We did it. We became THAT couple. The one who focused all their attention on their child. And thus, the marriage fell by the wayside.
It's hard not to focus on Miss E. She's charming, she's hilarious, she's adorable. Everything she does has us grabbing the camera (Lord knows I spend a lot of money on photo albums, scrapbooking supplies, and photo printing). She's. Just. So. Amazing.
Furthermore, for 14 months before we had Miss E, much of our time together focused on the topic of adoption. We talked about openness, transracial issues, questions, comments, resources, nursery furniture, opinions, thoughts, formula, fears. Oh, and my favorite topic---baby names. (I can see my husband rolling his eyes now. He was such a trooper during those numerous discussions). We were parents, it seemed, long before our baby arrived.
But what about the US that happened before the US + 1?
I really appreciate this recent post by one of my favorite bloggers. She offers readers ways to "nourish" their marriages via cheap or free date ideas.
This post was quite encouraging. And stirred my heart. I knew something needed to change. We needed to "step it up." So we had a talk.
We struggle with the same things other parents do. We both work, we have commitments to our community (church, a local hospital, committees), we have chores (me=indoor, him=outdoor), we have personal desires (me=read yet another adoption or going green book, husband=watch another episode of Swamp Loggers or Pawn Stars), obstacles (me=low or high blood sugar, him=tired after working 8-9 hour day followed by daughter and wife maintenance, followed by a mental and physical crash). At the end of the day, without any dedication, commitment, or effort, we find ourselves sitting like lumps on the couch, eating ice cream, and getting glassy eyed as 10:30 p.m. approaches. At the end of the day, neither of us had any energy left.
It's easy to let that which take for granted move to the back burner. It's a slow fade, a gradual move. And one day you wake up and think, "Wow. What happened? When? How?"
We hit that moment where we both realized that even though we weren't outright unhappy, we were both dissatisfied, and it was time to buck up and do something about it.
There's so much competing for our time and energy, so we would have to commit, firmly, to our time together.
For me personally, it means not grabbing my cell phone every time it rings or texting people back right away. It also means avoiding spending all evening, after my daughter is in bed, at the computer (revising articles, checking Facebook, blogging....). It means putting forth more effort (and certainly a better attitude) toward the little things that might make my husband's day easier or better. This might mean an "I love you" e-mail, preparing a favorite meal, making sure a certain load of needed laundry gets done, etc. What makes me happy is my husband taking care of our daughter for an evening so I can head out with girlfriends or him doing the dishes just because he knows how much I appreciate having a clean kitchen when I get up in the morning.
I believe in the power of small, simple acts.
We discussed how serving our daughter (changing her diaper, playing with her, feeding her, reading her a book, etc.) is meeting HER needs, not OUR needs. When we serve our child, we aren't necessarily serving one another, though the occasional break for either of us, while the other occupies the babe, does provide some relief and relaxation.
We discussed how it's crucial that we treat one another well so that our daughter knows what a healthy, whole, God-minded relationship looks like. We want her to use this as her standard for when she seeks relationships in her life. Negative comments, a snippy tone, or a grumpy face speak volumes.
We discussed what we each need in various areas of our lives...and provided one another with some concrete suggestions. For me, it's a foot rub (darn diabetes has my feet tingling after a long day of chasing a toddler). For him, it's time to sit and veg. Time to just BE.
We both mentioned how we need to feel appreciated. My argument is that my job as a mostly SAHM never ends. I don't have set hours, lunch breaks, etc. I'm on call all the time. My husband goes to work at a demanding and busy job for eight hours a day, and then comes home to more "work" (a family who has needs and craves his attention and care). So really, his job doesn't end either. We both need to take time to appreciate (and verbalize that appreciation) the other. This isn't a competition. This is LIFE full of compromise and cooperation in the hope that the greater good will be met for each of us.
Both of us know we'd be lost without the other. We have so much give and take in our relationship, and our routine seems to flow organically. We've been married for almost seven years, and we dated for five years prior to that. We know one another. And though there is comfort and security and commitment in those twelve years, the downfall is that getting too used to the other can lead to a slippery slope of neglect, lack of motivation, and loss of energy and excitement.
A good marriage takes work---just like everything else in life. But as Dr. Phil (love him!) says, the best parents are the ones who make their marriage a priority. We can't give what we do not have. And we must model for our children that which we want them to pursue and have in their futures. For us, that means love, respect, generosity, unselfishness, compromise, commitment, dedication, and laughter.
What do your choices say about your marriage? What is lacking in the relationship? What can you do, right now, to make your spouse's day better? What are your needs, and how can you best present them to your spouse? What qualities of a good relationship would you like to model for your children?
I hope that each person reading this decides that he or she is worth the effort and time it takes to fight for a good marriage. The decisions you make will trickle down---good or bad. Choose love and relish in the abundant blessings that come with it.