This past July, my wife and I celebrated our 15-year anniversary. To look at us from the outside, you’d think we had it all together. We survived the normal ups and downs of marriage to reach this milestone, we have three beautiful kids and we still love each other. To an extent, this is an honest portrait of our lives today. But on the other hand, we found ourselves at a stage where many of our close friends were divorcing, which was a bit scary. Actually, it was more than scary. It opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to up my game. Yes, my wife and I were still very much committed to each other, but we had also begun to take each other for granted.
Now, I don’t think we’re alone here. When you’re just a couple, all you have to focus on is each other. You support each other’s careers, host fancy dinner parties and escape for long romantic weekends. Throw in a few kids, however, and all that disappears faster than you can say foie gras. Suddenly you’re both overextended as you try to do the right thing for each child, manage the kids’ schedules, stay involved with their schools, make time for your own hobbies and careers and still get dinner on the table.
Luckily for me, I realized over the summer just how important my relationship with my wife is and how distracted we were getting with our own goals and daily commitments. So I took the initiative and decided to change what I didn’t like.
Marriage, as the adage goes, takes work, and for almost everyone I know (myself included), the biggest task is communicating clearly. This seems so obvious, I know, but it’s also so important. That’s why everyone from me to your therapist will extol its virtues. Just as language evolves, so do our communication patterns, and it’s important to check in with yourself and your partner every now and then to make sure you really mean what you’re saying, and that you’re saying it in as clear, supportive and loving a way as possible. I have to admit that sometimes I can be guilty of not honestly expressing myself, and I think it’s challenging for men in general. But it’s a challenge worth overcoming because when you’re communicating well, it restores harmony to your home and relationship.
But I was also looking for more this summer than just polishing up the status quo. I wasn’t trying to make my marriage feel like new exactly. After all, I had happily exchanged the newness for commitment, support and an enduring love. I was, however, looking to feel excited again. And that’s when I decided to approach my marriage as if we were dating. I began sending my wife texts out of the blue, leaving notes in her car, kissing her when she wasn’t expecting it and even initiating a make-out session or two in the car. (Okay, I know that sounds cheesy, but we used to do it in high school, so why not now?) Those little moments eventually lead to bigger moments, which eventually lead to closeness and security. They’re like the building blocks that, when added to the foundation we’ve already established, create the type of relationship I want to live in.
The good news is that this little experiment has actually been fun. I like feeling giddy to see my wife. I like acting like a teenager sometimes. I like feeling like we’ve fallen in love again. When I die, I imagine my epitaph will read, “Lived life to the fullest!” And to me, that means living it with the one I love.
Tue, September 11, 2012