Twinges of Cynicism in Marriage
Cleaning out my closet which has been a project nearly a year in the making, most of that time just in my head, I came upon this journal we had written in during our honeymoon. Nearly six years ago. We had these beautiful goals for our marriage. These really, truly lovely and lofty ideals of how we would proceed in developing our lives together.
I read them with a little bit of a sneer. How idealistic. How childlike. Clearly I hadn’t experienced the devastation of pregnancy on my whole body. Clearly I hadn’t felt the disruption of sleep for years on end. Clearly I hadn’t fought with the haze of long hours without each other hanging between us, that resentment of your hardworking lover whose absence pains you.
Then I read them aloud to AA.
I choked up a little. Okay, a lot.
Maybe because our beloved friends in Scythian have been in town (the kids are WILD about Joey. Very wild about Tim, too!) and I’ve been listening to their new album, Old Tin Can, and weeping copiously especially at Clare to Here and our first wedding dance they played in our front yard, If Ever You Were Mine.
Why have I become–dare I say?–cynical? Why is everyday about surviving the tests and tantrums, the deadlines and stresses, somehow pulling dinner out of a magic hat, and crashing or retreating to my computer or sewing machine to get revitalized before another day of the same? Why do I scoff at me & my young lover’s heart that longed for beauty and unity at every turn?
Do you see that Alexander is actually playing the fiddle and the shaker at the same time??
After some processing with my Olson girls at a recent get together over ice fishing and chili, and some interior processing (so much more difficult than blabbing aloud), I’ve reached a few conclusions as to why I’m not actually a cynic but how I could be softer and more loving a heart.
1) Wedding day is simply one day.
You think planning your wedding is so hard. The details! The guest who won’t RSVP! The in-laws! It’s a day in your life to make a commitment in front of your nears & dears. A joyous day, but simply one day that marks a turning tide.
The flowery feelings I had on our honeymoon were wonderful but less mature in many ways than the complexity of feelings we share for each other. As well it should be. It’s been six years and we’ve endured job instability, then kids, now lots and lots of work for both of us and not enough time, watched our extended family grow and recede with births and losses.
I’m more me than I was then, and he’s more him, and we’re also more us.
2) Pregnancy and children force bonding.
I was an autonomous adult woman marrying an independent man. We relied on each other for comfort, verbal affirmation, affectionate love, and sharing the laughs and tears of the day. Then I got pregnant. Suddenly I actually needed him.
Like, really dependent on his patience, kindness, and ability to stomach both another person’s vomit and incessant inability to do a single thing. And now I’ve gone through this three times.
Cue the tiny violins.
I need him. In a real live way. And that’s humbling but actually a wonderful way that I can be vulnerable emotionally as well.
3) Time together is very limited.
Remember me talking about needing to have dating time again? We’ve tried to implement many of the great ideas you guys gave me! Of course, we’ve fallen back into survival mode a bit as life has been really chaotic and fast lately.
Until BabyLoves can be left without one of us in the evening, we’ve embraced the date-at-home motif. But to actually be present to each other and not “get stuff done” around the house when the kids are all asleep is hard. It takes mindfulness. It takes committing time to it. And crowding out the to-do list and just being.
Reading aloud to each other has been a fav lately, whether it’s the news or a book. Just to experience something together. Finding some little gem to share with each other each day has been a special new thing too. Whether a news article, or a funny video of the kids, or a recipe I’m drooling over, just that little nugget that’s for each other.
4) Stop treating your spouse like another kid.
If you’re used to being primary childcare provider, I don’t have to explain this, do I? If you share childcare or both work, I’m sure you endure your marital annoyances in other areas, or maybe you share this one. I can nag, be annoyed, and chock up whatever happened or failed to happen to be having to take care of another person!!!!
To overcome this, I remember that he is gracious enough to overlook my many many faults and never chide me about them. If he forgets something, or many things, or takes lots of reminders to remember, or maybe I should let somethings just slide through my semi-type A fingers. And he takes care of me in more ways than I can count. So suck it up if he forgets to respond to an RSVP or leaves his glasses at home again. I leave cleaning the bathrooms until they are unspeakably dirty, always neglect ironing his shirts, and love to spend time in front of the computer instead of doing these two simple tasks. Talk about acting like a kid!!
5) Love recklessly.
I remind myself we’re in it for the long haul, together. Marriage is for life. When I remember we will have each other for a long time (God willing), I can let go of some of my frustrations that we don’t get enough time together, our children are small and highly dependent right now, and my self-consciousness about aging not as gracefully as I had envisioned. The years will continue to get better if I choose to go deeper and love more recklessly like that newlywed wanted to.
6) Keep saying yes.
Love either goes deeper or out when life is drudging along and mundane. I want to say yes to the early mornings when he’s gone to work and all three kids are crying and I want to hide under my pillow. I want to say yes to making dinner so when he’s home after a long day I don’t just rant and rave about my annoyances from the day while he’s starving because I packed a paltry lunch the night before. I want to say yes to being fully present with him when we are together instead of running through my infinitely unfinished lists.
Just like I said yes almost six years ago. I just didn’t really know what I was saying yes to and it’s slowly unfurling over time.
7) Tell me your wisdom.
I’m like a baby in comparison with so many of my sweet readers who have been married much longer than six years. Tell me what you’ve done when you re-encounter that newlywed vision of marriage and feel twinges of cynicism.
But also, rock out with our favorite band. It really was a magical week with them here. Support them on their tour of the new album & go to the show, tell a friend or four.
Linking with Kelly & the crew for 7 quick takers.