The point of this post is to unravel the mystery of how time and circumstance impact your relationship with that person you agreed to spend the rest of your life with. There are bound to be variances of this tale (some more positive, some more negative) depending upon the support systems and quality of commitment to the communication aspect of the marriage.
My wife and I have celebrated 19 years of marriage on June 20th. We’ve had three children and moved across the country five times to find a new home and start again–the military is a great way to broaden your horizons ya know! Our twin daughters came after 3 years of marriage, four years later, our son was born. My wife and I are very cerebral people–always thinking, contemplating, strategizing–we enjoyed the spontaneity of our pre-child years. It hasn’t always been the romantic image of wedded bliss one dreams of during the engagement.
Having children begins the truest test of your marriage relationship. Its easy to have a discussion or debate about differences between two people when there are no distractions or competing deadlines/priorities. This discussion/discovery phase is natural and necessary to blend two lives together. But, all of that gets put on hold once children enter the picture. The real challenge is continuing that blending process with two people who have at least eighteen years of baggage (different backgrounds) while discovering how to share the parenting responsibilities.
No matter how prepared you think you are, or how many discussions you have with your wife prior to the arrival of your children, you will not explore every possible parenting scenario. The result is unmet expectations and some disappointments. This is true for both husband and wife, but especially true for the male in the equation. Maternal instincts are very real and hormone changes in a woman post-delivery helps them to be very protective and confident about what needs to and must be done. As a man, you may feel like you’ve taken the back seat and your once “I have all the time in the world for you” sweetheart has been replaced with M. O. M. and you may be struggling with feelings of abandonment or maybe a sense of having lost your purpose/mojo. Now there are exceptions and variations to the dynamics I’m telling you about from couple to couple. No two marriages are the same.
So….fast forward to the point your eldest children are in middle school or high school. If you take stock/inventory of your relationship and are honest, you’re probably not as happy as you could be or thought you would be when you said “I do” all those years ago. Some days, life is like “Ground Hog Day” or “Oatmeal…again?” (those references are related to how you view your emotional status from day to day) Some days its hard to feel like life is about anything other than work! Other days, you’re surprised with amazement at how great or proud you feel.
My wife explained it best using an analogy. If you’ve ever visited the deserts of Nevada, you’ll see a lot of interesting shaped rocks and boulders. They didn’t obtain those shapes and textures overnight. It took years of sandblasting winds and rushing torrents of water to sculpt these beautiful creations. So, when she says “I look in the mirror and don’t even recognize the person I am!” she’s right–she isn’t the same person! Time, situations/environments, events, gains and loses have changed the person she was. The same has also happened to you.
Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”
“Copied from lyricsondmand.com”
In addition to time and circumstance she has truly become someone else. A code developer who loses his job and gains employment as a cab or delivery driver after a couple of years will notice diminished capacity at developing code for applications. You know the expression, if you don’t use it, you lose it! Same transformation holds true for people on a personal/relationship level. After so many years, she becomes a logistics, navigator and event planner expert. Her conscious day to day skills are honed around being the person who schedules the babysitter, and juggles the events schedule for figuring out how much time between grocery shopping and getting the oldest child to the soccer field.
Life is often more challenging for women than it is for men because they have to cope with our lack of interpersonal skills. We generally aren’t taught or encouraged to communicate on all levels well enough to share the workload of house and family in a way that a woman would consider equal. We’re not taught how to BE a person of encouragement and support–considerate, gentle, thoughtful–enough to slow down and think of someone beyond ourselves. Another way its challenging for them is there are many families where both parents work…so stop and think a minute about how many hats she’s wearing! It’s sometimes hard for a woman to “feel” anything other than tired.
Too often we men think in the “ME” context. Now, being objective about myself, I do a lot more than most husbands today–laundry, cooking, schoolwork grading, cleaning, full-time job outside of the home, dates with the kids. But I haven’t always been where I am today. I went through too many years where the job was #1…and my marriage suffered for it. So, I guess I’m spilling my life story to you all (especially the men!) to spare you some grief. Talk to your wife–on second thought, don’t…LISTEN to your wife. Hear what she has to say (often she just needs to vent) and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Most importantly, in whatever way you can be supportive, be CONSISTENT! Find ways to SHOW you appreciate her. Share the household schedule/chores to allow her a chance for a break without interruptions or demands.
I close this post with something for you to think about: “LOVE IS A VERB!” Words mean nothing without action. Do your best to exercise your communication muscles daily–don’t give up and don’t lose hope! Kahlil Gibran said, “Let there be space in your togetherness” Don’t forget to allow yourself to be vulnerable to other people outside of your marriage who you feel safe with. Sometimes you too need to vent. Another person’s perspective on your situation can sometimes slap you out of your own pity party and put your mind on a better path!
Peace–let me know your thoughts, and if you’re further down the road (years of marriage) than me, and can offer another perspective–please share. I would love to be prepared for the next 10 years of marriage.
- Wedding Vows: To Love, Cherish, and Have Amazing Married Sex With (thegloss.com)
- Officially Engaged (weddingbee.com)