The Simple Act That Saved My Marriage

I know you have heard the story (and statistics) before. Married at 25, daughter at 29 and a son at 31. That’s my story. I’m sure it sounds common. But there is a dirty little secret that married couples of small children rarely share with those couples just starting down the path of married family life.

Here it is: when the little people arrive, with all their lovely coos and angel faces, with all the constant care and attention they require, both mentally, physically and monetarily, the person you vowed to love through the hard times, sickness, health, whether rich or poor, can become a stranger.

Throw in the fact that one spouse works in a different city and your own parents are going through a divorce, you realize that being a grownup is so incredibility overrated and marriage can be even harder than being a parent.

We live in a society that focuses on putting our children’s needs above our own, and when they are taken care of, society shifts to making yourself happy. Husbands are left to fend for themselves. So what we thought we wanted and vowed to keep together becomes an obligation- “for the kids.”

Long gone are the butterflies, passionate kisses and romantic gestures. Life is just too exhausting for that, right? I basically have three jobs, plus two little kids, where’s my happiness? I do everything to the absolute best of my ability and my children are my entire world. I deserve to be happy.

Do you see where this is going…?

It wasn’t long ago that I read a blog from a sister site about a mom who was writing a post on the morning her husband moved out. I couldn’t help but notice the number of times she used the words “me, my happiness, I’m a fantastic mom, me, happy” etc. She sounded like me.

Now while I do not know the exact details of why she decided on divorce for her family, she did state it was mutual. She also said, “I broke my children’s hearts yesterday.” I froze. How could I sit here on my ME/MY/I throne, when my actions would no longer be about me anymore?

My husband is a fantastic dad, wonderful provider and one of the funniest people I have ever met. He’s a fantastic chef, handy with power tools yet wears a tie to work every day. Yes, we had grown apart. Yes, we both focused everything on our kids. And unfortunately, we both had terrible marriage role models when we were young. We are too busy for counseling, I thought, but I knew something had to give. Little did I know that my answer was waiting in my daughter’s afternoon school pickup line.

One afternoon, not long after school started, while in my mini-van waiting for the bell to ring, I was scanning through the XM radio stations. I settled on what I thought was Martha Stewart’s radio show, but it was actually Dr. Laura, a syndicated marriage and family therapist.

While my son slept in his car seat, I heard her time and time again ask women the same question when they said, “my husband doesn’t show me any attention.” To my surprise, she always asked the caller what she, the wife, was doing to make him want to come home to her.

I was appalled. I thought, “I am the mother of his children! I find babysitters, work every weekend and write for this blog and take the kids to school….” But then, after a few days and listening for a few hours of her say the same thing over and over again- it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Would I want to come home to me?

My husband doesn’t care about my resume or that I matched a font perfectly for an event or that I even got my blog post submitted on time. Before all of this, I was just his wife. And where/when/how everything else became more important than our relationship, I can’t say exactly.

Then I did the hardest thing I did in a long time. I took a long hard look at ME. What Dr. Laura was trying to tell all of these wives that called her radio show was that to get the kind of love and affection you want, you have to first give it. It’s so simple it’s crazy. I had nothing to lose because nothing else my brilliant mind had concocted had worked up to now.

I began simply by greeting my husband with a kiss at the door, and then “how was your day”? I didn’t ask him why he didn’t call me during the day or why he was later than normal. He stared at me in disbelief. He was waiting for me to pounce and start the normal tirade of bitching.

And at first, it was hard as hell, but I didn’t nag or complain or say a cross word. I kept it sweet and light, but sincere. And wouldn’t you know it, the next night he came home earlier. And the day after that, he called me twice to ask how my day was going.

I have to laugh when I think about how simple this has been. Now sure, we still have our disagreements and life isn’t perfect, but it is so much better, and everyone is happier. Dr. Laura would say, “Be your husband’s girlfriend.” That is what I am trying to do.

We tell our children that they cannot control the actions of others, only of themselves. I think it is about time we apply this simple logic to our marriage. I was so close to losing it all and walking away. And now, I no longer complain about the wait in the car pickup line, it’s that wait that saved my marriage.

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