I was talking with someone the other day. For the life of me I cannot remember who it was and I can’t recall how we got into to the context. All I can remember is being envious. Jealousy is not a good color on me, but I donned that Kelly green sweater anyway. I fantasized about back in the day when I was living the life this person was living. The time when my husband and I were dating; when it was new. There was so much good stuff then. Grass can sometimes seem so much greener (hmmm, coincidence that grass is green?)
I love the brick house we have now, the one that no wolf can blow down. The foundation is solid and the bricks are lined with stories of struggle that made us stronger…but I have not forgotten about our beautiful fragile straw house either. The one that was not solid yet and there were things being done to ensure it would withstand. Manners and chivalry and fluff and pomp and circumstance. I am not one who rolled my eyes at the dance, I reveled in it. It’s all so beautiful to me. The wonder and politeness. I loved the excitement of the waiting, the daydreaming and the what ifs. It was effort and best behavior and FYI, right now I’m writing this in a separate room from my husband as he watches football and I lounge in my undies. I love that too, don’t get me wrong. At this stage in the game, I’m not sure I could muster up all of that self-dedication to present my best me….but, I don’t think it should all disappear like old greeting card glitter either. So, I started thinking what I liked about the new and how to apply its thick coat over the dull and dingy. What follows is what I believe should remain as that “new relationship smell” starts to fade :
1. Manners. My Lord am I in love with manners. They can get you so far in life. Say please can you ____? Say: thanks for the hand. Say them often. It takes nothing and means everything ,so please can we just keep doing that?
2. Real listening not fake listening. I’ve heard the same stories about my husband’s work and his friends and he’s heard mine more times than I’m sure he cares to. I tune out. I say the appropriate “uh-huhs’ and nod when it’s warranted…usually though, I’m making a mental grocery list or envisioning some version of our future. Guilty. He does it too. I know this because he sometimes is completely unaware of a plan he’s in on…one I’ve gone on and on about in depth. But once upon a time we would have had drinks in hands, eyes locked, bodies close, on a couple of crooked bar-stools in a crowded pub. That bar would have closed before we were done saying what we had to say….because we listened. We really listened and contributed and asked questions. We must always strive for more of this. Note to self: the assist should go to a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio on this one.
3. Date like its the first date: Those butterflies….Those flittery-fluttery anticipatory butterflies that lingered in my belly as I waited for my date. Give me all of those please. Now, I get it. We live together and so I can’t really be peering out my window every minute waiting for that car to pull in my driveway. But we can certainly try and recreate it. I can dress my best and be my best. My husband can compliment the crap out of me. We can leave the work and kid talk at home and go out to do some of that reconnecting I was talking about in number 2. We can talk dreams for our future. He can pretend he’s paying (even if it is from our joint account.) He can hold my hand, look at me a little longer than usual, kiss my forehead. He can wine me, dine me….I’ll stop there, but let us not let go of that tender, ooey, gooey romantic part for the sake of time.
4. Miss each other: When I actually decided to settle down. I became a girl who was looking for a best friend; a buddy. I was done falling for tumultuousness that kept me guessing. I do however still understand the attraction to all of that. I think the theory involves missing that bug you were trying to keep in the glass jar; wanting to be with the one you couldn’t be with. Here’s the thing, unless one of you are an astronaut or in the CIA, you are pretty much with your spouse everyday. You sleep next to them wake next to them and dive full fledged into family duties the moment you both get home. This makes it nearly impossible to miss this person. So I’d like to think that taking turns doing things for ourselves helps us become a better unit. I’m not talking the sweet solitary trip to the grocery store or other dutiful family errand, I’m talking something you did before you became that velcro’d duo: Dinner with friends,shopping for you, golf with buddies, a weekend if you can swing it. When I went to Florida this summer to see a dear friend, I felt myself focusing on all the things I adored about my husband and very little time thinking about the flaws that tend to irk me when we are stuck as one too long. I also remembered me a little. I found my way out of my mom maze and became a person who mattered to me again.
5. Be cute: my husband and I spent our first two years living in separate cities that were a little over an hour apart. We didn’t do well on the phone but I would swoon over his silly, emoji -filled texts that made me giggle. He still does it! To an outsider we probably seem pretty corny…but corny is cute and I wouldn’t give up a smile from silliness just to be cool in a million years. Life is too short to sift the inside jokes and adorable endearments out. Our family has grown but in some good ways we haven’t .
6. Be considerate, Be thoughtful,Surprise me: I am considerate and thoughtful with other peoples’ feelings to a fault. I am not tooting my own horn here, it is actually a problem. I put others before myself and therefore leave myself depleted. It’s not hokey or Ouija board stuff. It’s science. And,sometimes in vain, I expect the same in return. Unfortunately, my husband is not that guy. He is a million amazing things, but he is not that guy. I remember when we were doing the long distance thing. I’d be killing time on the elliptical and I’d be daydreaming about him being on my front porch, flowers in hand, as I made my return from the gym. Newsflash: it never happened. I was let down;mad even. Now that’s not fair. He didn’t even know I was looking for consideration or a tender surprise…but the truth is I always want this. He doesn’t have to bling me out or Christian Grey me on a helicopter. Maybe just buy me my favorite chips? Randomly cook dinner one night. Hear me when I say: “I’m exhausted” and make me go to bed early. Hear me when I say: “I need a break,” and take over. Because sometimes I have a drained account from feeling so much for others. Sometimes I just need a deposit.
7. Fight well and fight clean: we don’t fight a lot. It’s every few months and usually it’s when that Velcro has been intersected a bit too long. It happens when stress runs high, we are both over tired, over worked and under appreciating all that we both do to keep the wheels of our family clock turning. Usually, no always, I’m the one to blow. Not that my husband is perfect, just that he would bury that bone deep. He’d starve before uncovering it. He’d feel physical and emotional pain from withholding rather than exposing the layers of discontent. After the smoke escapes my ears though we get into it and it. All the built up bad comes out and we share until we exhaust ourselves. They never last overnight, they always end with a hug, we try to stick to the matters at hand and we never hit below the belt. I always feel like if you go there, you aren’t coming all the way back. I like the way we fight. I get to unload my burdens. I also get my husband to wield words he would never reveal under calmer circumstances. Plus when it’s all over and we’re both sorry for hurting each other, a different new is born where we’re both on our best behavior for awhile
8. Get me: I know I’m a complex human. For that reason alone, my husband should be adorned into sainthood. You cannot pacify me with bunch of posies or an iced out wrist. I need more. I think most women do. I want the one thing that may be deemed medically impossible for a man; get me. Know what I mean when I don’t say it because of pride or anger or hurt wearing anger’s mask. Know what I feel when I’m hiding my feelings or if I am stupidly testing you to see if you really know me. Get when I run out of the room for no reason, that I’m probably headed upstairs for a good cry that needs consoling. Get when I say “yeah I guess you can go” ( meanwhile I’m 7 months pregnant and with two littles under 5) that I’m actually pleading PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME ALONE HERE. Get that I don’t always say what I should say ,because I need to preserve some dignity or don’t feel like explaining or nagging or being a burden to your good time. Just defy the Dr. Oz quote “Men tend to have a low attention span and need more novelty (like changing the channel). They prefer to get to the point directly and quickly. They are overwhelmed with too many words and use half the words women use during verbal exchanges. They tend to act first and talk later. They don’t remember details. They rely more on spatial and mechanical things (hence the garage) and less in things that require words.” and pretty please get me. ( notice my manners)
I know the saying well that those who can’t do teach and perhaps I am using fresh ideas born from an episode of jealousy rather than experience… so maybe listen to me or maybe not? I am no expert for sure. Also, I love Gweneth Paltrow’s saying that: marriage is falling in and out of love with the same person over and over again… She, however, is consciously uncoupled so maybe don’t listen to her either ? All I know is I love my brick house and there is no way in hell I want to move out and start all over. But, I don’t want to forget where we came from either. I don’t want to completely abandon the awkward, clumsy crazy about each other couple, that we were born from. I always want a little new nestled into my normal. So when you see my husband and I when we’re ninety, sipping our manhattans, lingering way past the early bird special, you will know that we are winning at love.