Here's the thing...it's not SUPPOSED to stay that way.
|Us-Circa 1994. Ages 24 and 25|
When I met Mike, I was over the MOON crazy about him. I had broken up with my college boyfriend of three years on the phone (ug) the night before I met him. We all hung out as a group for awhile and I put Mike in the "guy friend" category, which was something I was comfortable and familiar with. Then things changed, and he declared that he thought we should date. I was somewhat in a state of awe that he was even interested in me because he was the kind of guy I was always attracted to, but never ended up with. I always dated the bookish dudes on the shy side who were fairly wimpy in general. This was an era I'm not proud of, I was mean to the wimpy boys. Mike had tattoos and an earring (it was 1994) and was just crazy good looking. Mike was far from wimpy and made it clear from the get go that he would not tolerate my shenanigans, which made me like him more.
Our relationship moved along really quickly, I knew he was THE ONE within a month. He says he felt the same. We were engaged after dating for only 9 months. I was giddy about everything at the beginning. I would be thrilled when the phone rang, my heart would beat faster when he took my hand, and when I was away from him I would feel an unnatural feeling of withdrawal. It was weird, and had never happened to me before. Everything was romantic, sparks flew everywhere, and all I did was think about him. Do I have to study? Grad school, what grad school?
And so, we moved forward. We got married, bought a house, had two kids, and have careers. We've been together for 18 years now, which is insane. We've gone through some tough times for sure, including times when money was tight, horrible fights, layoffs, and what feels like a gazillion funerals. We've watched our friends marry and divorce. We've gone through drunken brawls (with each other before we quit), and DUI's. All couples go through rough times, but luckily for us they usually pass.
Here's another thing I don't think people acknowledge enough. You can love someone and HATE their guts sometimes. I have always loved my husband, but there have been many times where I didn't like him even a little bit. Billy Graham's wife, when asked if she ever thought of divorce, she said, "Divorce, no. Murder, yes." I loved that she said that, because it's 100% true.
Then there are other times when things get so busy that I barely acknowledge my husband. I work late sometimes, and my stress level gets bad. The kids have homework, and classes, and dirty laundry, and I have reports to finish, and we're trying to refinance our home, and my sister is calling, and sometimes I'm lucky if I remember to eat dinner. During those times, it's a challenge. My husband becomes a roommate who helps with the bills. And there are times when all I want in life in an empty house, just for a little while. Those times can swallow you if you let them. "Romance" is completely extinct during these times, and I think it takes a concerted effort to make time for each other.
That being said, I hate contrived romantic stuff. I like flowers and jewelry as much as the next gal, but I don't want them on Valentine's Day. I hate Valentine's Day, I think it's stupid. It makes single people feel horrible, and couples feel obligated. This past Valentine's Day, I was in Seattle at a convention and had a lovely dinner with a bunch of school psychologists. I tell Mike to skip it every year. Then he has the people in his ear saying, "She SAYS she doesn't want anything, but she doesn't mean it. You better get her something." That irritates the crap out of me and I don't understand why it's so hard for people to conceive that I actually mean what I say. Anniversaries-we try to do a good trip every 5 years. 10 was Cancun, 15 was a Caribbean cruise. Otherwise, we acknowledge it verbally and usually just go about our day. I'm proud we've been married for 16 years, but I don't need STUFF every year. The memory of my wedding day usually suffices, I had a ball that day.
I don't remember how long we'd been married at the time, but early on my mom said to me, "He will never cheat on you." She'd spent some time with us, I have no recollection of what we did, but I remember being kind of amazed at her statement. I don't know what convinced her of this fact, but it's never been an issue in our marriage. I can only speak for myself, but it never crosses my mind, I've never met anyone who has interested me since, and I completely and totally trust him. He's never given me a reason not to. Jealousy has never really played a leading role in our marriage, thank God. I don't know how we've avoided it, but we have.
My mother brought me up to be rabidly independent. To this day, she is somewhat amazed that all three of her children are all still married because we (me for the longest amount of time) were brought up with divorced parents. For awhile there, the line between independence and horribly controlling was quite blurry for me. I thought being strong and independent meant insisting that everything go my way. I've watched people I know with their partners and they are on them about every single little thing. This ends poorly most of the time, and I try hard not to be controlling, although I know sometimes I fail. I've gotten better, as so has he. When you love someone, you don't need to morph into them, nor do you have to like every single aspect of their personality. I know the things about me that drive him bananas, and vice versa.
So...where is the romantic love? Where did our spark go? Here's when I feel loved:
- When he cooks dinner. Which is all the time.
- When he buys weird stuff I love at random times, like lemon flavored salt.
- The fact that he actually made me a weighted blanket. I am indeed, a freak. I like heavy blankets on me when I sleep, and he wondered if he could buy a little one that didn't have to go to his side of the bed. He then decided to make one. The amount of work that went into this thing was insane, I think he liked the challenge. The result is a blanket that weighs about 17 pounds and makes me sleep great. I know that's my mom's favorite one. I don't travel with it. It's too heavy.
- The fact he gave me a huge Amazon gift card for my birthday. Books-better than diamonds to me.
- When I see what an amazing father he is, praising our children and telling him how proud of them he is.
- The fact that he understands how monumentally important my friendships are, and doesn't trip when I go out of town to visit them.
- The fact that when I went out of town last weekend to visit one such friend, he spent the weekend with the kids, putting a roof on the treehouse that he also built.
- The fact that he listens when I'm sad and am missing my father. He can't do a damn thing about it, which is really hard for dudes. But he listens every time.
- The moments we have in parenting when the only option is laughter. Example: Child whose phone had been taken away for an unknown period of time, says to us one night, "Okay, I'm going to NEED YOU to tell me when I get my phone back. I'm sick of this, this is ridiculous!" We looked at each other in awe, and burst into peals of laughter.
- He makes me LAUGH constantly. I would rather be with my husband on our couch, laughing, than almost anywhere else on earth
Part of love is having that person know you so well, they'll tell you when you're being a jerk. He tells me when I'm overreacting. I know, I know, hard to believe I do that sometimes! He knows me better than anyone. I need coffee in the morning, stat! I can be mean, and need to be called on it. When I'm upset, "you need to calm down" is an unwise phrase to use with me. I know him well also, of course. Sometimes when he's upset about something, he just needs space. When I do talk to him (or yell) when we're having a disagreement, he needs a few days to let it marinate. Demanding a response right away is always the wrong way to go. He will not accept an apology if he doesn't feel it's sincere. He knows me.
Love doesn't go away, it just changes. If I went back to "lovesick Jane", nothing would get done. Mike is my best friend and my partner for life. He's not going anywhere, God willing. Marriage is work, and fairly hairy on a day to day basis, especially when things get busy and challenging. I'm 43, he's 44. We don't have candle lit dinners, I don't think we need them. I have never, ever received an "I'm sorry" gift, and wouldn't want one.
Love is ever evolving, as people are. Some people change as they grow and go in completely different directions. We've both changed a lot, but continue to be compatible for the most part. I am lucky as hell...and if I ever came home on Valentine's Day to a heart shaped box of chocolate, I think I'd gag.
I'd rather have him unload the dishwasher.
|Thanksgiving, 2012. 44 and 42.|