This month Ben and I celebrated nine years of marriage. Nine years! Holy smokes . . . when did we get so old?
My husband and I are both super-not-romantic. We don’t buy each other gifts (for any occasion) or write love notes. He never gets me flowers and I really couldn’t care less.
I still don’t consider it a lot of “work” to be married. We’re friends. I enjoy his company. We like watching the same TV shows and have a lot of the same life goals. He likes my cooking, and I appreciate all the work he does around the house and yard. Sometimes we argue about housework, but overall, I feel we contribute equally so there’s not too much to get upset about.
Since having a kid, though, I do find we need to make a bit more of a conscious effort to stay connected, since our daughter is ALWAYS awake and ALWAYS around us. Sometimes we need to set special time aside to care for one another and just enjoy each other.
In honour of our anniversary, I thought I’d share a few of the simple ways we care for each other and our marriage.
Monthly Date Nights
I know, I know, I know. SO cliche.
We were never really into date nights before we had a kid because, well, we were already always doing things together. Having dinner, going for walks, watching movies. It seemed kind of pointless to label one of these nights “date night.”
But these days, we spend SO much of our shared energy on parenting. Our conversations are always being interrupted. We’re constantly answering questions, taking her to the potty mid-meal, telling her not to climb on the furniture, taking her off of furniture, etc. Weekdays, weekends. Morning, afternoon, evening, nighttime. ALL. THE. TIME.
So we make an effort to get a babysitter once a month (usually the first weekend) and just hang out together for an evening.
For special occasions (like birthdays) we’ll get dinner and/or a movie, but other times we’ll just get ice cream or go shopping together. Not even for sexy or fun things — I’m talking a new mop or underwear. (And by “underwear” I don’t mean lingerie. I mean a three-pack of cotton Hanes hipsters. Those are the best.)
Our goal is just to be together and have uninterrupted conversations. On the drive to the city we might talk about stuff we did before we met each other or chat about bigger purchases we want to make. Occasionally at our destination we sit across from each other and set formal goals together. Just something where we can relax and be ourselves, just the two of us. To remember that we’re a team and that we’re friends.
This one we do a lot less consciously, and I have to credit Ben for starting it: we regularly take a moment to thank each other for the things we do.
“Thanks for taking care of that.” That’s probably one of the most common sentences we say to each other, and it has enormous positive consequences for our marriage. I’ll say it when he takes out the recycling, when he plays a game with Lydia so I can write, or when he cleans up the kitchen after dinner by himself while I dash out to quilting. It’s become kind of automatic, though no less sincere. I just want him to know that what he’s doing is making my life better.
Likewise, he thanks me for making dinner or baking muffins, for organizing a social event or mopping the floor. He actually notices when I do that stuff and appreciates it. I love it. It makes all my work worthwhile.
As a woman who does mostly traditionally-female work (which has been historically undervalued), I appreciate that he constantly validates the work I do as important, challenging, meaningful, and life-enhancing.
He doesn’t have to get me flowers to tell me I’m special; he just has to let me know that he sees my work and it matters to him. That’s all I want, really.
And to occasionally hear that I look good, too.
Neither of us is “boss” or “head of the household.” Neither of us “wears the pants” (although I really do love dresses and skirts.)
Instead, we both take seriously Paul’s injunction to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21) and to “use your freedom to serve one another in love” (Gal 5:13). We try to take Jesus as our example and use our power and freedom to serve one another. I try to put my husband’s needs before my own, and vice versa. (In fact, the same goes for Lydia. We are her servants. I know that sounds zany but it’s true. Sometimes we have to tell her she can’t have a snack because it’s almost supper or that she has to brush her teeth, but our job is to serve her. We pray that she will grow up following our example and serve those around her, too.)
Of course, this only works if both members are committed to putting the other person first. It falls apart if it’s only one person doing all the serving. I feel so blessed to have a partner who feels the same way I do.
Obviously, we suck at this most of the time. I hate giving him back rubs and he absolutely loathes putting Lydia to bed, even though I usually spend the whole day with her. We get grumpy when one person wants to use the computer at the same time as the other.
But we both see our roles to one another as that of a servant, and pray for the patience and positive attitude to actually fulfill that role. Overall, I think it works out quite nicely.