Attempts at an Intentional Marriage After Baby

Before K came along Chris and I weren’t necessarily intentional about pursuing each other, rather, it just kind of happened. I suppose when you have a boy roommate it’s easy to hang out when it’s just the two of you. From watching entire seasons of Lost (thank you, Netflix) in one day to randomly getting Taco Bell at 11PM, we had tons of disposable down time. I took this for granted. Somewhere along the way we let life get in the way of our actively looking to spend time together outside of our home. Throw in moving to another state and trying to find a sitter that doesn’t cost as much as our date itself and you’ve got yourself the Intentional Marriage Disaster of 2011-2014. Perhaps “disaster” is a strong word, but hear me out.

My love language is material gifts. I feel loved and cherished by Chris when he buys me things, plans dates, encourages me to buy things we “need”, etc. He couldn’t care less if he bought a pair of shorts or new things for our home. This has long driven me bonkers. Since this way to express love is not naturally on his radar we tend to clash. I feel unloved and unimportant and he can’t figure out why I’m crying in a fit of emotional chaos because clearly he’s no longer attracted to me. Once the logic sets in I’m able to put on my big girl pants and explain to him that some of my needs as his wife are being unmet. Frequently this takes a lot longer than it should. Chris put it so perfectly (as he usually does) the other day. He tells me how he feels when he knows. I ask him questions and hypothesize about what I may possibly be feeling how I feel and we play a game of “First One to Guess How Elizabeth Feels at This Exact Moment Wins A Gold Star.” It’s a game Chris loathes and one that has become my normal.

Our attempts to date one another as we did before we got married, which, by the way, was only four months after we started dating, has faded. A combination of not having a sitter and wrestling with the schedules of a three year old and four month old are great ingredients to get stuck in a rut. Our love for each other is ever present, however, expressing it in a way that the other values tends to be our issue.

We run into a routine where he gets home and I’m spent so I hand off the kids to him so I can decompress. We struggle to have intentional family time as a group of four since dinner, bath times, feedings, and the like take up our limited evening hours.  It seems Chris parents K and I’m on Christopher duty until bedtime. We’re still working out the kinks on how to all actively engage as a family unit so suggestions on how to do this well are appreciated.

In an effort to create some mutual happiness with our family schedule he has asked that we have at least one free weekend a month where we can have no plans or where he can schedule something. I tend to fill our weekends with play dates, birthday parties, special errands, or other mommy life events. Since my social calendar is far more full than his I’ve learned that saying “no” to my girlfriend’s is a great way to serve my husband. I often forget he’s my Number One and assume he’s not going anywhere so I can allot my down time to things I enjoy or don’t get to do during the day. Though it’s hard for me to turn down baby showers or  pass on making a meal for a Care Calendar, my marriage is better for it. I can pour into the women in my life during the week and keep our limited family time sacred.

Chris loves movies, specifically Fantasy, Action, Anything Elizabeth Hates. I can’t get on board with The Walking Dead and you sure as heck won’t find me suggesting we see X Men. Pitch Perfect 2 is an entirely different story. Laying with him on the couch while he watches his Man Movies at a volume that’s entirely too loud speaks intimacy to him. My being next to him while he plays a video game or decides to veg out on the couch communicates to him that he’s important and though I’d likely rather be in bed asleep I’ve realized I can show him he’s important by just being present. I can browse the interwebs and work on a blog post and don’t have to pretend to care about why aliens invaded Earth.

When Chris drinks coffee he may as well have laced it with several other stimulants. It cracks me up to be around him when he’s all hopped up on caffeine. Lately he’s taken up my obsession and has spent the past month researching how to brew the perfect cup-complete with local beans, fresh ground, thermometer to measure the heated bottled spring water, and timing brewing time down to the second. The man is committed. Each morning on the weekend he wakes up and brews me a cup. His reason-he wants to take interest in things I enjoy. He doesn’t even like coffee but for me tries to make a cup that he doesn’t have to cough down. The fact that he’s willing to wake up early and be so committed to making me something better (and cheaper) than anything a barista could make. This past weekend he tried to make a heart out of the foam from our Nespresso Aeroccino. He failed but his effort was not in vain.

Our mutual interest is food. Cooking, entertaining, baking, you name it. We work well in the kitchen together and seek each other’s advice on how to improve dishes. This past weekend I hosted a bridal shower for a girlfriend from college. Chris woke early to make fresh rolls and served me through cleaning and cooking most of the food as I pitched in where I could. His willingness to help me out was such a blessing. It’s helpful that he loves my girlfriends, too, and has earned quite the reputation among the group of gals that have known me well for nearly a decade.

We attempt to be intentional in our marriage. We fail frequently. Our commitment to each other and decision to not be complacent brings out frequent conversations on how to love and serve one another well. When we pray together before bed we’re able to hear each other’s heart on issues we’re facing in our personal lives. If he’s having a stressful work week I can try to pick up the slack at home and vice  versa. I assure you we don’t excel in this area at all. Where I will give us strong accolades is in our decision to be open about how we are or aren’t feeling loved. We ask for forgiveness often in this home-usually I have a snarky tone and still roll my eyes because I am clearly still in preschool.

Struggling in isolation is something we refuse to do. We’re open with those close to us and both seek accountability when we struggle. We couldn’t excel in marriage in a bubble. It takes a village to keep a marriage together, of this I’m sure.  We desire so desperately to love each other as Christ loves us and daily come up so very, very short. Our desire to model to our children that conflict happens in marriage but is done fairly is such a huge driving force for us to not sin in our anger or go to bed with unresolved conflict.  This doesn’t mean we’re living in the land of unicorns and sunshine, rather, we’re committed to owning our part and diffusing the situation and talking it out more fully the next day. There’s nothing good about fighting into the morning hours just to wake up and be cranky the next day and still be catty through the next evening. A little sleep brings me peace and clarity and usually brings me to a place of being humble more quickly than trying to prove my point. I tend to try and “win” arguments just for the sake of feeling vindicated. Chris often has to remind me that there’s no need to win, rather my goal should be compromise and resolution. I’m thankful for his logic. My overanalytical thinking takes me from “What did you do today?” to “Why did you sit on your butt and eat Blue Bell while our children watched TV and trashed their rooms? Oh, and where’s my dinner, you lazy woman?” For the record, that’s exactly what I hear. Such a negative interpreter, I am.

My marriage is far from perfect. Our decisions to put ourselves aside for the benefit of our spouses have made such a profound impact. I’m thankful for my man who has chosen to be committed to doing this life with me. My best friend put it so eloquently this weekend by telling me her husband is wonderful because he has asked her why she behaves the way she does rather than running from conflict. I am so smitten with this explanation. It encompasses my point perfectly. Marriage is comprised of two broken, selfish people. The decision to encourage the other to be a better, not different, version of themselves is a beautiful thing. We’re looking to find our new normal in marriage. Our way is certainly not a one size fits all model. Many women don’t need the things I do to feel loved and may naturally have an easier time being married. I’m a little more feisty and hot headed; no other man would likely be as patient as mine. Regardless of how we choose to pursue one another, the point is that we ultimately choose to. And for this I am blessed.

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