If we were dating, we would have broken up
I’m sobbing now as I write this, firstly to think how far we’ve come, secondly because I know how easy it would be to go back there and thirdly because I know that had we not addressed it wholehearted, we would never be where we are today.
Let me back track a little...
I was 2 months pregnant with Noah, had undergone surgery a week back, was home with a catheter in and had recently been told by a second gynae that we were likely to lose our baby. Sarah was 1, on the dot, woke countless times a night and had just started walking. I was in the starting stages of designing a new company (now Flourishing Fit Moms), and was trying to prep for Varsity lectures which were due to start in a few weeks. I was sitting on my couch, as graciously as one can with a catheter hanging out of you, and I announced to a close friend that if H and I were dating now, we’d break up. But we weren’t, we were married and that made all the difference.
Marriage is hard work. Add kids to the mix and it’s like doing a 1000 piece puzzle with gloves on and your eyes closed. We all seem pretty comfortable with the idea that in life we progress, change even. We evolve as time goes by; develop new interests, new friends, and leave old jobs for new ones, let go of our six-pack for a preggy belly, leave the comfort of home for a bond we’re bound to. And yet we expect marriage to just work; that two people married in their early 20’s will always love each other. Well, this hasn’t been our story.
I was 22 when we wed, he was late 20s. I was completing my Honours in Clinical Psych, living in a digs with my besties, in a beautiful town. Life was rainbows and butterflies; we danced under the stars, we held hands and spun round and round ‘til we fell over in giggles on a wine farm. We were young and free and happy. And in that stage of life, we worked. But fast-forward 6 years and here we were, parents, business owners, homeowners and with stress levels that were unrealistic yet almost normal for young adults. And somewhere amidst the chaos of sleepless nights and work stress, we’d forgotten who WE were together. Life had become about me surviving and serving my needs; and he about his. It wasn’t a bad time in our lives, we weren’t depressed, we were simply caught up in a life that required us to play a dozen roles to a dozen different audiences. We were mom, dad, boss, employee, runner, cell group leader, pregnant. We were living past each other and connecting only when caught up in a heated argument (usually due to exhaustion) or passed out on the couch watching a series we didn’t care for. In our quest to master life and parenthood, we’d forgotten that we were husband and wife too.
It took one massive argument that landed us both in tears for us to pause and face the facts. We were nowhere, and in marriage that only meant one thing. We were going and growing in different directions from each other. The question of “Were we still right for each other” surfaced it’s head, only to be stood on by a resounding promise that we made on an alter on the 3rd March 2012; “We would choose love. Even when the other seemed unlovable.”
Having kids didn’t just change us, it changed our marriage too. And it was time that we admitted this. In an attempt to not complain about the greatest gifts we’d ever been given (our kids), we tiptoed around the topic of marriage being different after kids. As I feel that many do. But it was time we faced the facts. Our marriage would never ever look or feel like it did pre-kids, again…and that was okay.
This moment of significance triggered for us a process where we began what I call, our journey together again.
1. We packed our bags
But not like that. We merely realized that we needed to get out of our routine, our space, our stuck-ness. We head to Cape Town every April for the 2 Oceans but usually rush straight off to family after the race. That year, we decided that we needed a holiday with just the 3 of us and so we headed to Simon's Town for a few days instead. To say this is just what we needed is an understatement. We spent time doing what made us fall in love with each other so many years before. We spent long days on the beach with our Se bear, we went for walks, we had afternoon naps; and once Se was down we enjoyed slow dinners outside with a drink in hand.
2. We became happy people to live with
Whilst we were both pursing careers and exercise goals, neither of us was in a particularly happy space. Hubby would return home from gym every evening to an irritable wife, and likewise he would complain when I worked over a weekend. In our attempt to build together, we chatted realistically about what each of us could do to re-establish happiness, and how we could support each other in this. Hubby signed up for a few races and I launched a new company; both due to the other’s encouragement.
A close friend of mine borrowed her parent’s mantra and took it into her marriage, the challenge is ‘to be a happy person to live with’. This is something that H and I now challenge each other on almost daily.
3. We embraced that we’re a TEAM
Whilst it’s easier to back yourself, we admitted that it’s more beneficial for our marriage for us to back the US, over the I. This sounds like a little decision, and it was, but it had huge ripple effects on so many areas of our lives. Backing US meant saying goodbye to bitching to friends about each other, it meant embracing our in-laws and valuing them as we do our own family. It’s meant keeping our mouths shut at times, and arguing for the other at other times. And the over riding reality check that I personally have had from this change in attitude, cos that’s what it is really, has been that I feel supported, and in that, accept criticism far better as I feel it’s coming from a loving perspective.
So are we hunkey-dorey now? Gracious no. Some days we get it right and others we don’t but if hitting a rough patch taught us 1 thing, it was this: “Marriage is a test match; it’s no one-day game. Every day we have to make a choice to love each other.” And so, we do.