he leaves in the morning.
For him, I send him texts during the day - pics of the kids, an "I love you" message, an encouraging word or two about how awesome he is for working hard.
I think when we reach out to each other during the day, as brief and boring as the calls may be, it is enough to strengthen the bond. That bit during the day, when we have energy, is a great connection. It is enough to help me feel secure that the zombie who comes home at night does love me. I find I don't need as much at night from him when I get pieces of him during the day.
Stu and I are in a great place right now. I don't think we have been this close in a long time. As I have mentioned, or alluded to, in previous posts, we have battled our share of stress. Stress for us has come in the form of financial troubles, outsiders thinking they are more important than they are, outsiders behaving inappropriately with my husband, and more, but those are the big ones. These stresses have caused a major riff between me and Stu.
I read somewhere that the problem in relationships is "unmet expectations." Everything else (stress, cheating, divorce, fighting, etc.) is a result of unmet expectations. I could not agree more with this. (Read this article, it's fantastic. It'll change the way you look at your problems.) And Stu and I became so disjointed we were never telling the other what our expectations were/are. The lack of communication is like adding fuel to a pile of wood. One little spark and the whole thing goes up. Then a simple problem (the little spark) is now a wildly out of control fire.
Stu and I have been seeing a counselor for several years. It helps me to talk (or yell) about things. It helps us to talk to each other when there is a moderator. A third party was invaluable to us for a long time. We needed someone else to keep us on track in conversations. We needed someone to make sure the other was heard.
I've been doing a lot of soul-searching lately. A Lot of self-reflection.
My birthday is coming up, so maybe that's the reason for this reflective streak. Or maybe it's because two weeks after I turn 35, my husband and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. Or maybe it's because my daughter looks so grown up in pictures. I don't know.
All I do know is that I feel like I am in an inflatable raft floating down a river. The river is moving at a steady, quick pace. Stu and the kids are still in my raft. And right now we are enjoying a peaceful ride. I guess my issue is that this river is not a lazy one.
I should not complain. Stu and I have been navigating white water rapids for many years now. As we come up on 10 years, I would not say our marriage has been all roses - anyone who says that is probably full of poo. I would not even be comfortable classifying the years as "more good than bad." I think it's more accurate to say we have had a hard decade together.
The river has beat us up. The river has not been kind to us. We have made some terrible navigational decisions. We have had issues with outsiders and other rafts. We've had to deal with other people trying to pop our raft. We've had to push other rafts away for the sake of our own. We have been banged around on the rocks. We have nearly fallen overboard. I have come close to pushing Stu out of the raft. I know there have been times Stu has wanted me to fall out and float away. We both have to take credit for poking holes in our raft - some are large gashes, others are tiny pokes. We have taken on so much water, it seems sometimes we are going to sink. There have been times when we thought about cutting losses and jumping ship.
I think we have both gone in and out of states of despair over the last decade. Sometimes it has felt like life was so bleak and gray - I've felt so alone, even when surrounded by people. I feel like I have been living a secret life. The happy, photo-wonderful Facebook and Instagram life is not real. Real life is hard. Real life is lonely. Real life has felt crushingly heavy.
When I started writing this last week, I wasn't sure I was going to post it. I wasn't sure I wanted to be this naked for the world. This is difficult to share.
Then, on Sunday night, our preacher did a sermon on despair. In it, he said that all people, at some point in the course of their lives, will feel utter despair or depression. The sermon was about God's presence in despair - how He is with us, even on our dark days. I believe God sent an excellent counselor to help my marriage. As I look back on my bleakest times, I know I had people to reach out to - I used my counselor, my closest friends and sometimes Stu to save me from drowning.
Our preacher said that we should tell our stories, be there for people when the days are dark, for we might be the only light and hope. It was then that I made up my mind to post this, and write a series of honest, raw, sometimes unflattering series on our marriage.
I talked it over with Stu, to make sure he'd be cool with me laying our marriage out for all to see and possibly share. I wanted to make certain that by sharing this truth for you, I wasn't directing our raft toward a fatal waterfall.
I think the world we live in is making it harder and harder to be genuinely happy. That old adage "keeping up with the Joneses" has been magnified infinitely by social media. We are constantly one-oping each other with pictures and posts. We are counting our self-worth by the number of "likes" a post or photo gets. We are putting more and more stress on our pocketbooks because we want the same thing our friends have, we want their seemingly perfect lives/homes/vacations/marriages/children. But you know what? No one is perfect. I came across this saying somewhere, and I absolutely love it -
The other side is only greener because it's fertilized with bullshit.
It's time to get real.