|honeymoon at pacific beach 2004|
Rocking my baby this morning at three a.m. ( I do all my best thinking then, it's quiet!) I thought about all the different views I've taken on my relationship with my husband and how those views have affected our marriage. I've said this a billion-jillion times, but it bars being said again- attitude really is everything. That being said, our marriage thus far has been an excellent living example of that.
When we were first married, my attitude was that everything had happened the wrong way. Being young, I had absorbed others opinions on my marriage. That it was premature. That it would likely not last. That we each deserved a better start than we had. Last but not least, that we were missing out on what we were really supposed to be doing with our lives, on something that was probably way cooler and more important than what we were doing with it now. Those opinions colored my relationship with my husband. It made selfishness and resentment rise right to the surface where it was easy to scoop off for fight ammunition. It gave me the attitude of "I deserve better than this" Well, let me tell you, those opinions and attitudes didn't help us out much. In fact, the first couple years of my marriage were the toughest so far. Even princesses with legitimate crowns in real castles are responsible for the messes they find themselves in, and I was no exception. The biggest mistake I made? Thinking of my marriage as a lesser-value model than others' marriages who had a more socially acceptable start. Like the couple who got married after dating for five years and waited for each other through the thick and the thin, or the couple who had a beautiful romance and got married in an enchanted garden kissing for the very first time at the altar to roaring applause. Those marriages are valuable and beautiful, don't get me wrong, they just weren't more valuable than mine. Once again, that attitude caused me to invest less of myself into my relationship. I always had a foot out the door, and I fantasized about my future instead of our future, my dashed hopes and dreams, instead of what we both may have lost. (by the way, nine years later, I can say that we both gained more than we ever lost)
"I took a friends concept of duty being to first serve and care for the children, and last after everything else to take care of my marriage, as a wild card and applied it as a motto everywhere in my life."
That attitude ended after we had our twins. I guess at this point I figured, hey, if I'm going to have lots of kids with this guy, I should be in for the long haul right? Right. Too bad I didn't decide that a few years before, it could have spared us some hardship. However, my progress in positive attitude was a slow one and still not perfect, (who am I kidding, it's still not perfect!) as I might have relinquished myself to being committed to the marriage, but my primary focus of my commitment was on our kids and our parenting, not our relationship. Which when healthy, naturally produces good kids and good parenting. I saw nothing but the flaws in my husband's parenting, the bad examples he was setting for the kids, the ways he was failing to lead our family. Our kids were very young, the oldest in preschool, the twins infants, just barely to an age where they could be led, and I was no prime example myself. I thought I was, I tried hard to find my identity, to not use bad language around the budding ears, to eat my vegetables and explore my true self... Really though, what I needed to be doing was loving their daddy and meeting his needs too. Love is the best example we can give our children and I was blind to that. I was caught up in destructing my husband rather than building him up and partnering with him. I let my friends marital ideals and dysfunctions bleed into mine through spending too much time with the wrong people. I took a friends concept of duty being to first serve and care for the children, and last after everything else to take care of my marriage, as a wild card and applied it as a motto everywhere in my life. I used it as an excuse to not clean my house or prepare dinner for my hungry husband and go on play dates with the kids all day instead, stating in defense that the kids were most important and deserved to have my time and to have fun. Honestly, this attitude was better than my first believe it or not, but still clearly not enough improvement considering I was just as miserable as before. I would still revert immediately to thinking of life as a single whenever we'd have an argument or disagreement. I would still lie awake at night stewing over all the negatives in our relationship.
"I began leaning more towards real devotion to my husband, but I was still caught up in the island style parenting I had made myself accustomed to."
When we moved to Adna and discovered our pregnancy with baby #4 is when attitude phase #3 came into play. I began leaning more towards real devotion to my husband, but I was still caught up in the island style parenting I had made myself accustomed to. (and I don't mean relaxing on a beach with a margarita, I mean everything was done resentfully alone) That time was when some of the very worst of the potty training nightmare with my second son was occurring, the beginning of school troubles with my oldest son had begun, and my young daughter even began a nervous tick of pulling out her hair. In hind sight, I can see that my marriage problems effected my children and their behavior much more deeply than I ever imagined. My further absorption with my kids and my slightly better attitude towards my husband made some friendships that were better off gone begin to dissolve. A step in the right direction, though still not where I needed to be. When our baby was born and my mom helped us move to a bigger house out in the country is when life really took a change in the right direction.
Moving to our current home was the best thing that could have happened to us. I went to fewer and fewer moms group events, naturally weaning away thanks to my distance from town, my growing number of children, and the inconvenience and cost of traveling long distances that often. I'd like to say to all moms out there that moms groups are a fantastic place to live and grow and, but in reality that's not what I found. I gleaned a small handful of genuine friends from the experience that made it all worth while, but probably a larger fistful of emotional complexes thanks to the silent but constant comparison and competition. Perhaps not all moms experience this, maybe it was me that was easily persuaded into a different train of thought by others. Whatever the circumstances, it was best for me to not be in that circle anymore. On the plus side my children were actually happier to just stay home and chill more often, and our home life regained some much needed routines and structure. I also began to see more clearly what was lacking in my marriage. Regular conversation, blunt chats about our relationship, honesty about our future. Now don't go mistaking those for easy talks!
"He pushed our kid capacity number from 'large but handle-able' for one strong mom, into the 'can't do anything without help' realm where I just plain had to start demanding more from my husband."
Before our fourth baby was even a year old, we discovered we were pregnant again. Wowza! "Can't that lady figure out some birth control?" and "Are they crazy?!" probably come forefront to your mind. Alas, my children are my life's greatest blessing, and birth control is a whole separate blog post waiting to happen, so we'll refrain from that part of the discussion for now. Cohen (baby #5) did amazing things for my marriage: He pushed our kid capacity number from 'large but handle-able' for one strong mom, into the 'can't do anything without help' realm where I just plain had to start demanding more from my husband. You know what? He started giving me the help I needed. In return I was grateful, which in turn made him proud to be a good daddy, which in turn made me hot for this new monster I'd created. It was a good vicious cycle! I realized a great many things too. That involved dads are sexy. That really giving my whole self to my husband and pouring my desperations about parenting and life out to him do much more good than ranting to friends, who tend to give bad advice if it's not coming from God and prayer.
Finally, I entered the current phase, where my marriage has been better than ever. Through good old fashioned time and suffering, I discovered that I want my man to be happy. I want him to think I'm a good worth while woman. Both of those things take work, everyday. It's worth it, and worth the effort to climb back up the hill after you fall off the horse now and again (which I do frequently) because he is after all what you're going to be stuck with after the kids are all long gone on their own journeys. The kids are all the better for it too. I pray everyday that they don't have to wait five or six years into their marriage to have it start to get good. I love my husband more now than I ever fathomed I would while saying "I do" back in 2004. I think I could have loved him more thoroughly years ago if I'd have stopped to realize his value and began investing in him, in us sooner. Today I am glad to cook and clean for him, I'd even wear a polka dot apron, high heels, and pearls while doing it if it'd make him smile. Oh yeah, and we had one more baby. Maybe it was because of the cooking. ;) I hope to be able to write another blog post (or whatever they might have then) about how much greater and stronger my marriage is in another ten years from now.
Love and blessings,